I like my walls the same way I like my humor- dry. Rainwater intrusion and condensation account for approximately 80% of all construction-related claims in the US. Black mold has made news headlines as a public health nightmare and represents a huge liability for building owners. And energy waste is a common enemy of owners, operators, and tenants alike. These are not new problems, and the solution is neither new nor complex. All that’s needed to mitigate risk and save energy is this: An Expert.
Lorax recently had the pleasure of welcoming Intertek employee Adam Ugliuzza, a building science and envelope specialist, into our office for a highly informative discussion about Envelope Commissioning, also known more comprehensively as Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx). We explored the ways in which a BECx agent becomes intimately involved in a project from it’s very conception, through design and construction, and into occupancy. Perhaps more so than with standard equipment commissioning, early (think: conceptual design) involvement by a BECx agent is crucial, and can save Owners money and headache down the road. BECx agents can guide a team to selection of higher performing, more cost effective, and less error-prone envelope designs. They can add detail and intricacy to the design that preemptively addresses common construction defects. And when, inevitably, construction deviates from design, they have the keen eye to spot problems others won’t see.
While LEED v4 may dangle a carrot (2 points) for teams to pursue envelope commissioning, we’re certain the value goes far beyond LEED credit. Take a field-tested mock-up wall, couple it with a whole-building blower door test, and show off your utility bills to the neighbors. BECx can massively reduce air leakage, at worst saving you energy. At best, you can account for it in design, and downsize mechanical systems accordingly. Ears always perk up at the mention of first-cost savings.
BECx can range in scope from a quick design review to extensive laboratory testing. The building type and the Owner’s goals will play a major role in determining the right fit for a given project. Lorax and our network of BECx specialists, like Adam Ugliuzza, are here to help make that evaluation. If your next project has a roof or some walls, give us a call.
NGBS (the National Green Building Standard) is a third-party verified residential sustainability rating system. It is based on the ICC-700 Standard and focuses on three primary attributes: Healthy Homes, Lower Operating Costs, and Sustainable Lifestyle. Who doesn’t want that?! Lorax has 3 NGBS Verifiers, Andrea, Tim and Hailee.
In the second quarter of 2017, Andrea and Tim updated their NGBS accreditation to 2015 NGBS Verifiers, and Hailee has joined the crew as a 2012 NGBS Verifier. NGBS Verifiers, no matter which version of the rating system, work on residential housing projects to verify compliance with the National Green Building Standard. Tim, Andrea, and Hailee do site visits to make sure your construction is going according to plan and check on building product installation. Andrea is even an NGBS Partner of Excellence for 2016!
The National Green Building Standard is the foremost residential rating system in the United States. It is applicable to single and duplex style homes, as well as multi-family units. In addition to consulting, Lorax’s accredited verifiers act as the required NAHB liaison, submit the project for certification, and provide all requested responses through the NAHB website.
This year Tim and Andrea joined an elite group of 30 NGBS Verifiers to attend the invite-only annual NGBS Verifier Retreat held in Upper Marlboro, MD. What an eventful two days! To kick off the 2017 NGBS Verifier Retreat Tim and Andrea met with NGBS Verifiers from all over the country at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. Nothing like getting to know your fellow Verifiers and the NGBS staff over a cold beer, hotdog, and a winning game for the O’s!
The down-to-business side of the retreat included presentations from industry leaders, a tour of the Home Innovation Research Labs’s Building Science Research and Testing Facilities, and spirited discussion on the future of green building. Lorax left with new ideas and new friends — we’re already looking forward to next year!
LEED has updated to version 4, and that means the ASHRAE referenced standard has some updates as well. For your convenience, we have summarized the major changes below.
- ASHRAE 90.1-2007 has been updated to ASHRAE 90.1-2010
- Process energy no longer has to make up 25% of the overall building energy for your baseline and proposed simulation models
- USGBC now requires you to achieve prerequisite compliance without accounting for the cost of generating renewable energy onsite
- For data centers, USGBC requires that building power and cooling infrastructure provides 2% of the required 5% energy cost reductions
- For Option 2, LEED now includes a prerequisite that the standard for compliance uses the 50% savings version of the Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDG) instead of the 30% savings version of the AEDG. This represents an expected savings of 50% over ASHRAE 90.1-2004.
- To achieve the prerequisites for Options 2 and 3, your project must follow ASHRAE 90.1-2010 mandatory and prescriptive requirements
- Unregulated loads should be modeled accurately to reflect the actual expected energy consumption of the building.
Chapter 5: Building Envelope
- Continuous Air Barriers are now required (except in semi-heated spaces)
- Air Leakage in entrance vestibules for climate zone 4 (MD , DC, and PA) in buildings larger than 1000SF must have self-closing doors, interior and exterior doors not open at the same time, distance between the interior and exterior door not less than 7ft when in closed position. (doors from dwelling units are except from this requirement)
- Fenestration and door air leakage has been expanded upon and testing methods have been updated with stricter requirements
- Skylights are REQUIRED for buildings that are 4 stories or less, and 5000SF, >15ft ceiling height, and are one of the following spaces types
- Gymnasium/Exercise Center
- Convention Center
- Automotive Services
- Non-refrigerated Warehouse
- Distribution/Sorting Area
Chapter 8: Power
- Automatic receptacle controls must be installed on at least 50% of the 120V receptacles in office and computer classrooms
Chapter 9: Lighting
- Most of the interior and exterior lighting power allowances have been reduced
- However the allowance for corridors went from 0.5 (ASHRAE 90.1-2007) to 0.66 (ASHRAE 90.1-2010)
- Open Office went from 1.1 (ASHRAE 90.1-2007) to 1.11 (ASHRAE 90.1-2010)
- Stairways went from 0.6 (ASHRAE 90.1-2007) to 0.69 (ASHRAE 90.1-2010)
- Daylighting is required if the building has 250SF or more side lighting… Continue reading
In December, Lorax’s very own Andrea Shoaf was named an NGBS Green Partner of Excellence for 2016. NGBS Green, which is based on the National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS), is a rigorous third-party certification program for single and multifamily residential projects. Andrea joins an elite group of program partners — one of 18 verifiers identified — who have been recognized for their dedication to customers, providing increased value, professionalism, and relevance in the marketplace through third-party verification services.
This recognition was awarded to those who display leadership in innovation in building science, dedication to the residential construction industry, and significant commitment to green certification over the past year. Lorax Partnerships is committed to building an inventory of healthier homes that cost less to operate, are more comfortable to live in, and are part of a more sustainable lifestyle for their residents.
Lorax has certified more than 200 residential units under NGBS, and is currently working with design and construction teams on 2,000 new residential units as regional demand for sustainable multifamily development ramps up. 300 St. Paul Place, 2 Hopkins Plaza, The Woodberry, and The Enclave at Box Hill are some of the newest Baltimore City projects pursuing NGBS certification with Lorax’s accredited NGBS verifiers.
300 St. Paul Place
300 St. Paul Place is a residential conversion of an existing office building in the heart of downtown Baltimore by developer PMC Property Group. The building was constructed in 1957 by Commercial Credit Corporation and has served as office space for a number of financial institutions since then, including Citigroup Inc. The new design will preserve the iconic façade while modernizing the interior spaces and adding amenities for tenants.
2 Hopkins Plaza
2 Hopkins Plaza is a mixed-use conversion by Berman Enterprises of the existing PNC Bank office tower in downtown Baltimore. The renovations will turn the top 11 floors to apartments and bottom floors to office space for several hundred employees of the Army Corp of Engineers. The building is home to one of the City’s new bike share stations and has direct access to new bike lanes that run from 29th street at Johns Hopkins University to Pratt Street downtown.
At Lorax, we find, the largest barrier to adopting renewable energy systems for private property owners is the lack of financing options. Slowly but surely, counties in Maryland are adopting the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing method to make renewable energy a more feasible option. Here’s how Tim explains the program:
The PACE program is a government financing policy. Its goal is to incentivize energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades on private property. It allows private lenders to fund the up-front capital cost of these upgrades, and recoup that money via property taxes. The payback period will be based on the life expectancy of the equipment- for solar panels it may be 20 years, for an HVAC system maybe 15 years. The interest rate on the loan will be in the ballpark of 5%.
Here’s an example of a project considering installation of a $1,200,000 solar PV array, rated at 700 kWp. Let’s assume the property owner secures $200,000 in incentives and rebates for their solar array. Through PACE, a lender would cover the remaining $1,000,000; the owner would pay it back like a 20-year mortgage at 5% interest.
Their property tax bill would have a line item for the PACE-funded solar panels. In this example, they’d owe $79,200 annually.
Using some assumptions about solar panel output, we can estimate that the 700 kWp solar array will produce about 600,000 kWh of electricity annually. At rates of around $0.20 per kWh, that amounts to $120,000 in energy cost savings annually, more than the loan repayment amount. In this case, the owner would see an immediate positive impact on their net operating income. The 3, 5, or 7-year payback period people often discuss with these kinds of upgrades goes to 0. Of course, this is an idealistic scenario. Real projects will have many more nuances to consider, but this should give you feeling for the kind of cost-benefit analysis that PACE presents.
The PACE program has been running in California since 2010. Now in 2016, it’s active in 16 states. Maryland has adopted it, but each County must decide whether to opt in or not participate. So far, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, and Garrett County are in. Many others are in the process of adopting or evaluating the program.
In Maryland, it’s available for commercial, industrial, and multifamily projects. It’s available for new construction and retrofits/rehabs. Government-owned… Continue reading
Lorax is all about collaboration, information sharing, and KNOWLEDGE BOMBS! When Katie Stanford, Hailee Griesmar, and Tim Barranco passed their LEED v4 AP exams in April, they helped bring the rest of the team up to speed on the changes to v4 with the coolest Knowledge Bomb ever! The three newly accredited professionals summarized the major changes in v4 within the Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Operations and Maintenance (O+M), and Neighborhood Development (ND) rating systems using this nifty presentation.
The rest of the crew found it so informative, fun, and fast (hence the title), that we decided to share it with you!
The presentation will scroll automatically; however, you can review the slides at your own pace using the controls found when your mouse rolls over the presentation below.
For questions regarding LEED v4, or any inquiries about green building design and construction, please contact us here! Our accredited professionals are always happy to help guide project teams through sustainability compliance in a range of codes, standards, and rating systems.
On April 15, 2016, Andrea Shoaf, one of our Senior Project Managers and our Energy Services Manager, was invited to speak at South Carroll High School about sustainability and green building design. After her speaking engagement, we asked her a few questions about the event.
Katie: Hey Andrea, we heard you had a speaking engagement last week. Why were you asked to speak at South Carroll High School?
Andrea: A friend of mine, Kim Johnson, is the media specialist for South Carroll High School and is working with one of their talented educators who is teaching an elective class called Advanced Design Applications. One of the teaching modules they are learning about is Sustainable Building Design.
K: Who did you speak to?
A: The class elective consists of 13 high school students, sophomores through seniors.
K: We heard the students are working on a big sustainability project. What is the assignment and how are they addressing the challenge?
A: They will be spending 3 to 4 weeks learning about Sustainability, different applicable rating systems, and current sustainable technologies. The module will culminate with the students pairing up and designing their own sustainable house.
K: What were some of the most interesting questions the students posed?
A: The students were very interested in the mechanical/HVAC side of sustainability, which was right up my alley. They asked great questions like, “what are typical mechanical systems we see in design?” They also were very interested in renewable energy and its applications.
K: How long have you worked in the sustainable design and construction industry?
A: I have worked in the construction/sustainable design field for over 10 years. I started off on the construction side before switching over to sustainability consulting.
K: How has your career path taken you to this point as a senior project manager and energy analyst at Lorax Partnerships?
A: Having a BS in Mechanical Engineering, I have always loved the principles of building, physics, and material science. That combined with how powerful of a tool Energy Modeling is for Sustainable design has really shaped where I am now. I love working with teams to help refine and shape their designs around efficiency and energy savings. The best part is that most of these decisions… Continue reading
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
Recently, the Project Managers at Lorax have been driving some project teams to pursue the LEED v4 IP Credit Integrative Process as a v2009 Pilot Credit. The credit seems to capture the essence of what LEED has been trying to do since its inception, creating cost-effective and sustainable outcomes through discipline collaboration.
The Integrative Process credit includes an early water and site analysis, but the most daunting part of this credit is running an early, “Simple Box Model.” Turns out, the idea of running a Simple Box Model during the Concept or Schematic Design phase scares the pants off of most project teams!
A Simple Box Model is not nearly as elaborate or difficult as it sounds, we promise (that’s why they put “Simple” in the name)!
A Simple Box Model only requires very basic information about the building, and therefore can be run quickly without much work. What is the gross square footage of the building? Where could the building be located on the site? What is the basic shape and geometry of the building? Iterations of the model are then run based on different basic design options and compared to one another. There is no need for comparison to a theoretical baseline building or standard like ASHRAE 90.1-2007 or 2010, but rather contrast between alternate designs.
The Simple Box Model allows the energy modeler to find out what the actual Energy Use Intensity (EUI) is for any basic design decision. It can help answer questions like, “Will the building use more energy if we locate it in the shady area of the site, or in the sunny area of the site?” with a definitive answer based on data rather than assumptions. Once the optimal EUI is determined, the appropriate HVAC system can be selected and sized appropriately.
This process also keeps different design disciplines from acting in a siloed fashion. By looking at the actual outcomes of different insulation options, for example, team members must work together to make the best selection.
The Simple Box Model essentially allows the building to act as a process load before an HVAC system is even selected. The box model permits teams to optimize buildings through decisions on site conditions,… Continue reading
Here is a chance to “Ask Andrea” any of your technical questions about Baltimore City’s Sustainability Requirements at her Lunch & Learn. Get ready to compare and contrast the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) versus Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) was approved by the Baltimore City Council and signed into law as an optional compliance path in achieving green building requirements by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake this past November. This means there are more options than ever for sustainability in Baltimore City. During the Baltimore City Sustainability Requirements Lunch & Learn Andrea Shoaf, LEED AP BD+C and NGBS Verifier, with Lorax Partnerships, and Stuart Kaplow of Stuart D. Kaplow, P.A., Sustainability and Green Building Attorneys will explore the IgCC sustainability requirements for new and altered buildings, and will also provide a comparison with the current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standard. This session will improve clarity on the new requirements and allow for more informed choices when deciding which compliance path to pursue on future projects.
For more information and consultation on the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), contact us here. We are always happy to help you with your green building needs!