Dr. William Bahnfleth | Penn State University
Dr. Bahnfleth is a Fellow of ASHRAE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the International Society for Indoor Air Quality and Climate. Dr. Bahnfleth is the author or co-author of more than 170 journal articles and 14 books/book chapters.
Recently, Michael Adams of Glumac’s Energy team sat down with HMC Architects to discuss the impacts of Title 24 code updates on the design of education spaces. His interview is reproduced here with HMC’s permission.
Every three years, the California Energy Commission (CEC) updates its section of the Building Standards Code, Title 24 Part 6 – California Energy Code, by working with stakeholders in a public and transparent process. The updated 2022 Code took effect on January 1, 2023. The goal is to improve efficiency and reduce emissions from California homes and businesses, which represent 70 percent of the state’s electricity use and are responsible for a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Nationally, California is a leader in environmental standards, and Title 24 is one of the tools state leaders use to push the envelope. The Title 24 Building Standards Code dates back to 1978, when previously disjointed building regulations were unified, covering all aspects of building construction. As climate change and greenhouse gas emissions have become pressing issues, energy use and emissions standards have become more critical.
As we adopt the 2022 code, there are several changes school districts, architects, and engineers need to understand better. We talked with Michael Adams, CEA, LEED AP BD+C, to get answers and some perspective. Michael is an associate and senior energy analyst at Glumac; a global engineering firm focused on creating sustainable, resilient buildings that provide healthy, productive, and equitable spaces for all communities. Glumac is an engineering partner on many HMC projects.
What are the noteworthy changes to the Title 24 energy code?
One of the significant changes is a prescriptive requirement for solar photovoltaic and battery storage systems for most non-residential new construction building types (Section 140.10). The amounts are based on a project’s conditioned square footage or available roof area (calculated as Solar Access Roof Area – SARA). Although a prescriptive requirement only, it will make it difficult for applicable buildings to meet Title 24 compliance via the performance approach without any renewable/battery storage systems in their design.
For non-residential projects, there are various improvements to performance requirements for the envelope, mechanical, lighting, and plumbing systems. A few of the more notable changes include:
- Increased prescriptive insulation requirements on metal-framed exterior walls
- High prescriptive glazing performance (U-Value and SHGC) with new climatezone-specific requirements
- Reduced prescriptive lighting power density (LPD) requirements
- Increased mandatory mechanical system efficiencies
- Increased prescriptive requirements on airside economizers on smaller systems (some exceptions)
- Prescriptive mechanical system type requirements (heat-pump based) for some program and building types
- High mandatory insulation performance requirements for envelope systems in alteration/addition projects
What are the impacts and cost implications of the updated energy regulations?
The photovoltaic/battery and higher performance standards requirements will increase first costs (the initial cost to construct). We expect that there will be lower energy use intensity (EUI), lower greenhouse gas emissions, and lower utility bills throughout the life of the building.
Additionally, these code changes will push more projects to consider energy use holistically, modeling actual predicted energy use rather than checking the boxes on a list of different components that must meet minimum requirements. This will require an increased understanding and knowledge of the Title 24 Part 6 energy code.
Indoor air quality has a major role to play in resilient building design. As the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing presence of climate-related disasters converged in recent years, the need for our indoor spaces to keep us safe, together, and working has become more apparent than ever. Recently, we were joined by Dr. William Bahnfleth of Penn State University for a discussion digging into ASHARE’s groundbreaking new Standard 241, which addresses these issues head on. Dr. Bahnfleth shares insights drawn from helping develop the standard and illustrates its potential to create built environments that are safer and more resilient to a changing climate.
On the webinar below, you’ll also hear from Chris Rush of our partner firm Hoare Lea. An expert in indoor air quality, Chris provides a guide for making resilience a reality on our projects. And lastly, Erik Malmstrom of SafeTraces provides a look at how their technology helps us quantify the impacts of healthy building design, to ensure design intent becomes reality.
Dr. William Bahnfleth | Penn State University
Chris Rush | Hoare Lea
As Air Quality Group lead at Hoare Lea, Chris focuses on promoting the crucial role indoor air quality plays for our health and wellbeing, and examines the opportunity buildings play in delivering better health outcomes for occupants.
Erik Malmstrom | SafeTraces
The CEO of SafeTraces, a Bay Area-based technology company and leader in DNA‑enabled diagnostic solutions for indoor air safety, Erik is a successful and experienced thought leader driven to create a better, safer, more sustainable world.
We’ve discussed building embodied carbon a lot at Glumac, stating its overall necessity as part of a global carbon drawdown, strategies for reducing it in new buildings, and even the impact material choices have on a building’s life-long carbon footprint.
And that materials challenge looms large. Though many manufacturers still do not disclose the embodied carbon of their products, the most progressive manufacturers that supply the major materials buildings use – concrete, steel, and wood – is where the lion’s share of good data lies, and where the focus of our work is with our clients. But even so, it is difficult to make building specifications meaningful because with the lack of data, you run the risk of being too aggressive, or too lax, because materials are regionally and market sector sensitive.
Senior Sustainability Strategist Ante Vulin provides context into the global impacts of a building’s embodied carbon.
So where can we work and have the most impact under these conditions? The answer may be large-scale adaptive reuse. There is a big opportunity in front of building designers to avoid carbon emissions by making our existing building stock a larger part of the climate solution.
We recently had the pleasure of working with the State of California’s Department of General Services on its Resources Building Renovation in Sacramento. As part of the of this renovation of this 652,000-square-foot building, the steel structure, and steel deck and concrete floors will be retained. The structural reuse alone reduces its embodied carbon intensity by 65% over typical new construction. This demonstrates the power of reusing existing buildings in avoiding carbon emissions on a large scale, as there is so much embodied carbon tied up in the production and delivery of concrete and steel.
Chief Sustainability Strategist Nicole Isle diagrams carbon savings through adaptive reuse.
What about new construction?
Inroads to carbon reduction through smart material choices can still be made for new construction projects. The structural strategies available to reduce embodied carbon are simple, can be cost neutral, and the amount of good data available for market ready alternatives is most robust for these materials. For example, the all-new Clifford L. Allenby building achieved a 15% reduction in embodied carbon of the entire structure and envelope through the concrete mix alone.
This Sankey flow diagram is a model output of a new construction office building we are currently working on. On the left side, it shows the materials with the highest potential to reduce embodied carbon. Again, concrete and steel are the biggest culprits by volume. And looking all the way to the right, market ready low carbon alternatives can potentially reduce the embodied carbon of this building by 35%.
The potential is growing for carbon reduction across building market sectors. Let’s chat about your next building, campus, or real estate carbon reduction project!
This post was made in part of a series along side our partners in Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group.
You can read the rest of the group’s posts here.
COP27 is focused on action this year. As global leaders gather, the priorities to are twofold: accountability, and; solutions to implement now.
Loss and damage negotiations are taking centerstage. Negotiations on how much nations should pay in loss and damages is an important topic, as well as the assistance needed to help the poorest countries transition to renewable energy. These conversations are timely with the re-entry of oil and gas companies, which were banned from COP last year. Given their record profits, largely due to the Ukraine crisis, leaders are pressing for a windfall tax to shift profits to aid global inequities, while acknowledging it’s time for governments to deliver on climate finance commitments.
COP27’s Decarbonization Day focused on technologies that are emerging as potential solutions to help nations achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and businesses to achieve their climate goals. The day provided an opportunity to discuss approaches and policies and showcase technologies that facilitate the transition towards a low carbon economy.
Discussions trended toward decarbonizing high-emitting sectors, namely oil, gas, steel and cement, which represent more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions. American President, Joe Biden, rallied 122 countries to join the Global Methane Pledge, aiming to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.
In oil and gas, the following was explored:
- best practices to end methane venting and flaring and cut methane leaks in operations
- methods to improve energy efficiency, use renewable power and Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS).
Further topics included low carbon steel and cement and adopting circular economy approaches to reduce needs for new materials, while recognizing the importance of these products for improving infrastructure in developing nations across Africa and the Global South.
The ‘Breakthrough Agenda’
Nations representing over half the world’s GDP, including the United States and the United Kingdom, unveiled a one-year plan with 25 collaborative actions to be delivered by #COP28 to help make clean technologies cheaper and more accessible everywhere.
“Fossil fuels are a dead end. We need to increase renewable energy deployment to around 60% of total energy capacity over the course of the next eight years, which means roughly a tripling of install capacity over the course of this decade.” United Nations Chief António Guterres has said.
And, as the UN expressed in an article last week, this is more than possible, because the world has tripled its renewable energy capacity over the last decade. We just need to do it again, as Guterres has expressed: “The technologies are there, the finance is there. It just needs to be deployed in the right place, where the emissions are and where the population growth and energy demand is.”
The climate provisions in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are substantial. The sustainable design community’s advocacy efforts and demonstrated projects promoting efficient, low carbon, resilient and healthy buildings has finally manifested into U.S. policy creating new climate funding resources and extending existing programs. For a quick understanding of IRA’s climate provisions, we like this USGBC summary.
At Glumac, we helped design the largest net zero government office in California, demonstrated the sustainable ROI in developer lead projects in Texas, and improved the resilience of the Oregon State government. And, there is a rise in climate action from campuses and governments as our work on building and transportation decarbonization and clean energy plans continues to grow. Looking ahead, we are anxious to see how this new climate funding spurs broader market uptake especially at scale with the larger building portfolio owners.
Glumac’s Building Sciences Group, made up of our sustainability, energy, and commissioning experts, is leading the charge informing our MEP staff and our clients on the benefits of the new legislation. Looking ahead, we’re confident that the rapidly growing number of requests we are receiving for efficient and low carbon buildings, new and existing, will continue.
The bill is meant to put the U.S. on the path to reduce GHG’s 40% by 2030 and make energy efficiency and clean energy increasingly more cost effective year after year. What’s more, the IRA will undoubtedly sweeten the ROI for smart, sustainable buildings. We are thrilled by this massive boost in federal support and we have a renewed sense of purpose and pride in the work we do alongside our client owners, developers, and design partners. Let’s keep going!
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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