Increasing stakeholder understanding of embodied carbon is another way to help us push the use of low carbon materials in our projects. It probably takes between 15-30 years for the operating emissions of a building to equal its embodied carbon.
For our latest installment in our Data-Driven Design Series, we spoke with Jon Robertson, Glumac’s Lone Star Region Plumbing Manager, about strategies for reaching net zero water and how we’re improving the water efficiency of our projects.
Water reuse and conservation is a major aspect of resilient design in the face of climate change. In this video, Jon discusses strategies he’s implementing on projects today that are improving the capture and reuse of greywater, the efficiency of systems, and the overall reduction in the waste of potable drinking water.
Visit Glumac’s Vimeo to follow the rest of our Data Driven Design Series.
While a lot of attention is paid to the role transportation plays in the massive carbon draw down necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, designers in the built environment actually have a much larger piece of the carbon pie to slice: Building materials.
Expanded public transit and electric vehicles definitely play a role in getting to a net zero future. But globally, vehicle travel accounts for around 6% of yearly global emissions. And air travel accounts for around 2%. In contrast, the production of cement, a key material used in building construction, is responsible for around 5% of global carbon emissions. Likewise, steel is a little over 5% of global carbon emissions. So more than 10% of global emissions each year come from materials that are ubiquitous in the built environment. The good news is that this is fertile ground for making significant carbon reductions in our building projects.
We’re already discussing systems electrification as a key to a low carbon future. What’s challenging about these materials, though, is that they’re very hard to electrify. Part of that is pure chemistry. Even in a totally solar powered cement plant, the chemical process of creating cement would still release about half of its current carbon offput into the atmosphere. And manufacturing steel requires extremely high temperatures that are very hard to reach with totally electrified systems.
All these industrial processes inherent in building design and construction make efficiency and informed materials selection even more important in reducing our building’s overall carbon footprint.
1. They can offer an amenity that is still somewhat scarce across the nation, attracting employees or residents that possess or will possess EV’s.
2. Electrifying a fleet or bus network saves an immense amount on maintenance and gasoline every year.
How do we do it?
When considering materials, just like with energy, we start with efficiency: Using less, and making sure what we do use is being used to its highest value it. And using less material like concrete is something the A/E/C industry is very interested in. From cementless concrete to CLT design, there are a number of affordable options we are pursuing:
- Concrete mixes that reduce cement content – e.g. using fly ash, slag, glass, or even CO2 in place of cement.
- Another reduction option while using concrete involves delaying strength requirement timeline for your concrete so it doesn’t have to be as strong as fast. This can reduce the amount of cement needed, and can lower concrete’s contribution to embodied carbon by as much 30%. That’s a huge relative amount in a building.
- Sourcing steel that’s made from high recycled content. That is nowhere near as carbon intensive as producing steel from ore. Depending on your geographic location, this can be a cost-effective approach.
- Wood is also becoming a popular choice for structural material in large buildings. One method is using cross-laminated timber as decking to replace concrete. And those projects that rely heavily on wood can save as much as 40% of embodied carbon as opposed to a typical concrete structure.
- More structurally efficient systems: Studies show utilizing a slab and beam system over a flat slab system can save 15 – 20% of embodied carbon
These big changes can sometimes cost more money. And there aren’t as many suppliers or contractors who create or work with these materials. But that premium is dropping as industry demand grows. Presently, however, there are scheduling advantages with mass timber specifically that can help create savings. Many mass timber structures can be crane erected with weeks of time savings, and that creates significant cost saving overall for a project.
When we use carbon as a lens to reevaluate business as usual, it presents us with an opportunity to save time, save resources, save money, and hopefully create more beautiful buildings.
Learn more about our Sustainability Group’s approach to reducing carbon in the built environment.
Email Ante Vulin to discuss your building’s carbon needs.
For our latest installment in our Data-Driven Design Series, we spoke with Brian Goldcrump, Glumac’s Northern Region Energy Director, about the impact our power grid has on building decarbonization.
With the recent efforts by states on the West Coast to divorce their energy grid from fossil fuels, building system electrification now presents a real and actionable path toward lowering the operational and embodied carbon of our projects. Brian presents a live dashboard of the power mixes of the West Coast energy grid, and shows how we can help owners, developers, and architects create building systems that are more efficient, effective, and sustainable.
Visit Glumac’s Vimeo to follow the rest of our Data Driven Design Series.
Austin, TX, has implemented a series of rebates and guidelines to improve the rainwater harvesting capacities of residential and commercial buildings.
As much as $100,000 is available per project, including $5,000 for rainwater harvesting equipment, and $5,000 to conduct a water efficiency audit. The immediate impacts on a building’s efficiency and performance are obvious, but the long-term savings for owners and developers can be immense, particularly as future water conservation ordinances become more strict.
Water conservation is a key tool in mitigating climate change impacts. Results in states that have offered owners and developers incentives to improve their on-site water reuse have demonstrated positive results in water supply, even in the face of prolonged draughts (something Texas and the South are very familiar with).
Glumac has years of experience developing rainwater harvesting systems across the West Coast, and most recently at the Broadway Office Development in San Antonio. We even developed a rainwater harvesting system for our own Sacramento office!
Read more in our white paper on Rainwater Harvesting: Click here
The Broadway Office building will store more than 100,000 gallons of rain and condensate for treatment and reuse, with city recycled water backup. The system will supply 100% of the toilet, urinal, landscape, and cooling tower water make-up demand, with an estimated total site domestic water offset of 4 million gallons per year as compared to code minimum.
Our Austin Team can help you maximize your rebate and save you money over the lifespan of your building by integrating any number of water savings initiatives. Our team can develop a comprehensive water model to demonstrate the impacts of various systems and help you determine the right path forward.
For more information, contact water expert Jon Robertson today.
We’re introducing the first episode of our new Data-Driven Design Series, where we discuss with various experts both in and outside Glumac on cutting edge concepts we are currently integrating on building design projects across the world.
Here, we talk with Glumac Energy Engineer Gordon Stewart about his work building interactive dashboards that help owners make more informed, cost-effective decisions regarding the overall performance of their building.
As the energy grid across the West Coast becomes more reliant on clean power sources, Washington, Oregon, and California are responding with legislation that will push new and existing buildings to improve their energy efficiencies and carbon emissions. Our Energy team is here to help you chart a path to compliance and carbon reduction.
Here is a brief review of several upcoming pieces of legislation that are likely to impact West Coast owners in 2021 and beyond.
Washington State Clean Buildings Act
Set to phase in between 2026 and 2028, the Act sets new EUI targets buildings must meet, based on size building type and location.
Deadlines begin phasing in June 2026, for commercial buildings larger than 220,000 square feet, followed by buildings larger than 90,001 square feet in June 2027, and buildings larger than 50,000 square feet in June 2028.
While deadlines are several years out, the time to start paying attention to the Washington State Clean Buildings Act is now. There are multiple paths to compliance, however, and there are significant rebates available for early compliance.
Our energy group is assisting clients with early compliance to receive the maximum rebate possible. Learn more here. Or, contact Brian Goldcrump, our Northern Region Energy Lead, directly to discuss preparing your facility for compliance.
The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018
California’s 100 Percent Clean Energy Act is paving the way for cities across the state to craft their own electrification and decarbonization programs.
Also known as Senate Bill 100, the California Bill sets state-wide goal of powering all retail electricity sold in California with renewable and zero-carbon resources – e.g. solar, wind and others that do not emit greenhouse gases. Additionally, the bill:
- Updates the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard to ensure that by 2030 at least 60 percent of California’s electricity is renewable (energy.ca.gov)
- Requires the Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and Air Resources Board to use programs under existing laws to achieve 100 percent clean electricity and issue a joint policy report on SB 100 by 2021 and every four years thereafter. (energy.ca.gov)
We are already working with several organizations looking to electrify and decarbonize. However, some in California are moving ahead of this timeline with commitments to be carbon neutral earlier than what is required by Senate Bill 100. We are partnering with the California State University system to chart a pathway toward carbon neutrality for all of its campuses by 2030. Many of these facilities require solutions beyond electrification to meet their accelerated timelines, and we already provided recommendations leading to 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the CSU Long Beach campus through a mix of onsite energy generation, HVAC retrofitting, carbon offset purchasing, and system electrification. Working closely with facilities staff and stakeholders at CSU, we’ve learned how to effectively develop tailored solutions to each client.
California Cities Push on with Building Electrification Requirements
So far, more than 40 cities across California have updated their building codes to reduce or eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels. This is being done largely through updates requiring new buildings be fully electrified. While no updates have been made to California’s Title 24 state energy code, these cities are forging ahead on their own to meet the state’s ambitious carbon reduction goals.
Using this interactive map you can see which municipalities have adopted some form of electrification. If you own or operate facilities in these areas that need updating for compliance, Brian Stern, our California Energy Team Lead can help. Click here to reach out.
We’re here to help you find clear solutions to complex problems. If you are in a jurisdiction with existing or upcoming electrification or decarbonization compliance mandates, we can help. To learn more about how we can help your facility meet its decarbonization goals, visit our energy team page.
As part of our work with Tetra Tech’s COVID-19 Task Force, we discussed with Dr. Willaim Bahnfleth, Chairman of the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, and Dr. Michael Kaiser, esteemed infectious disease expert, how personal environment style air purifiers can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the built environment, and create healthier spaces in the future.
Air filtration units are movable and offer a level of visual comfort to occupants. There are a variety of different personal environment systems capable of providing an enhanced level of safety and comfort in the built environment, including:
- HEPA filter units
- HEPA and carbon filter units
- HEPA and ultraviolet (UV) lighting units
- HEPA and titanium plate units
- HEPA, UV-C lighting, and bipolar ionization units
All of the above and combinations exist and are readily available in the marketplace. If the objective is infection control, our recommendation is the simplest units with a fan and HEPA filter only. These devices are efficient, cost-effective, and can capture 99.9 percent of the particles circulated. Strategically placed, these units can have a major impact on the health level of the individuals who occupy a space.
We’ve asked our expert about effectiveness and types of personal environments our clients should use. What follows is his response.
Is the reduction of particulates of a certain size in the air effective in mitigating spread?
Dr. William Bahnfleth: For SARS CoV-2, viral RNA has been found in very small particles that can easily be aerosolized. In some of his influenza research, Dr. Donald Milton, from the University of Maryland, found 90 percent of the viruses were in particles smaller than 5 microns in diameter. These devices can help remove particles that small, and they are very efficient. If you’re using HEPA filters with the highest penetrating particle size of 0.3 microns, that should be very effective against these aerosol droplet nuclei that are starting out mostly between 0.5 and 5 microns and reducing in size by 50 to 80 percent depending on the relative humidity.
Consider infection control in health care facilities. The basis of infection control in the most sensitive spaces is recirculation through HEPA filters. I don’t think that’s something that needs proof at this point. So, the question is mainly whether there is enough flow through the air cleaner and how well cleaned air is distributed. Even smoke testing just to see where the air is going will give you some idea of whether they’re being effective from a qualitative point of view in collecting the air that’s in the space.
Image courtesy of Hyundai Motors
Over the next several weeks, we will be publishing a series on Sustainable Building Design Challenges and how our Sustainability Consulting Team responds to them. We asked the group a series of questions related to building design. This is the first entry in that series.
How do we make sure today’s big picture thinking results in future individual occupant satisfaction?
Sustainable building design often requires big picture thinking, a focus on site, informed bio-climatic design, and scenario planning for buildings and their connected and supporting systems. However, without an early focus on health or user engagement, big picture thinking can miss the mark on how satisfied occupants are within the spaces and spaces they engage.
From our experience on the One Beverly Hills master plan, we found that visioning exercises benefit from balancing bio-climatic metrics that inform high performance design (e.g., daylight, solar heat gain, wind patterns, air and water quality) with their impacts to human health, equity and inclusion. Imagining user “day in the life” scenarios is helpful, as is the benefit of occupant surveys, public health research, climate change data for resiliency, and biophilic design.
Glumac’s Sustainability Team collaborated with Terrapin Bright Green on a biophilic design plan for California’s New Natural Resources HQ in Sacramento, and we successfully procured two LEED Pilot Innovation credits for our approach. Interventions included locally procured rammed earth blocks for the podium exterior, additional outdoor terraces to provide views, and connections to nature for a high percentage of desk spaces.
This project is part of a larger Urban District among State office buildings Glumac is playing an integral role in designing. Along with the Clifford L. Allenby Building and a new annex building to the State Capitol, the three buildings will share a singular central utility plant as well as a focus on electrified systems throughout each building to lower their operational carbon. The project team for the annex building is considering going fully electric by connecting to the central plant for cooling and providing heating at the building via heat exchangers and electric boilers. This type of district-level design requires big picture thinking at the start of the project, and when implemented, still allows for optimal occupant satisfaction on an individual level.
To learn more about of Government Office experience, head over to our project portfolio.
Workplace modifications due to COVID-19 are now also equally important. Glumac has already performed several Building Readiness Assessments for clients, which help provide achievable pathways toward updating or replacing systems to help mitigate viral spread within a new or existing space.
We begin by identifying the “most valuable spaces” for staff based on owner’s requirements and guidelines– for both interior and exterior spaces. It’s a goal-focused and metric-based approach utilizing data such as distance to greenspace; drinking water sources; shelter from wind and rain; heat islands; percentage of desks near sufficient daylight and distance to places of collaboration; and conversely, places for respite. These metrics as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be quantified in BIM, overlaying the qualities that support these “most valuable spaces” with known high-performance strategies (e.g., east-west orientation, efficient skin-to-floor-plate ratio, opportunities for passive temperature control) and evaluate scenarios for performance against these KPIs. We then document these performance measures and strategies in the basis of design document, which guides the design toward healthy outcomes for occupants.
Let’s Design Something Great Together.
The Glumac Sustainability Team’s consulting approach is foremost to be an owner advocate: to carefully listen to an owner’s goals, then tailor a management process to fit, and finally lead its execution with a collaborative spirit and the talents of the design and construction team. We want to empower all design consultants to bring their best ideas forward for a project, and our role is to be sustainability advocates, to provide strong leadership in goal-setting, establish metrics, document progress, conduct research, bring innovative ideas forward, and ultimately, to celebrate our collective efforts with certification results.
Bipolar Ionization has been claimed to potentially mitigate, or reduce, the spread of bacteria and viruses throughout a space. Bipolar Ionization works by introducing positive and negative ions into the air. The ionization causes production of clusters of hydroxyl (OH) radicals, which are formed on the surface of microbes, removing hydrogen from the microbes’ cell walls, thereby inactivating potentially infectious particles. If not properly specified and installed, it may cause negative health effects.
To better understand this technology, we reviewed the most frequently asked questions with our COVID-19 Task Force; which includes Dr. William Bahnfleth, Dr. Michael Kaiser and engineers from Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group. Dr. Bahnfleth of Penn State University is the Chair of the ASHRAE COVID Taskforce. Dr. Kaiser has spent the majority of his career at the intersection of infectious disease and public health.
Do you have any experience with in-space installations (wall-mounted, etc.) or portable units that rely on passive diffusion of produced ions? Akin to a portable air filtering purifier?
DR. BAHNFLETH: There are/have been many portable ion generators. Most are consumer products of questionable quality control and performance. There may be better offerings from manufacturers who also do air handling unit installations.
Click here to read more.
We spoke to Mechanical Engineer Staci Atwater on how MEP engineers and architects can work together to create more equitable spaces for occupants. Staci is certified as a WELL Accredited Professional and Living Future Ambassador. She specializes in sustainable projects, such as net zero energy (NZE) buildings and projects pursuing LEED, WELL, or Living Building Challenge certifications; has presented at conferences for NZE design, occupant comfort, natural ventilation, and design for wellness; and leads interdisciplinary teams resulting in holistic building design.
Conversations around health and wellness in an office space are generally driven by improving building performance and occupant productivity. But the conversation about designing equitable spaces and their associated wellness outcomes isn’t one that is happening broadly, yet. What are the gaps between sustainability, wellness, and equity?
Equity refers to the philosophy of being fair and impartial for all people. So, when we look at building codes, they’re largely designed to ensure safe built environments, though many, particularly on the West Coast, are adding more rigid environmental components into them as well. Regarding the conditions within a space, including temperature, lighting, and so on, building codes cater to an average. But for each individual project we do, the occupant population is rarely in line with that average. So what good is it? In these conditions, designers end up making decisions for the daily occupants of a building without really consulting them. We’re just taking away an occupant’s choice without even letting them know they had one to begin with. That’s not equitable at all. We need to have that dialogue with the users we’re designing the building for so they can provide input into their space.
For more details on our MEP Engineering experience, visit our project portfolio at glumac.com
Does this account for all occupants of a building and not just specific rent-paying tenants?
Yes. I will admit that I have heard owners or people we might be collaborating with say things like, “Oh well, it’s just a maintenance office, who cares?” Although they are saying it in a joking way, the space ends up being designed without consideration for the occupants. There is a very casual mindset when it comes to the total population in our built environment. An office building, for example, isn’t just a space for people who work in an office. There are people in and out of that building all day, every day, including maintenance people, security, and the support staff for the building itself.
Continue reading at Tetra Tech.com.
Wellness may finally be having its day as a critical function of building design.
Over the last decade, architects and engineers have been working to educate owners and developers on the wellness impacts of sustainable building design approaches in creating healthier and more productive lives for their occupants. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that these wellness considerations are no longer a mere value-add to a building, but rather they are a necessary element in allowing larger groups to safely reoccupy a space. Before we can go back to work, each building owner and operations team is going to have to consider what wellness integrations need to be put in place before tenants can return.
Buildings already designed to LEED, WELL, or Fitwel requirements have a leg up in this area. Designing for environmental health and lower carbon impacts have long been key selling points of these rating systems, but each feature criteria that can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help occupants adjust safely to a new normal.
While it’s important to note that none of the criteria we review here can wholly prevent the spread of the virus, these strategies, coupled with social distancing, can help make spaces safer.
One easy way to limit the build-up of viruses and bacteria within indoor air is to get rid of them! Mechanical air handling systems are meant to supply fresh oxygenated air to indoor spaces and exhaust carbon dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and a host of harmful compounds like VOC’s from the air. In the process, virus particles are exhausted too, but if the building’s ventilation and air change rates are insufficient, a higher concentration of virus particles may remain in the breathing space. It is well known that COVID-19 is spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs expelling droplets containing millions of little microbes. They can become aerosolized in the breathing space or land on touchable surfaces.
WELL Air Precondition 3 and LEED v4.1 O+M (Indoor Environmental Quality [EQ] Prerequisite 1) require ventilation systems to be tested and balanced every five years and maintained to ASHRAE 62.1 air supply rates. This best practice should be adopted by building operators to ready their buildings for reopening as air supply rates can, and often do, drop below adequate levels as changes are made to system operations, building space use, and as equipment ages.
With well-designed ventilation systems and periodic maintenance, building operators can minimize the spread of the virus. More so, increasing air supply by 30% over ASHRAE 62.1 (recommended by WELL Air Optimization 6 and LEED v4.1 BD+C EQ Credit 1) serves to provide additional fresh air that can help dilute the concentration of the virus in the breathing space. A higher air supply rate is standard practice in the healthcare industry and given the risk of COVID-19, it’s a good time to adopt this practice and tune/retrofit existing building equipment to bring in additional fresh air. Sensors added to the air supply systems can tie to the Building Management System providing regular air supply and air quality monitoring (WELL Air Optimization 8).
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It is also great practice to open windows and doors, if at all possible, to increase air flow through buildings. WELL and LEED promote operable windows (WELL Air Optimization 7; LEED v4.1 BD+C EQ Prerequisite 1) and openings.
All of these air quality measures can be documented in an Indoor Air Quality Policy for the building and Fitwel Indoor Environment strategy 6.3 provides framework for its development.
Beyond good engineering and maintenance practices to reduce the virus’s spread, a secondary benefit that may ease the discomfort and concerns around returning to work are integrating practices that improve occupant satisfaction. People sense they are in a healthy building when there is great daylight and the air smells fresh and not stagnant. The healthy feeling can be enhanced by open windows or doors and help occupants feel energized from sunlight and clear views to nature. The ability to easily access the outdoors via terraces and balconies further supports the health benefits. Occupants feel safer and more comfortable when their environment supports their health. By coupling good design and operations practice with connections to nature and biophilia (WELL Mind Precondition 2 and Fitwel Workspaces strategies 7.1-7.2), health conditions can be improved resulting in less stress returning to work.
It’s common practice that outdoor air supply systems include some level of filtration to remove particulates, dust, and debris from entering the indoor environment. However, the level of filtration and filter maintenance is important to deliver fresh, healthy air to occupants. And, given the heightened concerns employees have for returning to the office, we can expect more questions and scrutiny of the air they’re breathing. That makes now a good time to establish filter replacement protocols that meet manufacturer recommendations and to evaluate whether the building’s air supply equipment can accommodate higher levels of filtration.
WELL Air Optimization 12 requires replacement records and establishes filter type by outdoor air conditions. Dense urban areas, hot and dry inland areas, as well as locations near transportation hubs and major highways likely have greater levels of particulate matter necessitating greater filtration. LEED (LEED v4.1 BD+C IEQ Credit 1) recommends a minimum MERV 13 filter and WELL Air Optimization 12 recommends up to MERV 16, with MERV 8 prefilters based on a review of outdoor air quality and particulate matter (called PM2.5 and PM10) levels. PM2.5 are the smallest air particulates that enter the lungs and blood stream causing heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
MERV 13 is a superior filter and it can capture up to 75% of PM2.5 and bacteria and viruses and MERV 16 can capture up to 95% and could be of special consideration if the building recirculates indoor air. Above and beyond LEED and WELL credit, would be the use of MERV 17 or higher-grade filters classified as HEPA.
The COVID-19 virus is tiny – about 30 nanometers in diameter (for context, the diameter of an average hair follicle is about 80,000 nanometers). So small it alone will pass through most air filters on its own. However, it often catches a ride on particulate matter like PM2.5, coagulating into a piece of larger matter. Therefore, it is important that a minimum of MERV 13 filtration is used to filter out these particles, if not higher levels of filtration if the ventilation system can accommodate. These higher levels of filtration are powerful enough to mitigate (though, again, not prevent) the virus’s spread. For this reason, we are not recommending the installation of HEPA filters in commercial spaces. These filter types should be reserved for healthcare and critical facilities.
If systems cannot accommodate these larger filter sizes and associated pressure drop, electronic systems could be employed such as bipolar ionization to kill bacteria and viruses. WELL offers credit for UV treatment to treat mold and mildew spores on the cooling coils and drain pans of forced-air cooling systems (WELL Air Optimization 14). While this strategy works well in this instance, it will be ineffective in treating the virus because as it is traveling through the HVAC system, there is simply not enough residence time for the UV to do its work. The air simply passes through too quickly. Alternatively, standalone UV systems or UV lights can be used in spaces after hours to sterilize air and surfaces as part of a regular cleaning protocol.
LEED, WELL, and Fitwel also offer credit for testing indoor air quality. While standard ASHRAE 62.1 air quality test protocols don’t cover the detection of viruses, its implementation can help to demonstrate to occupants that the best practices you’ve implemented in the building are working and are thereby likely to protect against the spread of the virus (LEED v4.1 O+M EQ Prerequisite 4, WELL Air Precondition 1 and Optimization 5, and Fitwel Indoor Environment strategy 6.4).
Certain humidity levels can enable viruses to survive longer and even grow in number making it harder to control their spread. High humidity may promote the accumulation and growth of microbes and low relative humidity has also been associated with longer survival (slower inactivation) rates.
“Recent data on indoor humidity and the spread of the virus recommends maintaining an RH range of between 40% and 60%”
The solution is for buildings in climates with broad humidity ranges to maintain relative humidity levels by adding or removing moisture from the air. The practice inhibits and improves air quality and thermal comfort. WELL Comfort Optimization 7 recommends that the mechanical systems in all projects (except spaces designed for high humidity such as natatoriums and greenhouses), have the ability to maintain relative humidity (RH) between 30% and 60% at all times. The modeled RH levels in the space must also remain within this range for at least 98% of all business hours of the year. Recent data on indoor humidity and the spread of the virus recommends maintaining an RH range of between 40% and 60%. The recommended range serves to maintain larger droplets that contain viral particles, thus causing them to deposit onto room surfaces more quickly instead of remaining aerosolized in the breathing space. It is also thought that there is higher likelihood for the membranes to be disrupted and inactivated. And below this range, low ambient humidity hurts the ability of the immune system to fight respiratory viral infections.
Cleaning Products and Protocol
This is a great time to evaluate building janitorial cleaning practices.
LEED offers credit for green cleaning practices (LEED v4.1 O+M EQ Prerequisite 3 and EQ Credit 6-7), but WELL Materials Optimization 9 and Fitwel Shared Spaces strategies 8.1-8.2 and 8.4 go beyond the types of cleaning products used and offer additional rigor for training and protocols that could be especially helpful in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The WELL guidance could help building operations teams to develop more comprehensive cleaning programs. WELL covers training on the sequence of cleaning steps and the use of personal protective equipment. And the standard covers cleaning protocols, specifically the extent and frequency of cleaning including dated cleaning logs as well as protocols for disinfection, including the identification and maintenance of a list of high-touch surfaces and their limitations to disinfection. WELL Water Optimization 8 further supports cleanliness by offering building occupant guidance for proper hand-washing, specifically for sink and faucet design, soap dispensers, and hand drying.
In comparison, Fitwel delineates its guidance by higher risk locations, specifically protocols for bathroom cleaning (strategy 8.1) and break areas (strategy 8.4) and also provides signage guidance for proper hand washing (strategy 8.2).
Confidence in Your Strategy
There is no catch all approach to remove the risk of COVID-19 from your building. There are too many variables when moving people in an out of a space. What’s key to mitigating its spread – along with proper social distancing – is discovering which approaches will be most effective. We’re offering a comprehensive presentation that illustrates the variety of system upgrades, operational approaches, and hygienic techniques that can help create safer, healthier work environments. If you are interested in a digital presentation, please send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATES TO WELL AND LEED THE WEEK OF 5/28/20:
To help bring focus to strategies from the WELL Building Standard to support in the fight against COVID-19, The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) just launched a PDF resource that brings focus to the strategies described here and more to include company risk management planning and mental and community resilience and recovery.
The US Green Building Council (USGBC) announced plans to release new LEED pilot credits for COVID-19 health and safety building strategies. Pilot credits can be swapped into your project scorecard for credit under the LEED Innovation in Design credit category. USGBC also announced upgrades to LEED v4.1 to prioritize health and a report or certificate for spaces well prepared for building re-entry.
Rendering Luman building in West LA courtesy of Gensler
Along with much of China, our Shanghai team has already begun returning to its office. It’s a high-performance space with some of the best air quality in the country. But during a pandemic, adjustments need to be made to maintain the health and safety of our staff.
Life is different. The basic ways we navigate our city and our office have changed in a lot of ways – big and small. The ways we get to work, how we eat, how we interact with each other and clients. That’s led to a new normal. Here’s what that new normal looks like, and how we’re keeping each other safe while working toward a sustainable future.
Commutes: Public Transportation
For many in Shanghai, commuting is a mix of public transportation and ride share. While both of these are still active, the experience has changed. The entrance to the subway is now marked off with guidelines for social distancing – following the recommendation from the World Health Organization, though it is slightly less than what is recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. And riders are scanned an infrared radiation thermometer to test their temperature before entering the train. As fever is one of the COVID-19 virus’s key symptoms, this helps inform people that they may need to seek a COVID-19 test and if necessary begin quarantine and treatment.
Masks are commonplace everywhere, and especially on the train. Some are taking extra precautions beyond what is recommended, including wearing gloves to prevent contact transmission. Rides can be quiet as people maintain social distancing.
Ride-shares also remain a common way to commute. To provide protection for both driver and rider, most cars have been outfitted with plastic dividers that keep them separate. Masks and gloves are generally necessary here as well, despite having the space to yourself.
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Upon reaching our office, security again scan your temperature as well as a QR code on your phone alerts you to whether you have recently been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID 19. While this “Safety Code” is an effective way to contact trace, it is an extreme measure that has brought up questions regarding individual privacy and civil liberties – with lingering concerns over what else can be done with the collected data. Green means you are healthy and cleared to enter the space. Yellow and red mean you must enter a 7-14 day quarantine. The massive adoption of this method allows authorities to trace movements of individuals and gain a quicker understanding of where that patient as been and identify others with whom they have been in contact with.
Entering the Office
Under our own office policy, whoever travels back from other Provinces throughout the country must self-quarantine for 14 days before they can return to our space. Our remote work capabilities have been well established at this point, allowing this extra protective safety measure for our staff.
We’ve instituted a Shoe Shelf. Our staff keep a pair of shoes in the office and change when they arrive. This is a common practice in a lot of cities where walking, biking, and public transit are primary methods of commuting. What was once done out of comfort is now an added health and wellness measure. Staff also change from street to work clothes once they enter the office.
Hand Sanitizer and disinfectant are kept at the reception desk for employees to wash hands and disinfect before they come into the workplace. Advanced cleaning measures are necessary for surfaces as well. A balance between the types of cleaners we use and their true effectiveness needs to be struck – we don’t want to have to lean on toxic cleaners with terrible environmental outcomes like bleach to maintain baseline health in our work spaces.
The office manager measures the temperature for our employees every day before they come into the workplace using a handheld FLIR tempscreen digital thermometer. This allows the office manager to maintain a safe distance, and while they have already been scanned prior to arriving into the building, this is an added health protocol that deepens a sense of safety and wellness for staff. New masks are distributed to our staff each day as well.
Contact-free delivery is the new normal. We have placed a shelf at front of door for the courier to place packages on, with instructions to call the recipient to pick up the delivery once they’ve left. Lunch is delivered this way as well, though, most staff are now bringing food from home – and seeing dramatic improvements in their personal cooking skills!
We have also installed three air purifiers throughout the space, they are kept on all day to reduce particles which may carry viruses. However, one of the best ways to maintain clean air levels in a space is to keep it well ventilated. This is something we’ve been working with clients on for years, but perhaps now more than ever the benefits are proving crucial. We turn off the return air and operate the AHU on Dedicated Outside Air mode to avoid cross contamination. This is one of our primary pieces of advice to clients. Completely shutting off return air is key, especially in high rise office towers where one AHU is serving for multiple tenant spaces.
The new normal looks a lot different. But these changes underscore the importance of sustainable and wellness-focused building design. As one of the most high-performance spaces in China, our space has already been equipped with or is easily retrofitted to integrate some of these helpful operational and behavioral changes to keep our staff safe.
If you’d like to learn more about these strategies, reach out to us at email@example.com to schedule remote presentation on strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in your workspace.
The recent pandemic caused many businesses to scramble to find ways to maintain productivity as stay-at-home orders from local and state governments all but cut-off traditional office spaces. At Glumac, we were fortunate to have practices and tools already in place that have enabled us to work without the need for developing new or untested procedures. This allowed our teams could continue to do what they do best without having to wait for new systems or tools to be available.
Whether its an abrupt change due to a public health crisis, or in an eased transition to remote work, there are a few things you’ll need to have in place to be successful: Existing expertise in cloud-based software; secure access; and an abundance of training. Here’s a look at what Glumac’s remote work transition looked like, and why it worked.
Leaning on Existing Expertise
This new working condition has given us the opportunity to hone our skills in various design collaboration tools. Many of our projects were already hosted on Autodesk BIM360. All of our users have access to this platform and other Autodesk tools, allowing us to scale usage with little downtime. The BIM360 platform allows us seamlessly connect teams in different locations – be it working across the city or the country – while working on the same models and files. Our work using this platform on the design of the State of California’s new Department of General Service’s building in Sacramento was recently profiled by Autodesk and demonstrates what can be achieved through this enhanced level of collaboration. Time spent in design becomes more efficient, with all parties collaborating in real time, mitigating rework and allowing for more focused time on innovation.
You can learn more about our net zero energy design work for the State of California by reading about our recent work on Sacramento’s Clifford L. Allenby Building
Because much of our staff were already well versed in the improved workflows allowed by BIM360, several potential initial pitfalls were avoided. Instead of having to spend time transitioning a large number of projects to the cloud, we were able to simply continue working, while increasing the number of projects in which we utilize BIM360. In fact, before our remote-work transition, Glumac was conducting 70% of our projects in BIM360. In the two months since, that number has increased to 90%.
Our teams across the West Coast and Texas transitioned to a work-from-home operation essentially overnight. This abrupt but crucial transition was only possible because of the secure access measures already in place for staff. Secure VPN access to company servers and VDI virtual workstations on our network utilized by many groups and projects. Our IT infrastructure had already been set up with the ability for 100% of our US staff to have secure remote access to company servers to continue working on projects.
These systems survived the pandemic’s initial stress test, allowing us to protect the health of our workers and our company. Although, while we had collaboration practices and tools already in place, that doesn’t mean that evolving situations didn’t bring some changes. We have had to do things like monitor network bandwidth usage. Our IT department has been working to ensure users are continuously able to access services and that our infrastructure can adapt to the increased remote demand.
Regardless of the speed of the transition to remote work, and the adeptness of your staff, training is necessary. Multiple training webinars have been held on tips and tricks for successful remote working and for taking advantage of collaboration features of Microsoft Teams and other applications. Our already extensive library of in-house training videos has now been made available to our staff via YouTube with some direct links inside of our Revit Tools, so users have even more ways to learn and increase their productivity while outside of the office. Glumac remains committed to innovate and looks for ways to improve our processes so that our engineering solutions and our ability to meet client needs continues to be as dynamic as the challenges that confront us.
“Real change occurs from the bottom up; it occurs person to person, and almost always occurs in small groups and locales, then bubbles up to larger vectors of change.” – Paul Hawken
The dynamics of the built environment are in constant flux – subject to the whims of emerging technologies, public health crises, and climate change. In 2020, more people than ever have begun to feel the squeeze of these issues, and the discussion around resiliency has become reactive to events directly affecting our daily lives. COVID-19 has grounded businesses, schools, and strained our healthcare system beyond the brink. Wildfires ravaged entire continents for months at a time. In response, we’re seeing a concerted effort at the design table that addresses these issues in the built environment. The tools are now coming online to demonstrate and integrate the resiliency measures necessary to create a sustainable future, but the onus remains on the A/E/C community to advance these measures as a matter of standard practice.
It’s a well-known fact – buildings generate 40% of the planet’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, according to Architecture 2030, the global rate of new buildings constructed is expected to grow the size of an entire New York City, every month, for the next 40 years. In order to even come within hailing distance of our decarbonization goals, these buildings must operate at net-zero carbon. And to do that, we need to think about carbon more holistically. This means minimizing energy use, utilizing all-electric systems to avoid combustion emissions that come with burning gas on-site, and tying in renewable generated power. But beyond emissions, we need to consider the carbon impact of materials that go into these buildings and select lower carbon alternatives where possible.
What follows are trends we see across the design industry that have real potential to deliver a low carbon future.
The Convergence of Advocacy and Sustainable Design
It’s been two years since the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dropped like a ton of bricks its Special Report on the impact of Climate Change. And while the A/E/C industry isn’t the only one racing to meet the incredibly ambitious benchmarks necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, 2020 is the year we need to move past merely recognizing the incredible impact our work has on global emissions and take more direct action in our communities.
Global climate marches and youth activism have amplified the urgent need for governments and businesses to address climate change strategically and meaningfully. The resulting momentum is changing public opinion and has given the sustainable design industry a leadership position in this effort, as building developers and owners are increasingly requesting expertise for how their projects can satisfy climate goals. At the same time, building design experts can capitalize on this momentum now by increasing our involvement in policymaking locally and regionally to accelerate sustainable development in our communities – while creating an exciting pipeline of work!
At Glumac, our Sustainability and Energy teams are working actively with policymakers and advocacy groups to create the conditions that will facilitate major change. We’re working to develop a Living Building Pilot program in Portland, similar to the program already launched in Seattle, which incentivizes renewable and regenerative building design. And In Seattle, our energy group is working with the State of Washington to push what’s already considered one of the strictest building design codes in the country to enforce greater levels of sustainability and resiliency in new and existing buildings. And our Los Angeles energy group is working with the California Energy Commission and its state-approved software development team on revisions and enforcement measures to California’s energy code. They are also working with the state’s investor-owned utilities (PG&E, SoCal Edison, etc.) and Department of Energy on creating test procedures and efficiency standards on various HVAC equipment.
In the materials world, our architectural partners are leading the charge. One area of designer-led advocacy is manufacturers producing more Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), largely in response to requests for greater transparency into the carbon impact of building products. EPDs – a statement that provides a clear snapshot of the environmental cost associated with a given product – are a crucial tool that help us make more informed design decisions and lead to more low-carbon outcomes. But they’re still not universally available, so it falls on designers to continue demanding them, not just for transparency’s sake, but also to create a market of better products. BuildingGreen’s letter calling for more sustainable products from mechanical, electrical, and plumbing manufacturers is a good example of how to do this. It’s providing firms a method of engaging directly with manufacturers and providing them with the specific product gaps designers need filled before they can take the necessary leaps forward in low carbon design.
The incredible minds within our industry hold the answers to these major problems we face. But it’s only through this kind of direct advocacy that any kind of meaningful change will happen. The path to mitigating climate change is a hard one to cut, but the meaningful steps are beginning now.
Embodied Carbon is the New High-Performance Frontier
Performance has always been associated with a building’s energy usage and water usage – and is generally measured by how well it conserves resources. But climate change has altered that definition. A building’s carbon emissions are now the most vital metric in determining its performance. And the most effective path to achieving this new level of high-performance building design is through lowering its embodied carbon.
The tools to accomplish this are now coming online, thanks in large part to building industry experts forging ahead on their own and creating ways to identify building materials that offer significant embodied carbon reductions.
“The level of product evaluation now available to designers, manufacturers, and policymakers is making a low carbon future possible.”
One such example is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3). The tool, developed by Skanska and several partners, calculates carbon emissions embodied within a range of building materials, and provides clarity in the connection between design and procurement’s role in lowering embodied carbon. Another example is BuildingGreen’s recently released top 10 innovative green building products for 2020. It’s an invaluable list: from products to replace blown insulation, to medium-density fiberboard panels made out of rice straw, to gypsum that uses 25 percent less water, its most touted materials present not just energy and carbon savings while in use, but also carbon savings from lighter production and manufacturing processes.
The level of product evaluation now available to designers, manufacturers, and policymakers is making a low carbon future possible. The next step is incorporating these tools into how we talk about building performance with real estate developers and owners, so they can better understand how their decisions impact the project’s triple bottom line.
The Urban Land Institute has created a document for real estate professionals to better understand and advocate for low-carbon materials, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – through its commitment to the 2030 Challenge – has begun promoting the Design Data Exchange (DDx), for designer-based metrics on carbon. Finally, the Sweden Green Building Council has launched NollCO2, which sets clear goals for reducing embodied carbon and construction carbon.
In our LEED material consulting work at Glumac, we have seen that it takes a pro-active approach to get lower carbon materials incorporated into a design, and then purchased and actually installed. But when we get it right, the project has an easier LEED documentation experience and can point to real improvements in the carbon performance and environmental impact of a new building. There’s even a new LEED v4.1 pilot credit for projects that demonstrate an embodied carbon reduction, without requiring a full Life Cycle Assessment. We are advocating for increased adoption of these tools (and others, such as the Arc platform that USGBC is using to track a project’s process to LEED Zero throughout this year and beyond. And judging from our conversations at February’s USGBC Town Halls on LEED Zero, we anticipate the industry at large will do the same.
Quantifying “Healthy Building Design”
Glumac has long-standing partnerships with the International Living Future Institute and biophilic design advocates like Terrapin Bright Green. Our sustainability team has worked with these organizations to educate the industry on approaches to creating spaces that perform efficiently and promote wellness for occupants. We’ve illuminated the human case: humans now spend more than 90% of our lives indoors, and it stands to reason those spaces should be promoting healthy outcomes. But there are still a lot of questions over how to quantify the business case, but to also quantify what a healthy building truly is.
The technology to monitor and generate data is well beyond where it was 10 years ago, but we’re still trying to nail what the most effective actions are. The Arc platform is free and empowers us to gather uniform data on more projects than ever. And we can meter everything from CO2 to VOCs to levels of particulates in the air. But we’ve yet to develop a baseline of effective action to take with that data to improve the health of our buildings.
For more details on our scope of healthy building design experience, head over to our project portfolio at glumac.com
We are becoming increasingly aware of how the materials we choose impact the health of occupants. Flame retardants in fabrics is one area. San Francisco has already restricted the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture construction in response to the negative health impacts such chemicals have on the people who manufacture and use them. But while we’re getting better at identifying what’s bad, the design industry’s ability to act on it remains in many ways a Catch-22. Improved products come on line, and Red Listed materials are becoming much more understood, but owners often feel they remain too expensive. But, the growing industry for these products is proving otherwise. The options are numerous, as seen on various materials databases such as UL Spot, Mindful Materials, and Transparency Catalog, and price is on par with conventional comparables.
Bringing Equity to the Forefront of Conversations
Social equity is a very local conversation that requires local knowledge and local partnerships, often with housing authorities, community groups, business associations, governments, and nonprofits. And there remains so much work to be done on all levels. We need better representation on design teams (e.g. in the a/e industry, the population of full-time workers who identify as women still remains under 20 percent), so our project decisions reflect the needs of diverse peoples. And as standard practice for any project, we need to reach out to these local partners to understand the diversity of communities in a place, issues of accessibility, and needs for services and amenities for public facing portions of the design. Often a more creative and dynamic design solution emerges from a challenge when it reflects the needs of people inside the building and the broader community who will interact on a variety of levels with the building on a daily basis.
“Equity is more than a topic of who benefits from design. It’s equally about how building emissions and storm and sewer conveyance will impact human health and quality of life in surrounding areas. “
But equity is more than a topic of who benefits from design. It’s equally about how building emissions and storm and sewer conveyance will impact human health and quality of life in surrounding areas. The environmental community is often faulted for neglecting the intersectionality between environmental issues and communities of social and economic diversity. Last year at Greenbuild, Enterprise Green Communities led a session alongside the International WELL Building Institute, titled “Using Health Data to Inform Design Strategies.” The organization spoke of the its efforts to integrate health into affordable housing projects, in part through its Health Action Plan with the USGBC. This is a positive step, with access to healthy and affordable housing still being a crucial need in essentially every city around the globe. But the understanding of how design choices impact our communities at large needs to remain at the forefront of the equity conversation.
This intersectionality is improving. “Environmental justice” is an increasingly useful way to tie together our environmental and equity goals. In Portland, a community-led ballot initiative led to the creation of the Portland Clean Energy Fund – a pool of funding that supports a lower-carbon future for citizens who are not usually part of development discussions. We’re also working with the Energy Trust of Oregon to study the cost-drivers associated with net-zero multifamily construction, and to develop resources design teams and energy modelers can use to estimate costs early in design, making it easier to optimize energy savings. Nationally, the NAACP’s initiative on Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector will be a leader in making our equity goals a reality.
This type of hand-in-glove engagement with governmental and advocacy groups must continue to grow throughout the coming year.
Mass Timber is on the Rise – But Conservation Remains a Concern
Mass timber is gaining more acceptance as a more a renewable material and biophilic design choice. But it’s perhaps most notable as a building material with a very low level of embodied carbon. We’ve been working on a number of mass timber projects here at Glumac, most notably the First Tech Credit Union Headquarters in Hillsboro, Oregon. It presents a unique design challenge from an MEP perspective, but the results are as beautiful as they are sustainable.
Whether for established products like Glulam beams or newer products like Cross Laminated Timber or Nail Laminated Timber, we are seeing more interest in wood construction for larger projects – this net-zero carbon neighborhood is a particularly exciting example. At the same time, communities have come to expect forests to provide a broad spectrum of benefits—economic returns, carbon storage, protecting water, a habitat for animals, etc. As more projects demand mass timber solutions in 2020 and beyond, we need to keep sourcing in mind to avoid unintended consequences of a new mass timber boom. One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to reward forest owners for their better management practices. Premiums for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forest products often go to distributors or mills – while FSC landowners sell logs at market rate to end up in unlabeled products, and there are still very few options for certified mass timber.
This rise in demand means we all need to learn more about the “woodsheds” that feed into our building projects. Understanding where and how our products are sourced, whether certified or not, will help us deliver on the promise of this low-carbon building material, and while supporting ecosystems and rural communities.
Expanding Opportunities in Resilient Design
In recent years, the building design community has seen the conversation around “green building design” shift from “sustainable” to “resilient.” Sustainability was about finding balance between use and conservation. More and more, resiliency has become a response to climate-related scarcity and crisis (e.g., drying watersheds, wildfires, public health crisis, and flooding). It should still be seen as an opportunity to design built environments that operate more sustainably during normal conditions. Age-old passive design strategies like daylight harvesting and natural ventilation reduce energy demand, but can also keep buildings habitable during a prolonged outage. Or, divorcing buildings from local infrastructure by, for example, designing a building to store and treat solid waste onsite can allow it to operate if municipal systems no longer function. Adding these features to existing buildings can have a long payback period, but bundling these strategies as resiliency upgrades can improve the financial case for deep retrofit, as they pale in comparison to the potential cost of a damaged building or closed business.
“Our ability to model and synthesize data that projects future impacts and to demonstrate system effectiveness is well beyond where it was a decade ago.”
There is no one baseline solution, however. So the key to resilient design is being hyper local. Building professionals must break out of their business-as-usual designs that merely meet state and local code and instead embrace ones that address the risk of their local conditions given climate change and risks to public health. These conversations need to intensify at the design table throughout 2020 to make sure projects begin meeting the audacious goals ahead of us to avoid climate catastrophe. However, our ability to model and synthesize data that projects future impacts and to demonstrate system effectiveness is well beyond where it was a decade ago. And we can expect that to continue improving at an exponential rate.
Glumac’s California energy modelers are using several software applications that take into account future climate projects. Cal-Adapt provides data and visualizations that create a variety of climate change-related scenarios and allows us to provide more insightful and climate-focused design recommendations to clients. We’ve also begun working with Ladybug, a suite of open source tools that use data from the IPCC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others to provide projectable climate data to create models that demonstrate everything from the changing effectiveness of renewables to the down-line impact on occupant comfort.
These are some of the tools that have already come online and are presenting a much more clear-eyed view of how climate will impact building design in a variety of geographic areas. The next step is demonstrating to clients the long-term value of the up-front investment. But these advanced modeling tools are helping us paint that picture more clearly.
Our industry is a major contributor to the carbon problem. But the good news is the opportunity lies within us to create the lasting change necessary to drawdown carbon and deliver a sustainable future. By pushing harder for low-carbon materials, by being active with local and regional governments to advocate for stronger regulation, and by doing the hard work of delivering these solutions in an equitable way, we can get there. And the time to act is now.
To learn more about Glumac’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, check out our latest Corporate Sustainability Report.
The site of Creekside Community High School is less than a half-mile away from the Tigard High School in Tigard, Oregon. But the two facilities couldn’t be further apart.
Creekside–the Tigard-Tualatin School District’s center for students requiring a non-traditional path toward completing their education–has long resided in an aging schoolhouse wedged just off the driveway leading into the district. From there, students can see up the road to Tigard High School, its football, soccer, and baseball fields; tennis courts; swim center; and student theater. On site, there was a palpable sense that the alternative education path meant starting life on the outside looking in.
But Creekside is changing that. With the completion of its newest addition, the school will achieve net-zero energy-generating enough power on-site to offset, or even exceed, the needs of the facility. In an environment where students are in real need of inspiration, Creekside is now offering them not just a point of pride, but a facility that works to improve their education experience as a whole.
The Pitch: Inspire Through Design
The project’s primary ambition is to inspire. The students who attend Creekside are on the alternative education track. That is, students who require an approach to their education that is augmented from what is offered in a traditional public school.
To learn more about our education design experience, visit our project portfolio at glumac.com
The trouble is these schools tend to be afterthoughts – existing in repurposed storefronts; modular trailers; or, in Creekside’s case, an old schoolhouse. With a population of students in need of more attention and support to complete their education, the design of their surroundings can play a critical factor. By creating a space they can be proud to attend and that is outfitted with modern learning tools, their odds of success stand to improve.
How It’s Done: Simplify the Path to Net Zero
Designing for net-zero energy is often misunderstood as a lengthy and costly addition to the design process that complicates the delivery of otherwise high-performing buildings. However, complexity isn’t necessarily the key. While designing a facility to reach net-zero energy goes beyond a basic energy-in/energy-out equation, it has much more to do with mitigating energy needs from across the building’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. This means finding small amounts to take from each of these buckets, a piece at a time until the need is manageable by an on-site supply.
Continuing reading at trimtab.living-future.org
In the young history of building commissioning, we’ve already witnessed a surge of under-qualified firms that suffer from what I like to call the “I can figure that out” fallacy.
Yet, building commissioning is more than filling out and submitting paperwork to meet code requirements. It is a detailed process of analyzing complex building systems, ensuring they were installed correctly and are operating at optimal efficiency, and evaluating how the systems are operating holistically.
When conducted properly, building commissioning — be it retro-commissioning, re-commissioning or ongoing commissioning — can benefit building owners for many years to come. Expect lower operating costs, extended system and equipment lifespans, fewer maintenance or failure issues, and substantially more money in your pocket. That sounds good, right?
Learn more about our Building Commissioning experience at cx.glumac.com
But how do you know that you’re hiring the commissioning agents who will help you save the most money over the long haul of your building?
The following are some clear indicators that your commissioning firm is looking out for your best interests.
1. The Firm Is a Dedicated Team of Building Commissioning Agents
Many firms have designers who “switch hats” to offer building commissioning services when the need arises. The firms that will provide you the most value, though, have a dedicated team. These commissioning agents are knowledgeable on the latest industry trends, Cx tools and training, and are focused on providing expert commissioning services, nothing else. This results in a streamlined commissioning process that yields a more value-added commissioning service.
2. The Building Commissioning Firm Has Extensive Experience
It’s one thing to understand and implement the Commissioning Process on a project — it’s another thing to understand how the many building systems operate. Rarely do you find there is one commissioning agent who knows everything from mechanical to electrical to plumbing. You don’t want a mechanical commissioning agent commissioning your UPS emergency power system on your data center.
You may have had your building and manufacturing process undergo a thorough commissioning process when you designed and constructed your building. Good job! You are certainly enjoying all the benefits of building commissioning year after year after year — or are you?
When you buy a new car and the service light comes on, you wouldn’t dare not bring the car in for service. Like an automobile, you need to perform periodic tune–ups in order to keep your building and manufacturing systems running smoothly and energy efficiently.
Because once a building is in operation, the total energy use will increase as the efficiency of the building systems gradually decrease.
Re-commissioning your building systems every three to five years results in the past has proven the best way to keep your building systems operating at peak efficiency.
But with new technology, there is another option to consider — and it potentially could save you even more and extend your building’s life even longer.
Learn more about our Building Commissioning experience at cx.glumac.com
Instead of waiting up to five years to re–commission your systems, what if you could identify operating inefficiencies that lead to increase energy use as they happen, in real time? The building industry has been moving toward exactly this type of program by the name of ongoing commissioning.
What is Ongoing Building Commissioning?
Ongoing commissioning is a continuous process that tracks, measures and analyzes a building’s operational data over time, in real-time. This allows for building owners to continually operate their systems at high efficiency, thereby lowering energy use and costs and increasing the company’s profits.
The ongoing building commissioning process is a natural complement to the commissioning (or retro-commissioning) process, and it starts in the design phase of the project.
Continue reading at Tetra Tech’s IDMS website.
Fire suppression system? Check
Lane control signage? Check.
Traffic detection? Check.
From a deluge system capable of pouring as much as 17 inches of water per square foot, to the 300 cameras monitoring traffic, Seattle’s SR 99 tunnel might be one of the safest, most well-monitored spaces in the city. Traffic now passing below downtown is doing so in a tunnel designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and within seconds can alert drivers to anything from a multi-car pile up to a bucket that’s flown off the back of a truck.
But you don’t design and construct a mega-project like this and simply open it to more than 100,000 vehicles overnight. While ushering drivers from Point A to Point B (in this case, CenturyLink Field to the Space Needle) is any roadway’s primary objective, making that trip simple and seamless requires hundreds of MEP, lighting, low voltage, security, and digital safety systems – both inside and outside the tunnel – that each need to be inspected and tested. And tested. And tested again.
Glumac’s Seattle Commissioning Group, led by Angela Templin, performed functional testing for both the tunnel itself, and the operations buildings at each end. Beyond basic functionality, this type of project requires considering and testing multiple scenarios and iterations, to conclude as closely as possible the automated tunnel systems and the WSODT Operations staff are prepared to manage any problem that may arise when opened to the public.
“In sum, prior to the new tunnel receiving its first commuter earlier this year, commissioning agents need to test more than 100 individual systems and verify they are working both individually and together.”
Testing starts with every sub-system, then branches out from there to verify each system functions properly in conjunction with others. This means, for example, beginning by checking the drainage system to see if it’s pumping water where it needs to go. Then moving on to fire suppression – checking each of the 208 deluge values individually (both on the north and southbound side) to make sure they’re providing proper coverage throughout the tunnel. And because they had previously verified the pumps, the deluge water is now pumped out of the tunnel, preventing flooding. Then they verify lighting systems perform as intended for each emergency scenario (while also verifying lighting in the opposite direction of the tunnel maintains its normal, non-emergency operation). Then the PA systems are tested. Once all systems are tested individually, an emergency is simulated to see if each system functions seamlessly together to suppress a possible fire, alert drivers of the emergency, and give proper instructions and direction for escape if needed. In sum, prior to the new tunnel receiving its first commuter earlier this year, more than 100 individual systems needed to be tested and verified to be working both individually and together.
Commissioning in the cloud with CX Alloy
And all this is done with the daunting timeline of an incredibly visible project that causes intermittent freeway closures leading up to its completion and has a large, publicly-financed price tag attached.
The team needed a way to work fast, communicate easily, and to know the status of the ongoing testing. Historically, all the documentation on a commissioning project is managed and maintained within a project binder that contains all the documentation for every system. On a mega-project like this, the scale and number of systems make printing out and compiling massive binders of documentation nearly impossible – particularly when considering printing and materials cost as well as the physical space required. The time required for set up and ensuing back and forth communication between the Cx team, the contractor, and the owner risks setting the project back weeks, if not longer.
For more details on our scope of commissioning on the SR-99 Tunnel project, head over to our project portfolio at glumac.com
“On a massive scale you’re going from having a couple thousand pieces of equipment,” says Templin. “And a lot of systems in the tunnel come down to life safety. So, it’s critical to have that latest version of the documentation in one place accessible at any time by the entire team. The traditional paper binder would have significantly hampered the entire process.”
To accomplish that, the team worked together in cloud via Bluebeam and Cx Alloy. These tools allowed the entire team to work from the same information, mitigate rework, and built trust among the group, which is critical when so many systems boil down to life safety. What’s more, it provided greater efficiencies and ultimately sped up completion of the testing.
“Working in the cloud document repository allows the entire team to access that documentation in real time from anywhere,” Templin says. “Understanding the scale of this project, we pushed to collect a lot of documentation early on that we’d normally gather at the end of the project – testing documents, startup reports – all typically done as a close out. Because they were part of a pre-functional checklist, now that we’re near the end, 99-percent of those documents are where they need to be.”
Through this coordination-intensive project, the Glumac commissioning team has learned many lessons about the effective management of commissioning documentation, collaboration, and information sharing, and played a valuable role in verifying that one of the most high-tech tunnels in North America operates properly. Our team is always looking to leverage these lessons on our projects from a 16,000-square-foot community center up to the new North Satellite Terminal at Sea-Tac International Airport. Learn more about our building commissioning experience at cx.glumac.com.
Imagine a computer room or data center that was built before or shortly after the turn of the century, conceptualized without containment, and designed to a long-since abandoned practice of maintaining “meat-locker” conditions — a data center that never broke the barrier of 500 kW of IT load.
Most facility managers, if they’ve been involved with data centers at all, have seen such a place, and not at the turn of the century, but rather recently. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these “forgotten” computer rooms (or data centers) may have more installed IT capacity than all the hyperscale, super-efficient, highly publicized data centers combined. Whether this assumption is true or not, what we as an industry do know is that the opportunity to improve our nation’s data center efficiency remains a vast untouched resource.
For more details on our MEP engineering and data center design experience, head over to our project portfolio at glumac.com
Over the last 10 years, the data center industry has educated designers, operators, and managers on how to fix these inherent inefficiencies. As a result, facility managers now have many low- or no-cost ways to reduce energy use in the data center. (See below.) Most of these measures are well known. But facility managers may not be aware of one other very effective energy efficiency step that counts as low-hanging fruit and that is rarely addressed. That energy-conservation measure is an air-flow management strategy that can be summarized in two simple steps:
- Monitor IT loads in each cold aisle.
- Adjust the air flow delivered into the cold aisle to deliver an appropriate amount of cooling air for the load in that aisle.
There are many data centers that have been meticulously maintained over the years, yet they do not have an air flow management strategy to mitigate the results of re-circulation and bypass, which ultimately translate to hot spots, reduced system capacity, and wasted energy.
Read the full article at Facility Management Decisions Magazine
Glumac, partnering with Turner Construction, signed on to provide MEP engineering services on the fast-track, net-zero P Street design-build project in Sacramento, CA. Tapped to also bring its sustainability-focused know-how to the team, Glumac compressed the time-intensive workflows that are typically required to support projects with such audacious energy use goals. They did this by formulating a workflow that was equal to the ambition of the project, working with the project team from a shared Revit model using Autodesk BIM 360 Design software for design collaboration. This new level of teamwork helped boost productivity and condensed what are normally months-long project phases into mere days.
MEP Engineering for Green Buildings that Work
Glumac, which was recently acquired by Tetra Tech, has always had a commitment to designing building systems that efficiently support comfortable spaces. The firm has wholeheartedly embraced sustainable design, having designed more than 250 LEED-certified projects. Their eagerness to embrace innovation led Glumac to adopt BIM (Building Information Modeling) with Revit building design software before many other MEP engineering firms did, and the firm continues to forge ahead with its use of cloud-based design.
Ambitious sustainability goals come with an aggressive schedule
The Sacramento building will be the new home of the California Natural Resources Agency. Undertaken by California’s Department of General Services (DGS), to provide office space for more than 3,400 state employees, the P Street project is targeting a LEED Platinum certification and net-zero carbon use. The 22-story building will include 838,000 square feet of space. DGS decided to undertake the P Street building as a design-build project with an aggressive schedule for both design and construction.
The accelerated project schedule left little time between creating the high-level design concepts and developing the shop drawings the subcontractors would use for fabrication and installation of the building systems. That meant Glumac’s MEP engineers would have to juggle coordination with the architect and other engineers simultaneously as its team assisted the subcontractors—including Southland Industries, Redwood Electric, and Intech Mechanical—to develop shop drawings.