In our current real estate market, more people are adding space to their existing homes, or gut rehabbing existing homes, condominiums, and or buildings. In our RESENT Rater practice we have an opportunity to review a lot of plan sets and test and inspect projects during construction that are seeking to meet or exceed Energy Star Versions, 2.0, 2.5 and or 3.0, in conjunction with Passive House Energy Standard while seeking registration and certification in various “Green Building Rating Systems”, such as LEED for Homes, Chicago Green Homes Program, Green Globes, and a few are attempting the Living Building Challenge, to name a few of the programs.
We have found that the projects are missing the target of reduced energy use on a number of very important fronts;
Selection of a Design Project Team that has demonstrated project performance and understands the key design concepts of developing a holistic project approach and scope of work,
Mechanical Systems that Recycle Sight Energy
Passive Mechanical System Design (A true low energy building requirement) such as horizontal geothermal system used for tempering ERV intake air.
Air Sealing Protocols and the required testing and inspection points
Thermal Bridging and Thermal Breaks how they are calculated and their impact on the over all energy performance of the project
Indoor Air Quality (balanced mechanical ventilation and radon)
Water Conservation and Management
Renewable Energy Systems – this is a very touchy issue!! All of the projects that we have reviewed to date that have used Small Wind Systems (under 5 kW) and Photovoltaic systems have the following problems;
Small Wind Systems
1) Certified wind turbine performance numbers from the Small Wind Certification Council
2) Site Wind Study for at least one year to ensure reliable wind speed data to accurately predict electrical generation
Photovoltaic System Issues
1) No solar modeling has been done on the site to determine which solar panels would produce the most electrical output for the sunlight that is useable on the site.
2) Solar Panels are not selected on performance, but for cost and or esthetics
3) Design team has not optimized the installation angles to maximize the daily electrical output of the system
If you are considering an addition, remodeling, or new construction project here are the key question for picking the design team;
1) Ask for project references and contact them to ensure that the design team did meet the project goals and budget.
2) Do they have a building testing protocol for a project?
3) How do they handle the modeling requirements for the project?
4) How many projects have they developed and completed that have met the requirements?
5) Have the projects been third party certified?
6) Can they provide examples of other projects that have made the energy requirements and certification that you desire?
- If the project did not meet the requirements they should be able to tell you why it failed?
You should be able to communicate the general questions to the design teams that you are interviewing by e-mail. Review there responses and ask additional questions before you set up your first meeting to discuss your project!!
Your project should not be a learning experience for the design professionals, this leads to project failure and major cost overruns. Do you want to be their experiment?