Charlotte’s Web of Building Electrification Strategies …with Charlotte Matthews

It’s not every day we get to interview someone with such a diverse background of project experiences. Whether it was working for an architect, developer, construction manager, or tech startup, our guest for this episode has leveraged her passion and expertise as a sustainability professional to come up with some pretty impressive solutions for buildings.

On this episode, Robb and Kelly chat with Charlotte Matthews, Head of Affordable Electrification at Google. Charlotte reflects on her experience working for different firms as a sustainability professional and shares some of the challenges she faced when attempting to improve the operational efficiency of buildings. Throughout the episode, the group discusses why buildings don’t perform as expected, the importance of benchmarking and normalizing, and the impact of dynamic energy pricing.

This episode marks the premiere of our first ever video podcast! Check it out on Steven Winter Associates’ YouTube page and let us know what you think.


Accessibility Tech Notes: Emergency Eyewash Stations

Work equipment is exempt under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but it is important to find opportunities to make emergency equipment accessible to people with disabilities wherever possible. An eyewash station provided for worker safety is just one type of emergency equipment that should be accessible to all workers.

Under Title I of the ADA, workers with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. As noted by the U.S. Access Board’s guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design: “Designing employee work areas to be more accessible at the outset will eliminate or reduce the need for more costly retrofits in providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.”

Below, we’re sharing the technical specifications for creating an accessible eyewash station. (more…)

(ENCORE) ‘All-Access’ with Peter Stratton

First released in 2018, ‘All-Access’ is the perfect episode for those interested in learning more about accessibility compliance, especially as it pertains to building design, construction, and ownership. Before we dive into the original episode, we learn about a new term called “Inclusive Design” and how it differs from “Universal Design”.

There are approximately 57 million Americans living with disabilities in the United States; worldwide, people with disabilities make up 15% of our population. Given this information, we must do our part to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to opportunities afforded to everyone – starting with equal access to buildings.

This week’s guest is a long-time accessibility expert who serves as the Managing Director of SWA’s Accessibility Services, Peter Stratton. Peter begins the episode with an overview of the existing accessibility requirements in the U.S. and highlights additional measures that should be taken to ensure inclusiveness for all. Join us to learn how we can foster a more accessible built environment through careful design and planning.  (more…)

Timeline: Celebrating 50 Years of Improving the Built Environment

On May 1, 2022, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. turned 50! Each day leading up to our 50th anniversary, we celebrated a year of our history with our “50 Years in 50 Days” campaign. We looked back on all the innovations, research, policies, and projects that have improved the built environment since 1972.

This campaign represents how far SWA and our industry have come in creating sustainable, accessible, healthy, and resilient buildings. Explore the 50-year timeline below.


Fair Housing – What’s Your Safe Harbor?

This blog post was originally published on March 23, 2020. It was updated on April 24, 2022 to provide the latest, most accurate information on HUD-approved safe harbors for FHA compliance.

Compliance with the accessible design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal civil rights law, has significantly improved since the early 1990s when the regulations were promulgated. Unfortunately, a quick search of recent news articles will reveal that noncompliance with basic FHA requirements continues to be a problem in newly constructed multifamily projects nationwide. Owners, developers, architects, and others are still cited for noncompliance with the FHA’s seven design and construction requirements even though it has been more than 30 years since those requirements went into effect.

Based on our experience, one of the contributing factors in continued noncompliance is the common misconception that following the accessibility requirements of a building code will result in compliance with the FHA. It is important to note that if the accessibility requirements of one of the HUD-approved safe harbors are not incorporated into the design of a multifamily development, and the project complies only with the accessibility requirements of a building code, the risk of noncompliance exists. (more…)

Profile: Thomas Moore – Passive House Consultant in Toronto

Each day, SWA collaborates to create more sustainable, efficient, healthy, and accessible buildings. This holistic approach to the built environment necessitates talented teams with a wide range of specializations. (Want to join us? Check out the open positions on our Careers page!)

In this profile, we’re catching up with Thomas Moore, a Senior Building Systems Consultant located in Toronto, Canada.

Thomas developed a passion for the Passive House standard early in his career: “Simply put, I wanted to reduce the impact buildings had on the environment, and I saw Passive House as an actionable way of doing this,” he says. Thomas has been working on Passive House projects for more than 5 years on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.


Building Operations and Training with Jonathan Rodnite and Adam Romano

Ever wonder who is responsible for ensuring the performance of a building? Yes, designers and contractors can have a significant impact during construction, but once the building is complete, it’s the building operators and maintenance staff that have the greatest influence on the operational efficiency of large buildings. As a result, these boots on the ground professionals play a critical role in our fight against climate change.

On this episode, Kelly chats with Jonathan Rodnite and Adam Romano, two engineers who represent two interconnected and vital practices of building operations—maintenance and training. Both Jonathan and Adam share their perspectives on the importance of operator training, provide advice to listeners who may be interested in joining the workforce, and recount their favorite stories from the field.


Understanding Accessibility: 5 Significant Spatial Changes in ICC A117.1-2017

The 2017 edition of the A117.1 Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities comes with the most significant spatial changes that we have seen in any recent code cycle. As more states and local governments adopt A117.1-2017 as the technical standard of reference under Chapter 11: Accessibility of the International Building Code, builders, developers, architects, and agencies, among others, will be faced with some big changes when it comes to accessibility requirements.

Many of the basic building block clearances that have remained relatively the same since the 1986 edition of the standard have been expanded based on the findings of The Wheeled Mobility Task Group (PDF), a study of mobility device users conducted by The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) out of the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

What has changed and how will designs be affected? Here are our top 5 spatial changes in A117.1-2017 and the impact those changes could have on building design: (more…)

The Economics of Developing Sustainable Buildings with Christina McPike

If you’re like us, you want to hear from someone who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. Our guest for this episode is the perfect example of this: she has the experience of a developer and the expertise of a sustainability guru – a perspective that is hard to find.

Christina McPike is the Director of Energy and Sustainability at WinnCompanies, a 50-year-old multifamily housing owner, developer, and manager. Christina provides an insightful look into the energy market, and shares the trends, incentives, and opportunities that have stemmed from recent carbon mandates for buildings. She also describes the details of one of Winn’s most ambitious projects – an all-electric deep energy retrofit in Boston – and discusses the programs her team leveraged that made the project economical.


What Would a Passive House New York City Look Like?

New York City: the city that never sleeps—and where buildings account for approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2019, New York City Council passed Local Law 97 (LL97) to hold building owners responsible for carbon emissions. The goal is to reduce over time, eventually reducing emissions 80% by 2050. As it stands, the law applies to most buildings over 25,000 square feet, which is roughly 50,000 residential and commercial properties across the five boroughs.

One pathway to decarbonize New York City’s buildings is using the Passive House standard: a high-performance building standard that significantly reduces whole building energy consumption by up to 60-70% while providing superior comfort and indoor air quality. When coupled with renewable energy systems, Passive House makes net zero energy buildings more feasible. (more…)