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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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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.'
  • 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.
  • 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.

Published in Sustainability

Energy efficiency is a serious concern for businesses.  A commercial energy audit is necessary to help cut costs significantly.  In order to achieve optimal results, a reputable auditor that is vendor and solution neutral must perform the audit.  

At Scott Henson Architect, we pride ourselves in being or having experienced, honest and thorough auditors.  An inaccurate audit can waste money by installing the wrong energy conservation measures (ECM) or by recommending ECM equipment that is either not suitable for that type of energy efficiency or provides a return that is less than the auditor had estimated in their report. 

A commercial energy audit is a report that will compare current ECMs and proposed ECMs with advice on how to improve energy efficiency without an unrealistic cost to the business. There is not a generic form used between similar building structures for this audit.  A commercial energy audit is unique and conducted on each building based upon several things, such as building square footage, age of the building, date renovated, purpose of the building, number of floors, daily operating hours per week, number of occupants and existing ECM equipment.  

A commercial energy audit report will include the current Energy Conservation Methods (ECM), a proposed ECM, estimated annual savings based on the proposed ECM, expected cost of implementing proposed ECM and estimated return of investment.  

The correct audit report can help a business save money in energy costs by giving advice on where to invest money to improve energy efficiency and estimate the cost of implementing a new ECM. The data collected during an audit can save or cost businesses in the long run.

Please contact us for questions, concerns, feedback or suggestions.

Published in Sustainability

Since 2009, New York City Local Law 84 has mandated that owners of large building measure and report energy and water use. Known as "Benchmarking" the law is one of four that comprise the New York City Greener, Greater Building Plan (GGBP) enacted to reduce energy use, increase energy efficiency and promote clean energy 30 percent by 2030. The law's primary purpose is to standardize that process for capturing and reporting on the data needed to measure its success in achieving these and other goals set forth in the unprecedented citywide green initiative, PlaNYC .

The GGBP Targets Large Buildings

The GGBP suite of laws, including LL 84, specifically target the largest New York City buildings. The law doesn't exempt any property types. Large buildings constitute half of the City's built square footage and 45 percent of citywide energy use and produce about 75 percent of New York City’s green house gas (GHG) emissions come from energy used in buildings.

According to the site metered.nyc, LL84 applies to, "all private buildings larger than 50,000 square feet (about a 50-unit apartment building) and all properties with two or more buildings that combined are larger than 100,000 square feet, with a small threshold for city-owned properties."

You can find a listing of buildings that fall under the jurisdiction of the GGBP and LL84 at Covered Building ListCovered Building List.

Annual Reporting Is Required

An annual report for the previous year's energy and water consumption must be submitted to a free online benchmarking tool by May 1st. Building owners who fail to complete submission on subsequent deadline dates (Aug. 1, Nov. 1 and Feb. 1) will incur additional penalties of $500 per quarter up to a maximum of $2,000.

The Submission Process

In New York City building owners or their hired consultants log into Portfolio Manager, enter defining characteristics for a building, and provide data from a calendar year’s worth of energy bills. The tool, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, applies calculations and algorithms to the data to generate information about a building's energy use per square foot, carbon emissions , and for some, a 1-to-100 score that can be used to compare it against similar buildings across the nation.

Submission instructions for owners is provided on the How to ComplyHow to Comply page at NYC.gov or you can enlist the help of Scott Henson Architect to manage your energy use reporting and compliance. We can also provide consulting and expertise on improving energy results, year-over-year.

For more information about our LL84 usage reporting services, reach out to us.

Published in Sustainability