SWA Helps Implement STEP, the Sustainable Technical Education Program


Written by Karla Butterfield, Senior Sustainability Consultant 

In a new and exciting opportunity, we’re partnering with Energize CT, the Connecticut Technical High School System, The Connecticut Light and Power Company dba Eversource, The United Illuminating Company, and The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) Education and Workforce Partnership to help implement Green STEP (Sustainability Technical Education Program). This program will train CT technical high school students in a construction career track in energy, water, and resource efficiency.

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2016 New York Energy Codes: Residential Section

By Steve Klocke, Senior Sustainability Consultant

A week has passed since the new energy code went into effect in New York State and New York City. Did you miss it? Hopefully not, but we thought it might be helpful to review some of the new requirements in the residential section (stay tuned for future posts on the commercial section).

Attached Single Family

Attached single-family dwellings follow Residential section.

In case you need a refresher on what constitutes a residential building, we’re talking about “detached one- and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) as well as Group R-2, R-3 and R-4 buildings three stories or less in height above grade plane.” Here are the documents you’ll need:
1. 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
2. 2016 Supplement to the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYSECC)
3.2016 New York City Energy Conservation Construction Code (NYCECC)

New York City did us a favor and put everything into one document, but we weren’t so lucky with the state code – you’ll have to cross reference the supplement with IECC (links 1 and 2 above). All of the residential codes are now denoted with an “R” prefix (as compared to “C” for commercial).

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Wayfinding: An Interview with Katie Osborn

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective; expert wayfinding strategist

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective and expert wayfinding strategist, took some time out of her busy schedule to connect with SWA’s Victoria Lanteigne on the importance of wayfinding and to debunk the myth that wayfinding is just signage!

Victoria Lanteigne (VL): Can you define wayfinding?

Katie Osborn (KO): At a basic level, wayfinding is utilizing tools and cues to help people navigate seamlessly from point A to point B. However, wayfinding strategies are complex and can include signage, maps, architectural features, lighting, floor patterns, customer service representatives, digital apps, and more. Proper wayfinding will enhance a visitor’s experience based on the sense of ease with which they can access all points, elements, and features of a space.

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How Effective is that Range Hood?

Next time you are cooking, take a look at your kitchen hood. You are likely cooking on the front two burners, but your kitchen hood is not likely to extend fully over these burners. For typical exhaust fans, they do a good job of exhausting steam, contaminants, etc. from directly below them, but don’t necessarily pull all fumes that are outside the perimeter of the fan enclosure.  According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) the capture efficiency of standard hoods is typically in the range of 30-40% on front burners and can be as high as 90% on back burners. To demonstrate this, I boiled some water in a tea pot on my stove. Once steam was coming out, I pulled out an infrared camera and started to take images. Wait…you don’t have an IR camera just sitting around your home? You are missing out on hours and hours of fun with the kids. They are great for science projects.

Back to my point. I have an LG over-the-range microwave with extenda™ vent. This allows the vent area to extend out an additional ~6”. When the microwave hood (exhausted to outside) was operating on turbo mode (just over 300 cfm exhaust) and without the vent extension slid out, the majority of steam from the tea pot on the front burner was passing by the vent and going up the front of the microwave (as evidenced by moisture build up on the microwave door). And yes, I realize that I turned the spout of the tea pot outwards to more dramatically show the point I am trying to make. When the slide out vent was pulled out, the amount of steam capture increased dramatically, but there was still some moisture build up on the front edge of the vent slide out.  Obviously, this is not a scientific study; it is just anecdotal evidence to further the discussion on the need to consider capture efficiency in the design of kitchen range hoods.


Figure 1. (Left) IR image of steam from a tea pot bypassing vent hood without hood extension slide out. (Center) Picture of range and hood setup with hood extension slide out. (Right) IR image of steam from a tea pot mostly being captured by vent hood with hood extension slide out.

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Passive House is Here to Stay and This is Why

By Pablo Muñoz, Sustainability Consultant

In recent years, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have seen a tremendous increase in interest in Passive House buildings. It’s not only in the news; here at SWA we have experienced a dramatic increase in requests for Passive House. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (PHFA) now includes a 10 point incentive within its Qualified Allocation Plan to developers of affordable, low-income tax credit projects that design to Passive House standards.

In New York City, public initiatives like SustaiNYC have spurred a mixed-use project that will likely result in the largest Passive House building in the world. Other public initiatives, like the reopening of NYSERDA’s MPP program, carve out funding exclusively for Passive House projects. The emergence of singular and iconic Passive House projects, such as Cornell Tech – which, upon completion, will be the largest and tallest building with this certification in the world – have also boosted interest.

Architectural Rendering of Cornell Tech Campus

Architectural Rendering of Cornell Tech Campus

It is clear that as code is made more stringent across the country, the gap between basic compliance and Passive House certification will shrink, making it more attractive for developers.

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