We often hear a question that goes something like this from building owners: “Why do I need an independent design review? I hire the best architects and engineers.” It’s a reasonable question — asked so often in my opinion because those of us in the architecture, engineering and construction industries have done such a poor job answering.
My business partner, Matt Napolitan, and I each spent 10 years working at major, international engineering firms. I worked for Syska Hennessy Group (11th nationally ranked) in their San Francisco office and Matt worked for Buro Happold (14th nationally ranked) out of their New York office. We now operate a 12-person engineering consulting firm in Burlington, Vermont. We know both large, big-city engineering and local, Vermont engineering.
The first project that I managed as a young engineer was a tenant fit-up for a high-rise building in San Francisco. Through a variety of random events, as a 22-year-old electrical engineer, I became the project manager as well as the project engineer for over 30 floors of mechanical, electrical and plumbing design for an oil company building out of its new west-coast headquarters. Early on, I recognized that our fees were based on a limited scope of work and, as the client changed what they wanted in the space, I needed to make a case for the additional effort necessary to provide the services needed for the fit-up. In some cases, it’s obvious when a project exceeds the contracted scope of work; for instance, the client added a large data center that required a code variance (another blog topic perhaps).
Topics: Workplace & People
Optimal start/stop (OSS) is available as an out-of-the-box function in almost every HVAC building automation system sold on the commercial market today. Folks toss the term around with a very loose understanding of what it means. PID controls suffer the same dilemma. When you ask any industry professional to define OSS, you’ll get this generic and common response (Figure 1):
Today there are a multitude of energy metering devices (e.g. data loggers) available to enable the analysis of building systems functionality. There are many different types of data loggers, each with a different purpose. To get the most from your building using energy metering, you need to narrow your options with your overall goals in mind. Before we install meters on a system, whether it’s an electrical system, HVAC system, or domestic hot water system, we must first determine what type of data we need and what the data will be used for. With this information, we put together a metering plan that will produce the data necessary for the analysis. I am going to provide two specific examples of systems/equipment we metered, including why we were performing the metering, how we did it (what types of meters), and what the findings were. Both of these examples showed the equipment being metered was not working as intended.
In the mid-20th century, the lighting industry made major leaps forward with the evolution of dimming technology, which allowed users to control light levels. Today, modern lighting fixtures are equipped with digital controllers that provide many new capabilities that go far beyond basic dimming, including warm dimming, color-tunable, and color changing lighting options. Why and when might owners select these systems? How can engineers design them? And how can commissioning agents functionally test the equipment?
Generating Market DemandThe purpose of energy efficiency programs is to cost effectively generate market demand for energy efficiency that would not be achieved without market intervention. An energy efficiency process evaluation investigates the effectiveness of programmatic interventions through qualitative and quantitative analysis. Marrying the analytical engineering-based approach of impact evaluation with the typically more social science orientation of traditional process evaluation can generate useful, actionable results to help program administrators improve market interventions to increase participation, depth of savings, and market transformation.
For eons, humans have used thick, thermally massive walls to store the heat of the day and to warm their homes at night. Due to America’s persistent dependence on fossil fuels, passive solar walls enjoyed brief mainstream popularity during the fuel crises of the mid-20th century, and residences across the country benefited from reliable, renewable heat. As gas prices declined, so did homeowner and developer enthusiasm for these low-energy systems. As we face a massive climate change calamity and most residential heating systems today are still served by volatile fossil fuels, it is time we revisit and incorporate passive solar technologies into our new buildings and renovations.
When I started in the energy efficiency profession 20 years ago, the object of my job was to reduce electric demand on the grid. This was to be accomplished through energy efficiency and a strong emphasis to fuel switch equipment from electric to fossil fuels (specifically electric heat to natural gas or oil heat). At the point of use (our building), traditional electric heat is 100% efficient, meaning 100% of the electricity within our building is transferred into heat within our building. But the electric generation (at the power plant), and the transmission, and distribution process makes the entire process about 30% efficient. This means an oil or natural gas heating system, operating at approximately 80% efficiency at point of use, is inherently more efficient than traditional electric heat given the current electric grid generation mix. Heat pumps, however, have changed this calculation, with heating efficiencies of over 300%. Thus, the world is changing back to electric heat through heat pumps (refer to Gretchen’s blog from February 2017, Heat Pumps Catered to Colder Climates; Will Increased U.S. Adoption Continue?). Is this a good thing? ‘Experts’ seem to agree that it is, but I have been curious to do this calculation myself as adding electric load to the grid goes against my deep-rooted mindset.
The title of Project Coordinator, as well as Project Manager, is ubiquitous in most industries, but also rife with preconceptions that stem from an individual firm or team’s experience with the role. I was hired at Cx Associates as a Project Coordinator, filling a position that had existed before my arrival. My role was 1/3 Project Coordinator and 2/3 administrative support for at least a year. As a Project Coordinator, I learned how to coordinate measurement and verification of incentivized energy efficiency projects, among other things.