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Lorax Partnerships, LLC
1200 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

443.449.6319

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"We look forward to collaborations
with the Lorax people on our projects.
They provide value, insight, and
efficient support on a wide variety of
sustainable strategies. They have
proven to be very resourceful for our practice."

-William A.L. Gaudreau, AIA
President, Principal
Gaudreau, Inc. Architect Planners Engineers

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Attention! Attention! Change in LEED!

A significant change in LEED is just around the corner! 

In early March, USGBC membership approved a ballot measure to update the minimum energy efficiency requirements for LEED v2009 projects.

The minimum energy efficiency requirement for LEED BD+C and ID+C v3 rating systems is getting more stringent on April 8, 2016.  The new minimum threshold requires four points in order to achieve the EAp2 prerequisite.  This means that new construction projects are required to show an 18% improvement above the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline, and major renovations must show a 14% improvement.  All projects registered prior to this deadline will not be subjected to this update.

Although this update is a significant change to the minimum requirements for LEED v2009 projects, the average LEED BD+C v2009 project improved upon the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline by 29%. We are confident that the 18% minimum is achievable for all of our clients!

Contact us now if you would like to register your project before the April 8, 2016 deadline or if you need help achieving these loftier energy goals!

VRF: Improved Comfort and Energy Efficiency

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With the recent influx in green multifamily residential projects coming down the pipeline, Lorax has seen a rise in sustainable strategies and technologies that are well-suited to residential projects.  One of the technologies that has been on the rise is Variable Refrigerant Flow or VRF HVAC systems.  As its name implies, VRF uses refrigerant as the heating and cooling medium and variable speed compressors. Weighing initial cost concerns, many of our clients recognized the benefits of VRF, especially in a multifamily residential application, outweighed any challenges.

Clients and building occupants have found that VRF systems improve the occupant experience and indoor environmental quality. VRF systems are much quieter than traditional HVAC systems, and therefore allow for better acoustical performance of the apartment space, making the residences more comfortable and effective in noise reduction from adjacencies.

Also, occupants feel more thermal comfort in residential units that utilize VRF since the system features several smaller air handlers that can be independently controlled and individualized.  VRF is even compatible with modern thermal controls like programming using a mobile device – great for the residents in their 20’s or 30’s that make up the majority of rented apartments. Furthermore, the system works well in corridors and amenity spaces because it is able to heat and cool simultaneously; therefore providing consistent comfort across all room types and floors, and results in less temperature fluctuation.

Utility bills are lower in buildings with VRF systems than for residents in other buildings.  VRF HVAC systems are energy-efficient because the variable-speed compressor runs only at the exact capacity needed for the current conditions, which means it runs less frequently and at a lower capacity. The systems are also designed to meet partial load conditions, rather than designed for rare peak heating and cooling conditions, which allows for significant energy savings

Impressively, the annual maintenance costs are low compared to water source heat pumps or four pipe fan coil units at only $0.60/SF, providing considerable operations savings.

Many designers also prefer VRF since it eliminates a lot of ductwork that many other HVAC systems require.  The newly available space allows for the design of exciting occupant spaces like roof top amenities!

VRF seems too good to be true!  So what could the hesitation be? VRF does have a marginally higher up front cost compared to some traditional HVAC systems.  Especially in the… Continue reading

Multifamily Influx and NGBS

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As apartment buildings continue to emerge steadily in the greater Baltimore area, Lorax has found itself welcoming an influx of green multifamily residential projects into our portfolio. 

A contributing factor to the increase in green multifamily residential buildings is the recent update to the Baltimore City Green Construction Code (BCGCC) and Baltimore’s adoptions of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). IgCC was implemented in April 2015 and includes green building compliance paths for not only commercial buildings but residential buildings as well. 

Also, the new changes to mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs) recently proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for several Federal Housing Administration (FHA) multifamily mortgage insurance programs reduce MIP rates from between 45 and 70 basis points to 25 for Green and Energy Efficient Housing.  This reduction has sent a positive market signal to invest in higher building performance standards that are more energy-efficient and sustainable than traditional building practices. 

On top of these requirements and incentives for green multifamily residential buildings, Baltimore has recently seen an increased demand in rental properties in the downtown area.  People in their 20’s and 30’s have been particularly drawn to Baltimore because of its universities and hospitals.

While LEED has always been a staple for many of our past multifamily residential projects and can be a compliance option for both the IgCC requirements and HUD incentive, more recently we have picked up on an interest in the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) by our clients.  NGBS Certification is a third-party verification that a home, apartment building, or land development is designed and built to achieve high performance.

Many of our clients have chosen to pursue the NGBS path towards green building compliance. For example, ATAPCO’s Creekside Village Apartments achieved NGBS Bronze in 2014, also, PMC Property Group’s 103 Gay Street apartments, Zahlco Development’s Calvert Loft apartments, the Nelson-Kohl Apartments in Baltimore’s Station North Arts & Entertainment District, and the Franklin Square Apartments in Rosedale are all pursuing NGBS Bronze currently. 

These projects and clients have all seen a reduced cost in the certification fees as well as more options for green building compliance when pursuing the NGBS standard.  NGBS has proven to be a great option for developers looking to develop a high performance multifamily residential building at a low cost.

Continuing Education and Energy Efficiency Payback

IMG_4246For Lorax, continuing education is a critical component of our ongoing development as a company.  We are not only a relationships company, but also a company that is keyed into the industry and up to date on current technologies, sustainable strategies, and green building incentives.  In March, Lorax attended both the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2016 National Symposium on Market Transformation as well as the National Facilities Management and Technology (NFMT) Conference & Exposition.  Here is what we gleaned:

  • On the whole, existing buildings in the United States use more energy than any country’s total energy use except China and the U.S.
  • Certain upgrades to your building’s mechanical, interior lighting, and envelope since 2006 can be claimed as a tax deduction for this year’s taxes, via EPAct 179D.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality can sway employee productivity by 4-6%.
  • ASHRAE has developed a new standard for commissioning of existing buildings (ASHRAE 0.2-2015, Commissioning Process for Existing Building Systems and Assemblies) which can help update an existing building to meet current facility requirements. Existing building commissioning only costs about $0.30/SF and has a simple payback of 1.1 years.
  • The capital cost to purchase and install on-site solar systems has fallen 60% since 2010.
  • There is a 30% federal tax credit for residential and commercial solar projects, called the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which will expire on December 31, 2016, with the possibility of being renewed until 2022.

The major take-away from our recent learning opportunities is that buildings, particularly existing buildings, have the greatest opportunity for energyIMG_4242 efficiency out of all energy consumers.  Now is the prime time to capitalize on these energy efficiency opportunities through incentives, short simple payback, lower costs, federal tax credits, and higher employee productivity. We can help you get the best bang for your buck through first cost payback as well as operational savings when it comes to high performance buildings!