Industrializing Deep Energy Retrofits

phbcoverDeep energy retrofits of existing structures are an absolute must for meeting any reasonable carbon emission reduction goals, but cost-effective retrofits are challenging, to say the least. Taitem teamed up with King + King Architects to bring a five-building, 40-unit, two-story, wood-framed apartment complex in upstate New York to a net zero energy and Passive House level of performance.

Read more about the details of the project and the long-term phased plan of retrofit measures at passivehousebuildings.com

BLOWER DOOR TESTING – WHAT ARE THE NYS CODE REQUIREMENTS?

Over the last 20 years, Taitem’s team has performed blower door tests on countless buildings. Blower door testing supports optimal system design and provides paybacks. Blower door testing is also required in New York.

New York State Energy Conservation and Construction Code (NYS ECCC) sets minimum requirements for air tightness. Both residential and commercial buildings are required to have a continuous air barrier to prevent air passing through the building’s thermal envelope.

BUILDINGS DEFINED (by NYS ECCC)

RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS
Detached one- and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) as well as Group R-2, R-3, and R-4 buildings that three or fewer stories above grade.

COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
Any building that is not considered a residential according to the above definition.

COMPLY WITH CODE

To measure that the air leakage rate of the building thermal envelope is not greater than 0.40 cfm/ft2 at a pressure difference of 75 Pascals, commercial buildings must:

1.  Meet a list of prescriptive requirements OR
2. Perform a blower door test

Residential buildings must be tested and verified as not having an air leakage rate exceeding three air changes per hour at a pressure difference of 0.2 inch w.g. (50 Pa), also known as 3 ACH50. Note: There are no changes in the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) regarding air barrier requirements, but we can expect enforcement of the NYS ECCC to increase.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Blower Door Testing can help identify building air tightness issues which, in turn, can

• reduce energy usage due to air leakage,
• improve occupant comfort by reducing drafts caused by air leakage, and
• reduce moisture condensation problems.

While commercial buildings can comply with code without blower door testing, blower door testing ensures that the construction is adequate and can be key part of envelope commissioning.

CATHING LEAKS EARLY

Blower door testing is an excellent diagnostic tool. You can locate and find leaks in the building envelope during the test so they can be properly addressed before these areas are covered. With higher levels of insulation, less heat is being driven through walls, reducing drying potential.

Air leakage is a major source of water vapor transport. Reducing air leakage is critical to ensuring that moisture doesn’t reach undesired areas in the building and thermal envelope.

BE PROACTIVE AND PLAN TO TEST EARLY

Get in touch with Taitem or your blower door consultant EARLY in the design and construction process so that a test plan can be developed to make best use of the technology and service.

Commissioning Code updates in NYS – Taitem presents at NYS Green Building Conference

Taitem was happy to be among the top green building researchers, educators, and practitioners at the New York State Green Building Conference in Syracuse, New York. One team presented on the progress of its RetrofitNY project, and another led a session on updates to the NYS Commissioning Code.

Lou Vogel, President, and Nate Goodell, Senior Engineer, presented “Shifting the Baseline: An update on Cx Construction Code in NYS.” As of October 2016, the New York State Commercial Construction Code was updated to align with international standards for energy efficiency and building performance. Part of this alignment added a requirement for certain buildings to receive commissioning per the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code. This change has shifted commissioning from an activity usually limited to high-performing buildings to one that will be part of many new commercial construction projects. With this shift comes the need for education and outreach to stakeholders who might not be familiar with commissioning or with the new code requirements. Lou and Nate explored which buildings are impacted by the new code, what commissioning entails, and why it is required. They concluded with lessons learned through their extensive field experience on how to make the commissioning process easier.

Click here to download the complete presentation.

About NYS Green Building Conference

As the premier green building conference in the Northeast, the New York State Green Building Conference’s progressive advisory council has fostered growth by consistently bringing together top green building researchers, educators, and practitioners. Conference participants represent many industries including architecture, engineering, construction, consulting, deconstruction, landscape architecture, government, higher education, K-12 education, state agencies, real estate, and management firms.

Taitem at the Green Building Conference


The 17th Annual NYS Green Building Conference is scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday (4/17-4/18) in Syracuse, NY. Taitem will be sharing the latest updates on Code Commissioning in NY State and will also present with a team on our current  RetrofitNY  project.

The conference is hosted by SUNY ESF in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council NY Upstate and the Syracuse CoE and will focus on Net-Zero building.

Participants represent many industries including architecture, engineering, construction, consulting, deconstruction, landscape architecture, government, higher education, K-12 education, state agencies, real estate, and management firms. If you haven’t already, REGISTER HERE.

Converting Steam Heating Systems to Heat Pumps Also Saves Water

Caroline Town HallThe Town of Caroline building which houses its courtroom and history museum was the subject of a  recent Taitem research project investigating potential water savings from the conversion of steam heating systems to air source heat pumps.

Steam heating systems are still quite prevalent in New York State.  A study Taitem did in 2017 (PDF) found that over 30% of the heating systems in the state use steam.   In some types of buildings, like multifamily, over 50% of buildings were heated by steam.  Steam heating systems are very common in New York City and are still not unusual in our Ithaca area.  For example, the old Caroline Town Hall is heated by steam and is in the process of preparing to convert to heat pumps.

We have always known that steam heating systems lose water through leaks, air vents, and condensate tanks.  And so they consume water.  If we convert these heating systems to heat pumps, we will expect to not only save energy and reduce carbon emissions, but also reduce water use.  But how much water will be saved?

Another research project Taitem conducted in 2010, Steam Boiler Replacements (PDF), indirectly estimated water use as possibly being high.  However, in that 2010 research project, we did not directly measure water losses.  Instead, we estimated it based on total building water use.

The upcoming heating conversion (to heat pumps) of the old Caroline Town Hall presented a great opportunity to measure water use and so measure potential water savings.  We installed a water meter on the water pipe that goes right to the boiler in the fall of 2017.  In this way, we would be able to see exactly how much water is being consumed by the heating system, independent of other water uses in the building.  Mark Witmer, the Caroline Town supervisor, diligently read the water meter and gas meter over the last two winters, and the results are in.

Caroline Town Hall boiler 2019In the one-year period between January 2018 and January 2019, 4104 gallons of water were consumed.

Usage is clearly higher in winter.  This means that the water is being lost when the boiler is firing, as we would expect.   1.5 gallons of water was consumed per cubic foot of natural gas burned.

Imagine over 4000 gallons of water being evaporated, per year, just to heat a small building. Caroline’s town hall building is just under 4000 square feet, so the water being wasted is approximately one gallon of water per square foot per year.

The water cost savings in a typical building would not be financially significant, just a few dollars per year, because water rates are so low at present.  And at Caroline, the water comes from a well, so the savings will be even lower; just the electric cost savings for pump power.  And as a fraction of our total water use, the savings are also not high.  A typical person uses over 30,000 gallons of water per year, at home.

But still, the potential water savings are measurable and are another good reason to be planning to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Do you have a steam heating system?  We can tell a steam boiler from a hot water boiler in a few ways: by the pressure, type of radiator, and more.  Take a few photos of your boiler, the boiler nameplate, gauges on the boiler, and a couple of radiators, and send them to Ian at imshapiro@taitem.com.  He’ll be happy to tell you which you have.

Acknowledgment:  Thanks to Caroline Town Supervisor Mark Witmer for his interest, enthusiasm, and contributions to the project.

 

Taitem announces closure of solar installation division

Taitem Engineering is grateful to its clients for supporting the growth of solar energy. The Taitem team continues to believe wholeheartedly in the vital role of solar in achieving local, state, and global climate goals. Taitem is proud of the quality work it has done installing solar for homes and businesses across the region — with more than 300 solar PV installations over 6 years, totaling 3.6 MW of capacity.

After much deliberation and consideration of alternatives, Taitem has decided to close its solar installation division. Since 1989, Taitem’s core competency has been consulting engineering. This decision reflects a commitment to Taitem’s energy and sustainability consulting and design engineering services, which are in greater demand than ever before. Taitem will continue to provide solar engineering and commissioning and will maintain a solar service team for operations and maintenance.

Installation staff will be at work through February 2019 installing solar PV systems already under contract. Taitem’s 10-year workmanship warranty on solar PV arrays remains in place for all installed systems, and the company is retaining staff, led by Dave Tedeyan, for service needs. Manufacturer equipment warranties will remain unchanged.

The anticipated effective date of the closure is February 28, 2019. Taitem staff is implementing a careful transition plan to make sure that clients’ needs are met, employees are well supported and all administrative matters are addressed.

Several of Taitem’s solar employees will remain with the company working in our Energy+Sustainability and Quality Assurance departments. Dave Tedeyan, the solar service manager, will be available for technical support and to resolve any service or warranty issues with manufacturers such as SunPower.

For the many people and businesses who have referred friends to Taitem for solar in the past, the company extends its thanks. Referral fee payments for recent site visits and closed contracts will be mailed soon.

Taitem President Lou Vogel shared, “We are so proud of our awesome solar team and the award-winning quality work they have done over the years. Going forward, Taitem Engineering will maintain and expand its core consulting services in energy efficiency, sustainability and building design, and help to develop carbon reducing solutions grounded in building science. The company will keep up its active contributions to the Ithaca community and to clean energy and green building efforts locally, statewide, and beyond.”

Service Manager Dave Tedeyan and President Lou Vogel and are happy to discuss any questions and concerns with Taitem’s many clients, friends and solar advocates in the community.

Contact info
Lou Vogel lvogel@taitem.com, 607-277-1118 x125
Dave Tedeyan dtedeyan@taitem.com, 607-930-3481 x6 or 607-277-1118 x121

Rx for your Cx Pain

Starting in October 2016, New York State and New York City codes require commissioning (known as Cx) on new construction and substantial renovation projects. Commercial buildings with mechanical capacities larger than 480K Btu/hr cooling, or 600K Btu/hr heating and service hot water must comply.

Building professionals are finding out the hard way that developing the necessary commissioning specs takes time and planning in the early stages of a project. Recently Taitem has fielded several calls from project teams, already deep into construction, who have just learned that they needed a building system commissioning plan but had not allocated any time or budget. Taitem’s certified Cx professional Nate Goodell has been able to help, but including commissioning from the start would have saved these teams time, money and  unnecessary headaches.

Here’s a prescription so you won’t be caught painfully short on your next project:

  1. Understand which buildings and renovations require code commissioning (Quick Facts sheet)
  2. Develop appropriate commissioning specs. Include them in bid docs.
  3. Include the Cx plan and agent in project kickoffs.
  4. Factor into the construction timeline onsite Cx testing and issue resolution.
  5. Review both your preliminary and final Cx reports promptly and file them on time.

Download Taitem’s Cx white papers for detailed info on required testing and report deadlines in New York State and New York City.

Let us know if Taitem can answer questions or be of service.
Email Nate Goodell [ngoodell@taitem.com].

Test drive the Ithaca Green Building Policy

The Ithaca Green Building Policy (IGBP) is being codified and will be a standard building practice in 2019 in both the city and town of Ithaca.

When asked to design to a particular standard, it’s expected that building professionals will react with a bit of resistance and uncertainty. Building owners and developers likely have concerns about the potential time and cost associated with building to new standards. Architects and engineers will need to study the new building code and will also need to educate local clients about the different “paths” they can choose under the new policy.

To gain a better understanding of the policy, we decided to take a close look at a couple of projects we completed in the past two years and see how they would measure up under the IGBP. The exercise gave us the opportunity to review the standards, understand the differences in the residential and commercial point system, and document some questions that we reviewed with Ian Shapiro (Taitem founder and co-creator of the IGBP).

Here’s a list of what we used as a reference:

The Ithaca Green Building Policy Guide and Final Report. In particular, section 2.14 “Pulling it all together: Recommendations.”

Comcheck. We reviewed two commercial projects and found the majority of information we needed to complete the “Easy Path” right in this report. 

GoogleMaps.

Project drawings and history. These were brief recollections shared verbally by the project manager.

We also created a few building calculation templates that we bounced back and forth among team members at Taitem and STREAM Collaborative. It was an exercise that didn’t take much time and helped us answer some questions about compliance. Here’s what we found:

 

 

Go with the flow: Water efficiency requirements in NYS

In 2017, New York State (rather quietly) adopted the EPA’s high-efficiency “Water Sense” requirements for residential faucets, toilets, and shower heads. Note the water use numbers in this screenshot of section 2.39 from the NYS Building and Standards and Codes Supplement.

The gallons per flush (GPF) for toilets was previously 1.6 GPF and is now 1.3 GPF. Showers heads were previously limited to a maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) and are now 2 GPM.

Many building professionals are not yet aware of these new standards. Continuous code development is essential and we can all take responsibility for sharing the news on improving standards.

Let’s spread the word. And for building professionals who want to improve efficiency even further, we might consider going with California’s flow requirements: 1.28 GPF for water closets, 1.8 GPM for showers and 1.2 GPM for faucets.

Taitem presenting at NYSERDA Multifamily Summit Oct 21-23 in Syracuse

Learn the latest on energy efficiency for the NY multifamily sector. This annual conference is the place to update your knowledge of new technologies, design approaches, energy codes and guidelines, and financing options. Taitem founder Ian Shapiro will speak on developments in standalone heat pump hot water heaters in apartment buildings. Betsy Jenkins Parrington, Senior Energy Engineer, and Tim Allen, Senior Energy Analyst, will share results of a pilot program that is testing a new way to meter fuel oil in multifamily buildings. Senior energy analyst Evan Hallas will present and lead a discussion on small packaged heat pumps. Network with the Taitem team and other industry thought leaders and doers.  Register Here.

Domestic Hot Water Distribution: Two Approaches

In multifamily buildings, domestic hot water can represent as much as 50% of the fossil fuel load and therefore must be addressed as we move towards higher and higher performing buildings. But upgrading domestic hot water equipment to more efficient technology can be challenging. Two DHW experts will explore different approaches. Karla Butterfield of Steven Winter Associates Inc. will discuss central distribution systems using case studies which demonstrate new requirements, solutions and measurement of performance.  Ian Shapiro of Taitem Engineering will discuss air source heat pump hot water heaters, including both energy benefits and factors to consider for implementation in a multifamily building.

In-line flow meter
In-line flow meter

Piloting Ultrasonic Technology
to Meter Fuel Oil
Ultrasonic tank level meters are promising to revolutionize the metering of oil in multifamily buildings.  Taitem’s Tim Allen and Betsy Parrington will describe a NYSERDA pilot program testing the accuracy and usefulness of these new meters.  The 5-year pilot is approximately half way to completion, and the presentation will include preliminary results, lessons learned so far, and a comparison of ultrasonic meters and in-line flow meters.

Small Packaged Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are a key strategy for eliminating fossil fuel use, but split system heat pumps are costly.  Multifamily per-room heat loss is becoming so small, whether through deep energy retrofits or high-performance new construction, that a small packaged heat pump might really be JUST what’s needed for widespread adoption. Evan Hallas will lead this lively discussion based on Taitem’s recent study of existing and emerging technology that’s shrinking heat pump size and cost to fit growing market demand.

Learn skills, gain expertise and make connections at this NYSERDA event

  • Hear about new and innovative net-zero and passive house design strategies
  • Acquire deeper understanding about changes in the energy code and federal guidelines for new construction
  • Expand knowledge on integrating renewable technologies in multifamily building upgrades
  • Meet energy financial and planning experts
  • Learn about new technologies for multifamily contractors

To register: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/ny/2018-Multifamily-Summit