Friday, March 25, 2011

Selecting Sustainable Commercial Interior Surfaces that fit Your Environment and Cleaning Processes

For years commercial buildings and surfaces were designed and manufactured to be impervious and withstand many environments and most cleaning compounds. Builder’s, designers and cleaning crews learned through trial and error, developing a knowledge base selecting materials suitable for a commercial structures form and function. Many of these surfaces were reliable, inexpensive and could be easily replaced if damaged.

Sustainable interior designs offer up a new pallet of surfaces and looks that are attractive and make environmental sense. Sometimes they may be an expensive initial investment but provide a longer term esthetic and financial benefit. Many of the these materials are new and there is very little experience with long term usage or interactions with cleaning chemicals, or soiling specific to the intended environment.

Therefore new surfaces require a new selection and evaluation process in that several decisions are necessary in making a sustainable surface evaluation or selection. They are the same decisions that had to be made previously but unlike those materials you no longer have a historical understanding of their performance and longevity.

  1. Will the surface or equipment function adequately within the confines of the environments intended use? For example, a compressed sesame seed or sunflower seed table may work well in a commercial office or doctor's office, but is it adequate for the customer area in a restaurant with high levels of grease and oil and food spills?
  2. Will the surface or equipment hold up to the cleaning requirements necessary for the environment? Hospital surfaces are exposed to high disinfectant levels; food service to high soil loads and sanitizers; with office buildings requiring high aesthetic value and clean ability with low soil loads.
  3. Who selects and evaluates your cleaning products?
  4. Is your cleaning program internal or is it performed by a third party?

Surface Selection-

· Make sure that the supplier bidding for your project understands where and how their surface will be used and do they have a history with your requirements. This should be in writing and specified to protect you from a product failure claim in that you used the material in a manner which it wasn’t intended.

· Request all supporting documentation for how the surface should be maintained along with cleaning recommendations. This should not be an issue if your project is going for LEED accreditation.

· Request 1-2 material samples from three different production lots to test under your intended conditions. This means testing the surface with soils that may be associated with your environment and the current cleaning program or new cleaners under consideration. A general test overview is provided at the end of the article.

Testing of new sustainable surfaces is an additional step that is new to the building process and can be difficult to manage and coordinate as well as to understand how much time should be allotted. The material supplier or chemical cleaning supplier may be willing to provide the testing if your account is substantial or they may be willing to provide the name of a third party evaluator and cover or share in the costs. Be leery of any material that does not have any historical data for you application. It’s not that it will not work but the supplier may not be aware of all of your applications. Document…document…document or test.

Contributing writer:

SSS-Cubed (Sustainable Scientific Solutions)

David Harry, Consultant

Gabriele Medley-Harry, LEED AP BD&C

Director of Sustainable Construction


Friday, March 18, 2011

Wythe County Expands Social Services with a new 911 Dispatch Center

Wythe County Virginia has broken ground on a project that will double the size of its Social Services Building. The building will include a new 911 Dispatch Center in the lower level and new Administrative Offices on the 2nd and 3rd levels. South End Construction Company – Roanoke Virginia is the General Contractor. HICAPS is working closely with South End on this project to assure that it finishes its two phases. Elevator and Stair Tower turn over is scheduled for June 2011 and the Building completion is projected for January 2012 after which the 911 Call Center and the administrative offices for Wythe County Health and Social Services will move in.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Changing of the Lights/T12s

Department of Energy rules and regulations phase out use of T12 lamps in commercial buildings and commercial building owners are being urged to upgrade their lighting systems. There are incentives available to help offset these costs.

A highly underused program for updating lights from T12s to T8 or T5s through Duke Energy is their prescriptive Smart Saver program. If you are renovating an existing building and looking for ways to save on energy savings in the form of lower energy costs and lower demand charges, look at this program. Other financial incentives include tax and other benefits from the government. Commercial lighting system buyers can receive up to 60 cents per sf by qualifying for the Commercial Building Tax Deduction. For projects completed before January 1, 2014, a CBTD (“INTERIM LIGHTING RULE”) can be claimed that covers up to the entire deductible cost of investing in the installation of energy-efficient commercial building property. For more information on Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings, visit this link

Here is some "Gee Whiz" Information:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting represents 40% of the average commercial building's electric bill
  • July 1st, 2010 marked an important "changing of the light" so to speak, because on that date it became illegal to manufacture or import many popular conventional T12 magnetic replacement ballasts
  • T12 lamps were introduced in 1938 (you heard that right!)
  • T8s were introduced commercially in 1981
  • The greater efficiency of T8 lighting and the smaller amount of mercury per lamp could cut mercury infiltration by 43%
  • 2010 marks the 10th anniversary of the T5 lamp
  • A T5 high-output lamp can replace two conventional T12 lamps

Gabriele Medley-Harry, LEED AP BD&C

Director of Sustainable Construction


Friday, March 4, 2011

Sustainable Thinking Makes “Cents”

Making the right choices for the right reasons makes the difference. More and more building owners are seeing the value in energy efficiency which makes for sound sustainable business practice. With the right approach sustainability does not have to cost more and to get less. Energy efficiency is a driving factor in sustainable construction. In fact, states are placing more and more emphasis on code development and enforcement. The ASHRAE 90.1 energy code model has been widely adopted by federal, state and local governments. Of course it is always good to comply with code because it is the law, but, it is also good because it can save you money. As we move forward into 2011 we will see ASHRAE 189.1 become the new energy code model. The federal contracting world has already begun writing specs that will incorporate ASHRAE 189.1. Putting logical thinking into building projects and renovations can have a very positive ROI. Some energy efficient tips to consider are:

  • Life Cycle cost analysis that takes into consideration how the facility will operate
  • Daylighting
  • Weigh the pros and cons of increasing insulation of the building envelope
  • Use lighting controls
  • Control the amount of outside air brought into the building. This will save energy by only cooling the amount of outside air needed for ventilation
  • Measurement and verification- re-evaluate. Changes may be necessary to optimize the design in the system once it is being used
  • When replacing lights consider updating, ie: change your T12 to T8 or T5 light and ballasts
The little things can add up to huge cost savings. That certainly makes $ense!

Gabriele Medley-Harry
Director of Sustainable Construction