New York Building Scientist Details How to Promote Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings

2 min read

In an effort to help the industry understand how to maximize the energy efficiency of existing buildings, Landmark West!, the Community Preservation Corporation, the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and Steven Winter Associates Inc. recently hosted an all-day continuing education seminar at Manhattan's Hunter College.

New York—In an effort to help the industry understand how to maximize the energy efficiency of existing buildings, Landmark West!, the Community Preservation Corporation, the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and Steven Winter Associates Inc. recently hosted an all-day continuing education seminar at Manhattan’s Hunter College.

Andrew Padian, building scientist at Steven Winter Associates Inc., an architectural/engineering research and consulting firm that has trained over 2,000 managers, architects, engineers and maintenance staff, noted a common misconception that multifamily buildings are more efficient than single-family. But that does not mean that owners and managers can’t change the way things are done.

Padian detailed how to run a high-performing multifamily building. Perhaps his key takeaway from the session was “Find Hole, Seal Hole.” As Padian explained, all buildings have holes in their envelopes, whether they are from electrical penetrations, plumbing added to an existing building, or from windows and doors. “The size and location of those holes will determine if air leakage is a major driving force for heat loss in your building,” Padian asserted.In addition to the energy savings that owners and managers can reap from tightly sealed and insulated buildings, Padian noted that they are also less prone to spread fire, more difficult for vermin to enter and safer for both residents and employees.

While Padian detailed a whole buildings system approach to energy efficiency, some noteworthy points include:

•  New windows are not truly cost-effective. However, Padian notes that if you are going to install new windows, they should have a continuous thermally broken frame; be double pane, at minimum; have a frame that conducts less heat, such as fiberglass—aluminum, Padian notes, is the worst offender; include low-E coatings particular to the building’s region; be properly installed; and have an overall R-value determined by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). He also asserted that if you change the building’s windows, the boiler must also be tuned.

•  Turn down the temperature of the hot water. In addition to energy savings, cooler water carries less risk of burning residents. Also, electronic mixing valves are safer than tempering valves because they fail in a closed (cold) position, while tempering valves fail in a full hot position and can scald residents.

•  Use only Energy Star fluorescent lights, appliances and washing machines. Install motion sensors in hallways and fire stairways—if possible—which New York is beginning to do. Padian noted a 50 percent savings if motion sensors are included in hallways. Also, because motors use the most electricity, Padian advises slowing down elevators—and shutting some of them down at night when there is less traffic.

•  Have all instructions for boilers, burners, timers and controls handy. Read and follow all the instructions, and have the systems tuned in mid-summer, when mechanics have more time.

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