Randall Lamb Association

Archive for Commissioning

INsight: The Time Is Now

November 8, 2013

Air Barrier Auditing: The Time is Now

Sands of TimeIn a previous RLInsight article, we defined and discussed the importance of air barriers in buildings as they relate to energy. As a refresher to our article in Issue 5, The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) defines an air barrier as “a system of building assemblies within the building enclosure—designed, installed and integrated in such a manner as to stop the uncontrolled flow of air into and out of the building enclosure,” which accounts for 40% of the energy used to heat and cool a building. We also discussed in that article that air barriers would soon become a code requirement for all new projects across the country as new code cycles are accepted by the individual states. The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently revised the building energy standards, California Title 24 (2013), which incorporates the new air tightness testing protocols for new homes and commercial buildings. Effective January 1, 2014, the State of California requires air barriers in all nonresidential, commercial, high-rise residential and all hotel/motel occupancies. ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2010, 90.1-2013 and the commercial provisions of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (2012 IECC) also contain new provisions regarding air barriers. The time has come – the time is now! Buildings permitted after January 1, 2014 in California must have an air barrier in the design in order to be permitted. The building must have an air leakage rate not exceeding 0.40 CFM per square foot at a pressure differential of 0.3 in. wg. (1.57 psf) (2.0L/M2 at 75 pascals), using the ASTM E799 blower door test method.

How Does This Affect Design?

These new code requirements mandate that the building envelope be designed to limit uncontrolled air leakage into and out of the building. Uncontrolled air leakage leads to increased energy usage throughout the year and includes the roof, wall and floor systems that surround the space being heated and cooled. For design purposes, it requires that all seams, penetrations and transitions between approved materials or assemblies selected don’t exceed the maximum air leakage requirements and that all transitions are properly sealed. During the construction process, air barrier installation can have effects on the scheduling process, so additional planning is required.

Air Leakage Consequences

Why is it Important?

As the diagram above indicates, air leakage is detrimental in several ways. It affects our indoor comfort and air quality; can cause damage to the structure, and increases the need for a larger HVAC system in the building. The air barrier needs to be strong and resilient to resist the positive and negative pressure from wind, stack effect and mechanical ventilation. The air barrier also needs to last the life of the building.

AirBarrier_2012_Giles115smallBuilding Envelope Consulting/Air Barrier Testing

Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards that go into effect in 2014 require that all commercial buildings are to be constructed with a continuous Air Barrier System and tested to verify that they do not exceed 0.40 cfm/ft2 at 75 pascals, in accordance with ASTM E799. Using the most recent ASTM standards, Randall Lamb provides Building Envelope Consulting Commissioning or BECx and Consulting, as well as Air Barrier Testing and Thermal Imaging Services to verify performance and troubleshoot air barrier systems. Randall Lamb also provides quality control services during the construction process, as well as ABAA Auditing Services. In conjunction with the testing, thermal imaging is used as a diagnostic tool to determine air leakage pathways. Theatrical smoke generation during pressure testing is also an excellent leak detection method.

More Title 24 Changes

In addition to the air barrier requirements that are to be implemented January 1, 2014, there are numerous other mandates that also take effect. The California Energy Commission took 2-3 years to complete these updates, which were approved in 2012; they anticipate a 25 percent reduction in building energy usage as a result. The Standards address lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation and water heating. The goal is also to save 200 million gallons of water per year and 170,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Again, the stringent requirements are in response to the net zero energy challenge by 2030

Mandatory measures (no tradeoffs allowed) include the following:

    •  Stringent air leakage requirements (see above article)
    • Commissioning plan, system manuals and training
    • Performance testing of systems
    • A “solar ready roof” – a minimum of 15% of roof space for future solar photovoltaic or solar thermal panels
    • Max voltage drop requirements
    • Lighting dimming controls/demand-response capability
    • Rigid insulation on new metal stud walls
    • Better thermal performance on new curtain walls and spandrel panels
    • Motion sensors for outdoor lighting mounted lower than 24 feet
    • Occupancy sensors in most spaces
    • Occupant controlled smart thermostats to set and maintain desired temperature
    • Advanced lighting controls to synchronize light levels with daylight and building occupancy
    • P.E. sign offs at each phase of a project
    • HVAC fault detection on certain systems

Additional measures (tradeoffs allowed) include the following:

  • High-performance glazing and improved U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance levels for new construction to avoid unnecessary use of installed lighting
  • High-performance glazing – comparable to LEED Platinum levels – for existing buildings
  • Cool roof technologies
  • Increased HVAC efficiency

How Can We Help?

With the new code requirements at our doorstep, we can assist you with air barrier installation auditing, building envelope ASTM testing, and building envelope thermal imaging studies. In addition to meeting the code requirements, our goal is to help you achieve increased building efficiency, reduced costs, and healthy buildings.

As one of the first ABAA Audit firms in California, Randall Lamb is committed and equipped to adapt to these new regulations. Call Mike Kohler, CxA, CBCP, CBST, ABAA Auditor, at (619) 713-5775 or email at for more information.

Posted in Commissioning, Project Insights

INsight: Air Barrier Auditing

May 23, 2013

HiResforweb

What is Air Barrier Auditing?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40% of the energy used to heat and cool a building is due to uncontrolled air leakage. In an ever-evolving industry and with upcoming code changes underway, air barriers will soon become a code requirement for all new projects across the country. The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently revised the building energy standard, Title 24. It incorporates the air tightness testing protocols established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) for new homes and commercial buildings, effective January 1, 2014. These new energy efficiency standards for the State of California will enforce the goal to meet “net zero” energy homes by 2020, which means these structures will produce zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions on an annual basis.

Why Air Barriers?

The Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) defines an air barrier as “a system of building assemblies within the building enclosure—designed, installed and integrated in such a manner as to stop the uncontrolled flow of air into and out of the building enclosure.” The air barrier is not only an important energy saving tool, but an important component of a building enclosure that can:

  • Improve HVAC system performance
  • Improve smoke and fire control
  • Increase occupant comfort by improving air quality indoors
  • Reduce building enclosure moisture problems
  • Reduce building heating and cooling costs
  • Reduce greenhouse gas production
  • Improve acoustical isolation
  • Control Odor and contaminants
  • Result in sustainable, durable buildings

By reducing the air infiltration and exfiltration through the exterior enclosure to almost insignificant amounts, the air barrier reduces energy consumption by lowering the associated heating and cooling loads, which then allows for a downsized HVAC system. Air leakage can have detrimental effects on how a building functions, and reduce the life span of a building.

AirBarrier_2012_Giles115small

 

Air Barrier Testing

Air Barrier Testing – otherwise known as boundary testing – is a vital part of new federal regulations that apply to construction projects in all government facilities, including military bases. If not addressed at the start of construction, general contractors could be left with expensive retrofits at the end of the project. California Title 24 (2013) Building Energy Efficiency Standards that go into effect in 2014 require that all commercial buildings (any non-residential structures) are to be constructed with a continuous Air Barrier System and tested to verify that the building envelope leakage does not exceed 0.40 cfm/ft2 at 75 pascals, in accordance with ASTM E799. Using the most recent ASTM standards, Randall Lamb provides Building Envelope Consulting/Air Barrier Testing and Thermal Imaging Services to verify performance and troubleshoot air barrier systems. In conjunction with the testing, thermal imaging is used as a diagnostic tool to determine air leakage pathways.

Randall Lamb first introduced Commissioning Services to our clients in 2010, under the direction of Michael (Mike) Kohler, CxA, CBCP, CBST, ABAA Auditor. With the increasing importance of optimizing a building’s performance, in particular air barrier testing, Mr. Kohler is expanding Randall Lamb’s role to include air barrier installation auditing, building envelope ASTM testing, and building envelope thermal imaging studies. Randall Lamb offers these services in response to the need and requirement for building efficiency, reduced costs, and healthy buildings.

With these upcoming mandates for participation by the Federal and State governments, these services will be necessary to confirm how a building is functioning. As one of the first ABAA Audit firms in California, Randall Lamb is committed and equipped to adapt to these new regulations.

Technical Services: Commissioning / Air Barrier Auditing / Mechanical QC

As part of Randall Lamb’s efforts to expand its Integrated Services, we have taken on a more expansive role in the study, evaluation, and improvement of a building’s performance. In addition to improving the life and efficiency of a building from the start, our commissioning team can also train owners and facility managers on how to care for their buildings for the long haul. Our technical services take form in many different ways, whether it’s providing these services during the life of a new construction project, making recommendations for systems that are already in place, or troubleshooting a defective system.  We have the tools and experience needed to solve complex issues.

As described above, Air Barrier Auditing is a new and important piece of the energy efficiency puzzle. The following projects are examples of the increasing role we are taking in these specialized services that will soon become mandatory in our industry.


CASE STUDIES:

Solana Beach School District, Pacific Highlands Ranch School, Solana Beach, CA

In addition to several recent commissioning projects that we have completed for the military – building commissioning and/or LEED v2.2 enhanced commissioning – Randall Lamb is currently performing commissioning services for the Solana Beach School District in an effort to enhance the quality of system start-up and aid in the orderly completion and transfer of systems for beneficial use by the owner. We are working directly for the owner and collaborating with Balfour Beatty Construction in the commissioning of this project, currently at 20% completion. As part of our commissioning process, Randall Lamb will test and inspect all of the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems to verify installation, operation, and efficiency.

Other recent examples of completed projects include the Coronado Island Marriott Resort, where we conducted chilled water plant commissioning; the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina cooling tower project oversight and commissioning; and LEED Commissioning for architect NBBJ’s new San Francisco office.

AirBarrier_2012_Giles105small


AIR BARRIER PROJECTS IN PROGRESS:

MCB Camp Pendleton, P-109 CNATT Aviation Training Facility – Harper Construction

Naval Base Coronado, P-705 Fitness Center – RQ Construction

Randall Lamb was hired to perform inspection services as well as Building Envelope Consulting/Air Barrier Testing Services and Infrared Thermography for the two military projects listed above. As part of the consulting services, we will provide technical assistance to the contractors during installation, pre-test the air barrier system with the contractors, and assist in locating building leakage using infrared thermography. The deliverables include assembling a complete thermography report to present to each of the contractors, and performing building final pressure testing using Retrotec blower door equipment and software.

Posted in Commissioning, Project Insights

INsight: Energy Efficiency

May 18, 2011

CALGreen Building Standards Code and Commissioning:
What Does it Mean?

On January 1, 2011, the CALGreen Building Standards Code went into effect. CALGreen consists of Part 11 of the California Building Standards Code in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (see diagram below).

In the past few years, CALGreen has experienced several iterations, but now that some provisions are mandatory, it’s important to take notice. Although not a drastic modification in California’s green building standards, the mandatory measures will require incremental change. Municipalities are required to adopt these provisions, but can also choose to incorporate the voluntary measures as part of local building standards. The new Code is not meant to replace private building certification systems such as LEED, although there may be some minimal overlap. Compliance with the CALGreen Code will be upheld through actual building inspections.

Development of CALgreen:

An initial edition was created in 2008, which was completely voluntary. The 2010 edition, which is now in effect, includes both mandatory and voluntary standards. CALGreen is split between residential and non-residential uses, and further divided among specific building types and among the four (4) state agencies that have specific authority:

1. Building Standards Commission

2. Department of Housing and Community Development

3. Division of the State Architect

4. Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD)

Within each classification, CALGreen establishes a set of mandatory provisions and two sets of voluntary code provisions (Tier 1 and Tier 2). It is expected that these voluntary Tier provisions will eventually become mandatory, just as the 2008 voluntary standards became mandatory in 2011.

The focus of this article is in regards to the mandatory CALGreen requirement that all new, non-residential buildings 10,000 square feet or over must be commissioned, as defined in Section 5.410.2 of the Code. So what does this mean?

Commissioning (Cx)

Commissioning is the process of modeling, testing and adjusting building design, construction, and operation systems to ensure all components perform according to the owner or developer’s specifications. It further states that it shall be performed by trained personnel with experience on projects of comparable size and complexity. The requirements include:

1. Owner’s Project Requirements

2. Basis of Design

3. Commissioning measures shown in the construction documents

4. Commissioning Plan

5. Functional Performance Testing

6. Documentation & Training

7. Commissioning Report

As with the other sections of the Code, the objective is to improve public health, safety and general welfare by enhancing the design and construction of buildings for positive environmental impacts. Commissioning plays a vital role in accomplishing that goal.

HOW WE CAN HELP!

Randall Lamb introduced our Commissioning Services to our clients in 2010. Under the direction of Michael (Mike) Kohler, CBCP, Construction Services and Commissioning Manager, we offer commissioning services (Cx) for both new construction and existing buildings (retro-commissioning), ensuring that building systems perform as intended to meet these requirements, ultimately avoiding costly measures in the future.

With an impressive resume of satisfied clients, Mike would be happy to share his success stories with you.

Randall Lamb continues to expand its services as we embrace social responsibility, clean energy, energy efficiency and cost reducing measures for our clients. Please contact Mike at or call (619) 713-5775 if you have any questions regarding the commissioning process, or how CALGreen has impacted it.

 

CASE STUDY: Takeda San Diego, Inc., Energy Efficiency

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry consumes nearly $1 billion in energy annually. Laboratory facilities often have environmental and clean room requirements that call for 24/7 heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC). As a result, HVAC can consume as much as 65% of a facility’s total energy use, making HVAC a prime target for energy efficiency initiatives.

Rising energy prices and a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility led Takeda San Diego, Inc. to seek out innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption in its San Diego, California research lab. The company hired Randall Lamb to carry out its initiatives, based on our experience in sustainable and energy-efficient solutions.


Randall Lamb Redesigns the HVAC System

Randall Lamb conducted an extensive evaluation of the facility and found that the existing chilled water plant, which consisted of a primary-secondary pumping configuration, and two (2) 400 ton centrifugal chillers approximately 8 years old, was operating at an average of 1.60 kW/ton. We recognized that redesigning the HVAC system for better energy efficiency would play a major role in meeting the company’s environmental and cost savings goals. The solution included redesigning the system to be an all variable speed, primary-only centrifugal HVAC plant utilizing the existing chillers. We worked closely with Optimum Energy who installed their OptimumHVAC patented software, and the final result was a significant reduction in energy use for heating and cooling the building.

Chris Weixelman, PE, LEED AP, spearheaded the Randall Lamb mechanical engineering team for the project, and along with the client, was extremely pleased with the results. “With OptimumHVAC, not only were we able to get optimal efficiency from our client’s HVAC system, the first year savings exceeded expectations by 45%. The ability to track operating performance online has also been very positive, enabling our client to see the savings in real-time and continuously maintain the plant for peak performance.”

Research Yields Positive Results

In the first year with OptimumHVAC, the pharmaceutical company:

1. Saved more than 1,140,600 kWh of electricity.

2. Reduced operating expenses by $171,000.

3. Improved wire to water kW/ton 58% –down to 0.67 from 1.60 kW/ton.

4. Decreased carbon emissions by 1,185,100 lbs.

5. Qualified for utility rebates of $86,000

When we hired Randall Lamb to conduct a study of our chiller plant and subsequently redesign the system, we anticipated savings, but not to this degree. Not only are we experiencing tremendous cost savings with a short payback period, we are also drastically reducing our carbon emissions. The benefits are extending beyond our plant and into the greater community. We are experiencing the equipment working less and enjoying the energy use reduction. We are able to track the savings and carbon emissions reduction on a real-time basis through our dashboard. The project is a success beyond what was anticipated in the initial engineering study done by Chris Weixelman and Optimum Energy.
Paul Eiler, Director of Facilities at Takeda San Diego, Inc.

Payback for the entire project, including hardware and software upgrades, is expected to be 2.3 years.

Posted in Commissioning, Project Insights