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The latest news on New York architecture.

  • How Insulation Will Help Reduce your Building's Energy Costs

    How Insulation Will Help Reduce your Building's Energy Costs

    If your energy bill is high, you are not alone. About 20% of the energy we use in the U.S. goes to power commercial buildings, and a survey from 2012 shows that by far the highest use is heating. If you add together heating, cooling, and ventilation, then about a third of your utility bill is going just to climate control.

    This means that a key element of building efficiency is to reduce the energy used to heat the building, and insulation is an important part of this. Too many building owners focus on easy fixes such as using LED lights and buying more energy-efficient equipment. While these are important, insulation is a neglected factor that can result in significant savings for both new builds and renovated buildings.

    The Benefits of Proper Insulation

    Proper insulation, which covers walls, ceilings and floors, including floors in the building, has several benefits:

    • It lowers heating and cooling costs substantially.
    • It increases comfort for those working in the building, thus improving morale. For residential buildings, it improves resident satisfaction.
    • If you have archives or other areas that need to be kept at a constant temperature, it makes it much easier.

    How Does Insulation Work?

    Insulation works by reducing air flow into and out of the building. This means that it helps keep the heat out in summer and in in winter. A lot of people mistakenly think insulation "keeps a building warmer," when what it does is slow heat transfer. In the summer, the heat can rush into your cooler building, causing the systems to work harder. In the winter, heat will escape through every crack.

    Insulation, in other words, reduces the amount your heating and cooling systems need to work to maintain the same stable temperature. It is rated by something called the R-value, which measures the ability to resist heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the more efficient the insulation, but you should also consider the size and the shape of the space being insulated.

    What Types of Insulation Are There?

    There are several types of insulation, and which you should use for your building depends on its construction. It also depends on whether you are doing a new build or, as is far more likely in New York, renovating an older building.

    1. Concrete blocks or forms. Concrete blocks are a great form of insulation when used in combination with foam beads, trapped air, or specialized cells. Concrete forms, which are more versatile, are hard to impossible to install in existing buildings, because of the seal that is required and the custom nature of the forms. For most New York building owners, concrete forms are not going to be an option. Blocks, however, can be installed during a major renovation.
    2. Blown and sprayed insulation. This is much easier to install post construction. The insulation is a foam, cellulose, or fiberglass material that is blown or sprayed into vulnerable spaces. It can be put into spaces that are oddly shaped or difficult to reach but can be expensive on larger buildings.
    3. Blanket insulation. Blanket insulation is generally used in single family homes but may be an option for smaller buildings. Most insulation blankets are fiberglass, although they can be plastic or mineral wool. This is inexpensive for small buildings. They do, however, need to be fitted properly.
    4. Rigid fiber insulation. This takes the form of rigid panels or boards which are cut to fit the space they are required in. This is a great option for between-floor insulation as it is also fire resistant and can reduce the risk of a fire spreading through the building. They also have an excellent R-value, between R-4 and R-6.5 per inch.

    What Should You Remember When Installing Insulation?

    There are a few things you should remember if installing or updating insulation in your building:

    1. Don't forget the floors. Insulating between floors slows heat flow through the building and helps reduce the loss of heat and cooling effects. This is particularly true when different tenants have the heat set at different levels. A tenant who prefers the heat higher directly below one who is keeping it at a lower level will experience heat loss up into the cooler office, and then will have to turn their heat higher.'
    2. Make sure that the ventilation system is effective. Insulation makes a building more airtight, which can then cause moisture to be trapped into the building.
    3. Air sealing is important. Make sure that there are no gaps around windows or exterior doors. Stairwell doors should also be sealed as stairwells tend to cause air flow through the building.

    If you need help designing a plan to improve insulation and overall efficiency, then contact Scott Henson Architect today. We are willing to assist with renovations to keep your New York City building comfortable, no matter what Mother Nature decides to do.

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  • Holding Buildings Accountable for Their Sins

    Holding Buildings Accountable for Their Sins

    New York City is at the forefront of the movement to build green communities and New Yorkers are proud of their efforts to build smarter, more sustainable neighborhoods. As part of ongoing efforts, a group of progressive and far-reaching bills, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has been passed in early April of 2019.

    This group of ten bills is collectively called the Climate Mobilization Act. It is a radical re-imagining of how a great city can deal with climate change into the future. One of the most important goals of the bills is to meet the carbon emissions standards set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

    Carbon Emissions

    The Act will put limits on carbon emissions regulated by the Office of Building Energy Performance. The patrons, lobbyists, and city leaders responsible for the new legislation say this is a step in the right direction to build sustainable communities. The new legislation will attempt to account for the 70 percent of the city's carbon emissions which comes from large buildings. It's also an expansion of the current retro-commissioning standards already in place. Pete Sikora, senior adviser says, "this is really a new day for New York City."

    The bill’s proposal for a combination of changes to foster further renewable energy production and changed local building standards while retrofitting older buildings hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The city expects to meet the Paris Climate Agreement standards set for the world, and to bring new green construction jobs to the city.

    Building Retrofits

    The buildings that are included in the requirements for retrofitting are those over 25,000 square feet and built before New York City had current building standards and materials that could protect the building envelope from energy leaks. These buildings are only 2% of the current buildings in New York City, but they are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings over 25,000 feet will be sanctioned with fines if they do not follow the limits and buildings under 25,000 feet are on the new agenda for decreased emissions.

    Legislators hope to curb increased rent or burdensome requirements for building owners and landlords with the passing of this act. Those required to carry out retrofits to current standards for energy savings will be provided with low-interest rate loans to accomplish the work. With immediate energy savings anticipated after the retrofitting, and the low interest rate loans, proponents of the bills believe that building owners will see an overall savings rather quickly.

    Landlords with be required to slash emissions by 2030 and double those efforts by 2050. Some of the requirements will include new windows, new insulation, and green roofs. Some exclusions include buildings with rent control, those under four stories, and some nonprofits and religious spaces.

    Passive House design and retro-fitting, which originated in Germany in the 1990s, is one of the most effective ways to limit or entirely remove building carbon emissions. It also produces a more comfortable living environment and healthier air. Although they are more common in Europe, there are still less than 2000 certified Passive House buildings in the United States. The new bill will certainly increase their popularity here and their already almost exponential growth.

    Green Roofs

    One of the most significant new requirements will be green roofs on new and retrofitted buildings. New York City has had the materials and processes for adding green roofs to buildings for some time, and these new green roofs can filter water and air, add green spaces, provide wind and solar energy, and provide superior climate control for the building.

    Leading by Example

    With the new green initiative, New York City hopes that other cities will follow its efforts. Scott Henson Architect is a Certified Passive House Design firm. We are a NYC-based firm with over 20 years of experience in building retrofits and can design your retrofit and sustainability plan to meet or go above and beyond the Climate Mobilization Act.

    Please contact us today.

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