Real Estate Weekly
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Construction & DesignGreen Building

Going the extra green mile

By David Glickman, P.E., LEED AP, Principal, and,
Michael Jordan, LEED AP, Director of Sustainability,

All professionals involved in the construction industry are planning to get on (it’s never too late!) the energy and sustainability train.

It is important to realize that energy and sustainability have already become their own trade, joining standard trades like Architectural, Structural, Mechanical, etc.

Energy and Sustainability now have equal impact on the design and construction as the traditional trades have.
Understanding this impact and creating a strategy to handle energy and sustainability is critical in ensuring projects are completed on time and are on budget.


The market for Energy and Sustainability features has exploded, as have the pools of codes, programs, incentives and design standards.

Energy and sustainability is an umbrella term that covers an array of design and construction practices including energy code, local laws, commissioning, incentives, Passive House, LEED, WELL and numerous other less mature standards.

Energy code has changed in both the stringency of code and the rigor with which it’s being enforced.
There are currently six different compliance paths for the 2014 New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC). The Department of Buildings (DOB) recognizes the complexity of enforcement and is working to simplify the process.

Until the process is simplified, each project needs to have a compliance strategy meeting during the scoping stage of the project. Bypassing the compliance strategy meeting can significantly impact the project’s cost and design flexibility.

The impact of the Building Code is evident in in the DOB’s efforts to play “catch up.”


For example, whereas the LEED process always required commissioning, the 2014 NYC Building code also now requires commissioning for certain types of buildings.  Other examples include more stringent lighting controls and envelope requirements.

Special inspections, progress inspections and commissioning provide expert oversight during construction to ensure that the building systems are built per the drawings and function properly. As of 2014, all three are now required by the NYC DOB.
Progress inspections and commissioning occur throughout the construction process.

Special inspectors and progress inspectors check for compliance with NYC construction and energy codes; commissioning agents verify that systems will perform efficiently and according to the design documents and basis of design.

Special inspections are mostly visual, while progress inspections and commissioning involve functional testing. Of the three, commissioning is the most time intensive process, with repeated site visits during construction to ensure optimal building and systems installation.

While Passive House is a new design standard for the North American market, it is established in Europe.

A Passive House in Williamsburg. Rendering by LOADINGDOCK5
A Passive House in Williamsburg.
Rendering by LOADINGDOCK5

Passive House emphasizes controlling the thermal load with air tight construction practices and high (two to three times as much) performance thermal properties for envelope construction.

This will require that the massing of the building be carefully considered with special attention to the windows, exposure and orientation.

The goal is to keep out the hot summer sun to minimize cooling loads, while letting in the low winter sun to minimize heating loads.

The design standard’s HVAC practice seeks to minimize the use of mechanical heating and cooling and then handle the reduced load via high-efficiency energy recovery ventilators and heat pumps.

LEED is the most mature green standard currently. Maturity in the marketplace carries benefits and risks.

The benefits are: the standard is well defined and understood by design professionals, tenants recognize and look for the certification, and large institutions have adopted it as minimum standard.

The risks include market fatigue — as a standard becomes prevalence it can lose its differentiation factor.

LEED will remain the standard bearer for green design practices for the near future due to the USGBC’s resources and flexibility of adapting the standard to current market conditions.

LEED has seen stronger growth in urban environments as the cost of certification and the design requirements are easier to achieve due to the robust infrastructure and low energy demand per person in urban environs.

WELL is the “new standard on the block” and the USGBC will begin granting WELL building certification in the fall of 2015.
WELL focuses on the health and productivity of building occupants. WELL focuses on credit categories of Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. The goal is to protect the health and productivity of its occupants.

The demand for WELL features is growing in projects regardless of certification as air quality, allergens, VOCs, natural light, antimicrobial treatments, and other occupant focused initiatives have tangible payback for tenants.

NYSERDA grants incentivize projects in both existing and new construction. NYSERDA’s goal is to incentivize energy efficiency measures via programs that will have the biggest impact on the building stock.

The incentives are structured through a Program Opportunity Notice, which lays out the incentive available and how a project can receive the money. Most programs are operated via a network of partners with expertise in attaining that particular program’s incentives.

The growth of the “green” aspect of a project has made the Energy and Sustainability professional a critical part of the design and construction team.

This new role follows the existing dynamics of the design and construction teams with early education and continuing coordination being paramount to a successful project.

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