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Beyond Buildings

Creating the Foundation to Improve the Built Environment

From building science research and program development to championing best practices through public education, we are committed to a holistic approach to making buildings better.

Better Buildings Start with Better Science

Our research work includes analytical studies utilizing advanced modeling tools such as WUFI, Ecotect, and THERM, product development in conjunction with leading manufacturers, and field testing and monitoring of new and emerging technologies. These may be new residential products, new construction methods, or the integration of several technologies into a multifunctional system. Our focus is to provide a thorough understanding of how building systems operate under real-world conditions and why that may vary from initial expectations.

Our evaluation services include the development of test protocols, installation of dataloggers / sensors, analysis of field data, and technical reporting on research findings. Findings can be presented in different formats including written reports, seminars, quality installation guides for contractors, and educational brochures for consumers.

We have conducted numerous short- and long-term monitoring studies for the Department of Energy, NYSERDA, Long Island Power Authority, Connecticut Light & Power, National Grid, NSTAR, and others. Recent products and technologies have included:

  • Heat pump water heaters
  • Condensing boilers
  • Whole-house ventilation systems (exhaust-only, HRV/ERV, CO2 override)
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Advanced insulation systems
  • Solar thermal and solar electric systems
  • Pre-production HVAC prototypes

Contact us to discuss your next project

We use our firsthand experience to create well-informed, comprehensive programs.

Various public and private entities, from government and utilities to financing agencies, have taken the initiative to develop programs that promote energy efficient buildings. They often understand the positive economic and environmental impacts of these programs, and SWA has the expertise to help them develop and refine their programs to achieve their specific goals.

Whether you are looking to develop a program from the ground-up, or are just need to revise a current program to improve its effectiveness, our building system consultants draw upon their firsthand experiences to develop program documents and tools or to offer recommendations for improvement to existing energy efficiency programs.

Types of programs we help to develop include:

  • Green building program and rating criteria
  • Incentive programs
  • Funding initiatives and criteria
  • Student competitions

We are a national leader in training all members of building project teams, from architects, consultants, contractors, and developers, to owners, management and maintenance staff.

As an approved provider of continuing education, we offer accredited courses for the following programs: American Institute of Architects (AIA CES), Building Performance Institute (BPI), DC Real Estate Commission.

Energy / Sustainability

Hidden Comforts: Strategies for Improving Guest Experience

Creating a better guest experience is a core strategy to gain an edge in the ever competitive hotel and hospitality market. Comfort is often equated to the luxuries and amenities offered in guest rooms and on the premises, but often the biggest factors that contribute to comfort go unseen….but NOT unnoticed.

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Moisture Control in Multifamily Passive House Buildings

This presentation outlines an example of how the risk of condensation on the building structure was assessed for a current PH project and will detail what design options are available to reduce this risk.

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Passive House Takeoffs, Modeling, and Lighting Analysis for High-Rise Buildings

This workshop addresses two tasks that the instructors spend considerable time processing on large PH projects:  building geometry takeoffs and lighting design evaluation. The goal of the workshop is to provide the participants tools for evaluating high-rise Passive House buildings that will reduce time and increase accuracy.

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Getting the Most from Inverter-Driven Air-Source Heat Pumps

Inverter-driven air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) are a key HVAC component in many low-load buildings. Current technology can be efficient even in cold climates, but several recent studies in the Northeast have highlighted a dramatic range in installed efficiencies and performance. Robb Aldrich, SWA Principal Mechanical Engineer, will summarize the findings, highlight examples of very good (and very poor) systems, and present best practices for ASHPs in colder climates.

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Accessibility meets Passive House: Multifamily Building Design

Theresa D'Andrea, Senior Accessibility Consultant, and Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, thoroughly investigate the intersection of accessible and Passive House design for multifamily buildings.

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Let’s Collaborate! A WELL, LBC, and LEED Overlay for Passive House

While many owners, project staff, and community leaders are becoming more familiar with Passive House certification and designing low-energy buildings, they may be less so with strategies from IWBI’s WELL Building Standard, ILFI’s Living Building Challenge Petal Certification, and recent incremental improvements to the USGBC’s LEEDv4.1 standard. This session will focus less on the process of checklists and submissions, and more on which strategies from these programs complement any Passive House project. By utilizing these programs as Toolboxes, rather than lists, teams can enhance Passive House certification, verify performance and complete a broad range of sustainability goals.

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ENERGY STAR for Homes & LEED for Homes Retrofit

Presentations on how to make a home ENERGY STAR for Homes certified and how to retrofit a home to be LEED certified.

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Business of Architecture

Three directors from SWA discuss some of the hot topics they see in the design community,from accessibility, to energy code, to Net Zero.

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Pathways to Net Zero

Kai Starn, Sustainability Specialist at SWA, presents the latest certifications tied to Net Zero Certifications, including the recently launched program from the USGBC.

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Building Enclosure Design Flaws and How to Avoid Them

Experts address the considerable challenges faced by architects as they strive to translate building enclosure design concepts into realities that are energy-efficient, durable, trouble-free, and cost effective.

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Materials: LBC, LEED, and Industry Trends

Learn why transparency matters, how VOC emissions affect indoor air quality, and what to expect in LEED v4.1.

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Beyond the Code – How Above Code Programs Compare to the 2018 IECC

Part 1 of this course focuses on the context and need for higher efficiency as well as the features most high performance buildings use. Part 2 is an overview of the most common above code programs available and how they compare to each other and 2018 IECC.

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The Future of Energy in Buildings – Moving to Zero

This seminar will put the pieces of the energy puzzle together, clarify the end goal of moving our buildings and our grid together to zero carbon, and discuss ways in which both existing buildings and new buildings can participate in this effort.

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Fundamentals of Passive House: What is it, Really?

As multifamily PH projects increase in size and complexity, it is critical to manage the integrated design process (IDP). Common pitfalls can be avoided with strategic advanced planning and by reducing change orders and frustration during construction. Collaboration among the project team should occur at critical design milestones from feasibility to 100% construction documents (CDs), with careful consideration for field execution.

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NYC’s Building Emissions Law: What You Need to Know

Building experts will explore the details of the most ambitious building emissions legislation enacted by any city in the world.

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Cladding Systems, Moisture Protection, Thermal Control and Air Barriers: Effective Enclosure Design Strategies

This session examines the unique considerations of building enclosure design for wood-frame multi-family and commercial projects, and breaks enclosure design into its main control layer topics: cladding systems, moisture protection, thermal control and air barriers.

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Retrofitting Existing Buildings to Target Net Zero: Practical Approaches and Real Projects using the Passive House Standard

How can we achieve dramatic energy reductions in existing buildings? Learn about three buildings following Passive House retrofit standards and possibilities for deep energy retrofits.

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High Performance Facade Training

This session is designed to help professionals in the building industry better understand the techniques and products available for achieving truly high performance assemblies.

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Breaking Down the New Code: 2018 IECC Commercial Training for Design Professionals

This is a training session with emphasis on architectural elements of the code in Section C402 along with building science principles and low energy design concepts.

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Balancing Energy and IAQ: Case Study of a LEED Home Retrofit

Maureen Mahle presents a case study of the retrofit of her own 1915 home, in the spirit of learning from our mistakes. She’ll highlight the tough choices when energy, indoor air quality, existing conditions and budget constraints intersect; the easiest and toughest credits for rehabs under LEED v4; building performance test results throughout renovation; and 5 years of utility data pegged to each major upgrade.

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Large Scale Passive House: What’s Working

This session will examine new construction and retrofits of mid-size and larger projects including office space, high-rise residential, mixed-use buildings, and factories. We will cover climate-related challenges, limitations of modeling tools, QA-QC plans for successful implementation and code challenges.

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Public Health Research on the Built Environment; Special Topics on Creating Equitable and Healthy Places

What factors contribute to optimizing human health both indoors and outdoors within the built environment? Creating equitable and healthy communities is a product of multi-level interventions in policy, places, and people. Lauren Hildebrand, SWA Sustainability Director, makes the case for broadening the definition of high performance buildings to include human health. Merging her “boots on the ground” experience in the built environment with her expertise in green building certification programs, she will present some key strategies for protecting and promoting health in a socially equitable and cost-effective manner.

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Healthier Homes: How to Cost-Effectively Deliver Buyers’ Must-Have Features

In this session, Karla Butterfield discusses why understanding the use of proper construction envelope techniques, efficiently designed and functioning ventilation systems and avoiding products with harmful chemicals are critical. Explore these best practices and more, get consumer insights into the importance of health and wellness in their next home and learn tips for reducing liability and enhancing occupant health—all while increasing your bottom line.

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We Should Know Better: Top 10 Multifamily Design Mistakes

Based on lessons he has learned certifying over 1,200 dwelling units over the past seven years, Steve Klocke will present the top (10) design mistakes being made over and over again – and how to avoid them.

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Tips for Healthier Homes

Health is a growing concern for homebuyers, designers, and builders alike. Building professionals are not health professionals, but we have more influence on people’s health than we may realize. Refresh yourself about the top health risks in homes, and learn how to elevate your ‘health’ game a step further using new tools and findings. This session includes comparisons of Indoor airPLUS, Enterprise Green Communities, LEED for Homes, WELL Building Standard, Fitwel, and the Active Design Guidelines.

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Enclosure Fundamentals: Foundation Waterproofing

This presentation will cover the different approaches and materials used to waterproof foundation walls and slabs, and the detailing needed to provide a watertight enclosure. It will showcase the importance of water protection in order to minimize future damage, costly repairs, and potential litigation.

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Solar in the City: Designing PV for High-Density Areas

The rapid decline in costs, paired with the availability of incentives at both state and federal levels, make going solar now better than ever. However, significant challenges remain for designing and constructing solar photovoltaic systems in high density areas.

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Achieving a Comfortable Home: The Roles of the Architect and HVAC Contractor

To achieve comfort in a home, the HVAC design needs to be considered during the initial design process and not simply field installed by an HVAC contractor once the building is framed. This session will explore the elements of sound building design that need to integrated into an architects vision at the onset of the building design/layout. We will discuss what architects need to consider to achieve a comfortable home and what the partnership with the HVAC contractor should be. Methods to evaluate HVAC contractors capabilities will also be discussed. Examples from recent projects will be presented as examples of good and bad practices.

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Selecting Heating and Cooling Systems for Homes

There is not one right heating and/or cooling system that can be universally recommended as each home has different circumstances that must be considered. This session will explore the fundamental concepts of determining the peak design loads of buildings, selecting and sizing space conditioning equipment, and properly distributing the conditioned air throughout the home. The pros and cons of each system type will be considered in some detail, particularly with respect to first cost, energy performance, installation issues, and maintenance needs. Case studies and results from research projects conducted across the country will be presented to support the concepts discussed.

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Controlling Moisture in Homes

As homes continue to be built tighter, there is a lot of focus on minimizing the potential for moisture intrusion into building assemblies from the exterior. This is a critical detail, but often forgotten in the design is adequate means of minimizing or controlling interior moisture. Come hear about changes that you may need to make to your standard HVAC practices as a result of how homes are being built. Learn about important strategies to create a durable home that manages moisture and prevents opportunities for mold and deterioration.

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Cracking the Code – Not Just About Energy Efficiency

As building energy codes become more stringent, new building technologies and innovations are being incorporated into the building envelope. As these new technologies get incorporated, construction methods must be adapted to maintain adherence to basic best-practice principles of air-barrier continuity, moisture management and durability. This presentation will describe some of the challenges and choices that arise when increasing the thermal performance of the building envelope.

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Take Action: Tackling LEEDv4

This course will provide a detailed look at the changes to the LEED rating system and provide best practices to achieve certification for new commercial developments or those undergoing major renovations using the Building Design + Construction rating systems.

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Selecting Ventilation Systems for Homes

This session explores the fundamental concepts of whole-building, residential ventilation systems starting with a review of the needs for ventilation and the applicable codes and standards.

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Uncovering the Code: An Update on NYC’s New Energy Code

The 2015 New York City Energy Conservation Code was released and has been in use since January 1 of this year. The new code is an adaptation of the 2014 New York State Code, and varies from its predecessors in both substantial and subtle ways. This course highlights the new code changes & enforcement, applicability to repair & renovation projects, and minimum compliance vs. going beyond code.

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Ground-Source vs. Air-Source Heat Pumps

Covering common myths surrounding ground source heat pumps, a look at the newest technologies in air source heat pumps, and discussion on the cost-effectiveness of one versus the other.

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10 Steps to Ensuring Those Beautiful Custom Homes are also Comfortable, Long Lasting and Efficient

SWA has been called on to evaluate severe decay and mold issues, spaces that can’t be brought up to temperature, freezing pipes and extremely high utility bills – all in new, custom, multi-million dollar dream homes. Don’t let a few oversights turn it into a nightmare.

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Local Law 87 & Local Law 88 Information Session

The presentation will provide property owners and managers with step-by-step instructions on how to comply with Local Law 87 (LL87) and Local Law 88 (LL88) and guidance for directing staff or consultants.

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Accessibility

Hidden Comforts: Strategies for Improving Guest Experience

Creating a better guest experience is a core strategy to gain an edge in the ever competitive hotel and hospitality market. Comfort is often equated to the luxuries and amenities offered in guest rooms and on the premises, but often the biggest factors that contribute to comfort go unseen….but NOT unnoticed.

Read More

Accessibility meets Passive House: Multifamily Building Design

Theresa D'Andrea, Senior Accessibility Consultant, and Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, thoroughly investigate the intersection of accessible and Passive House design for multifamily buildings.

Read More

Business of Architecture

Three directors from SWA discuss some of the hot topics they see in the design community,from accessibility, to energy code, to Net Zero.

Read More

From Plans to Practice: Best Practices in Accessible Design and Construction

This training focuses on two critical areas of project development, design and construction. Cases involving complaints against architects for failing to design multifamily housing to incorporate access for people with disabilities are on the rise and are expected to continue.

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Fair Housing – Are You Covered?

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA), among other federal accessibility laws, requires that newly constructed multifamily residential buildings be designed and constructed to provide access to people with disabilities. A violation of these federal laws perpetuates discriminatory housing practices. This presentation will showcase lessons learned as a result of the presenters real world experience working on thousands of dwelling units and common areas subject to the FHA.

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The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

On September 15, 2010, the Department of Justice published updated Title II and III Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and adopted the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This session will address substantive changes to the regulations and design criteria which became effective on March 15, 2011 and become the only enforceable regulations and design standards under the ADA on and after March 15, 2012.

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From Plans to Practice: Best Practices in Accessible Design & Construction for New York City

Cases involving complaints against architects and developers for failing to design multifamily housing to incorporate access for people with disabilities are on the rise and are expected to continue.

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Hotels and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Design and Construction Compliance

Learn about the new 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design, which became mandatory on March 15, 2012, with a focus on the differences between the new design standard and the former ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) as they apply to places of lodging.

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ADA Tips for Designing Hotels in the Big Apple

This presentation will offer creative tips to help ensure ADA compliance within the smaller spaces that hotel designers are challenged with.

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Fair Housing for Operations and Management

This training was developed to ensure you are prepared to offer buyers and renters with disabilities equal access to housing.
Credit: 3 AIA LU

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Why Choose Us?

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Top of the Class

We are the second largest LEED for Homes provider in the nation; having certified over 1,000 projects.

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Size

We offer a more comprehensive set of services than any competitor: Commissioning, ASHRAE 90.1 modeling, Accessibility Consulting and Passive House (PHIUS) certification.

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Building Science

Our residential offerings are founded in our history as building science research and consulting firm; originated out of HUD PATH and DOE Building America research, and that expertise is available to our Sustainable Housing projects.

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Established History

We have shaped the LEED, LEED for Homes, and the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Rating Systems from the ground-up.

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Leadership

We have won several awards for our work with ENERGY STAR Homes, ENERGY STAR Multi-Family High Rise (MFHR), EPA Indoor Air Plus, and National Green Building Standard (NGBS), as well as LEED for Homes.

Pioneering Accessibility

Our accessibility group is a pioneer in the field, executing HUDs first research on Universal Design in single-family homes published as Homes for Everyone: Universal Design Principles in Housing