We are pleased to see that our firm's project at Sewickley Presbyterian Church is the cover story for the August issue of The American Organist Magazine. Click here to view a digital version of the issue.
We are very excited to be hosting, on behalf of Passive House Western PA (PHWPA), a dinner at Poros Restaurant as part of The Getting to Zero National Forum on April 18th at 7:00 pm. The 2018 Getting to Zero National Forum is being held on April 17-19th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the premier global event dedicated to defining the future of the built environment. For more information on the forum and our hosted dinner event please click on the image above.
There are a number of different manufacturers, criteria, and options when selecting ultra-low energy, high performance windows. If a project requires the Passivehaus and/or Passive House performance standards, Alpen is the only American-made window with both PHI (Passivehaus Institute) and PHIUS (Passive House Institute U.S.) certifications.
Studio St.Germain's Midtown Passive House project was the first Certified Passive House in the state of Colorado and Alpen was used for the project. For more information on this innovative product, please visit the Alpen website.
We were inspired by Sarah Williams Goldhagen's recent book Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, for its poetic argument on why design matters. As fellow advocates for the importance and necessity of good design, we were impressed with the author's data-driven links between the neuroscience of architecture and the built environment. Below are a few excerpts that caught our attention and we hope they will catch yours as well.
"One recent study of the learning progress of 751 pupils in classrooms in 34 different British schools identified six design parameters - color, choice, complexity, flexibility, light, and connectivity - that significantly affect learning, and demonstrated that on average, built environmental factors impact a student's learning progress by an astonishing 25 percent."
"The difference in learning between a student in the best designed classroom was equal to the progress that a typical student makes over an entire academic year."
"Humans crave and need access to the outdoors and to nature and suffer in its absence, yet few of us appreciate how fundamental that need is. Contact with nature confers on people salutary effects that are nearly immediate. Twenty seconds of exposure to a natural landscape can be enough to settle a person's elevated heart rate. Just three to five minutes will suffice to bring high blood pressure levels down. Nature quite literally, heals us: hospital patients recovering from gallbladder surgery, when placed in rooms with views of deciduous trees instead of rooms facing a brick wall, healed so much more quickly that they were released from the hospital nearly a full day earlier."
"The typical suburban neighborhood, scaled to the view at thirty or forty miles per hour, and to the turning radius of the steering wheel, is designed for driving over biking. One result is that many such developments promote lifestyles so sedentary and auto-dependent that America, and increasingly much of the developed world, is facing an avoidable public health crisis. As public health authority Richard J. Jackson bluntly puts it, "the more time we spend in a car, the more likely we are to be obese - and this is without even taking into account the enervating, resource-and time-draining costs of commuting. An auto-bound, sedentary lifestyle is part of why nearly 40 percent of adult Americans are obese, and fully 70 percent are overweight - compromising people's cardiovascular health and muscular capacity, and greatly increasing their vulnerability to type 2 diabetes."
"The more we learn about how people actually experience the environments in which they live their lives, the more obvious it becomes that a well-designed built environment falls not on a continuum stretching from high art to vernacular building, but on a very different sort of continuum: somewhere between a crucial need to a basic human right."
We are giving a presentation on an Introduction to Passive House at the Green Building Alliance in Pittsburgh on June 13th. Passive House is the strictest international energy standard in the world and the presentation will include a brief history, design guidelines, economics and paths to PHIUS certification. For more information about the event and to register go to the following link: https://www.go-gba.org/events/passive-house-101-lunch-learn/
The term "master plan" is typically associated with large-scale new construction projects or renovations that consist of multiple buildings in a campus or urban setting. However, in terms of operational costs and sustainability, an energy master plan is a critical component of design and planning that is often overlooked. Energy master plans can be created for large projects consisting of multiple buildings, as well as for an individual building; and can be created for both new construction as well as existing buildings.
An energy master plan provides a comprehensive approach to planning for a facility’s current and/or future energy needs, instead of a fragmented approach to repairing or replacing broken systems. An effective energy master plan identifies and evaluates a facility’s energy use, consumption and needs. It identifies opportunities for improvement and provides solutions to help building owners achieve greater value based on a feasible and realistic return on investment for identified projects. In order to develop an Energy Master Plan, Studio St.Germain follows a six-step process:
1. Assessment of Conditions and Needs
The first step is accomplished by reviewing and analyzing documents such as building plans, energy audits or energy models, and utility data. Additionally, the project team may perform a visual inspection of the building(s), as well as interview and/or survey facility stakeholders to understand space requirements, day-to-day workflow, and how well the building is currently meeting the needs of its users.
2. Goal Setting
Establishing and confirming an overall vision is essential to launching the master plan. During this phase, we compare the building performance data against energy benchmarks of similar buildings, and use this information to help set energy reduction goals. These goals identify and articulate the core issues to be addressed in the planning process. They act as a scorecard that can be used to comparatively evaluate alternate master plan options developed in the subsequent phases. The goals may address issues such as improved operations, improved indoor air quality and occupant comfort, improved functionality and flexibility of space, reduction of energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and achieving sustainable certifications.
3. Options for Improvement
In this phase a comprehensive list of potential optimization measures will be created for consideration. The list may include measures that address site, architecture, building systems and operations. Once all options are identified, each will be tested against the scorecard of goals created in the previous phase. Energy modeling software will aid in making informed choices to meet the project goals for improved energy efficiency, while careful not to undermine functionality of spaces or aesthetics. Financial modeling is used to evaluate how various options may impact factors such as utility costs, a property’s real estate value, occupant productivity, or greenhouse gas emissions. For all possible measures, the advantages and disadvantages are evaluated and discussed in meetings with project stakeholders.
4. Presenting a Comprehensive Plan
The purpose of an energy master plan is to avoid fragmented, haphazard efforts in order to better understand, continually monitor and improve the building performance and energy strategy for a facility. Building on the concepts developed in the previous phases, the focus in this phase shifts to a detailed set of initiatives as part of a single approach to fulfill the master plan goals. The final master plan identifies future projects, including commentary on aesthetic considerations, cost estimates, payback analysis, constructibility, schedule, as well as connections with other initiatives. Additionally, the final master plan and accompanying reports may act as key documents for capital planning, fundraising and advocacy. The master plan also becomes a tool for future building operators, planners and architects.
The master plan includes an implementation strategy to identify how, when, and by whom the recommendations of the plan are to be implemented. It provides information for both near-term and long-term projects. This is to ensure that short term projects do not compromise longer term opportunities, as well as to allow long-term flexibility. The project team assists the client in preparing requests for proposals (RFPs) for anticipated projects, and establish project delivery methods. In order to assure successful implementation, Studio St.Germain acts as the Architect of Record for recommended projects proposed within the master plan.
6. Measurement and Verification
Measurement and Verification creates a record of the building’s past and a blueprint for the future. Upon completion of each project, Post-Occupancy Evaluations are performed to evaluate how design, construction and operations impacted the original goals. The design team assesses what elements exceeded expectations and should be repeated on future projects, as well as those elements that may have fallen short and require modification in future phases. The energy model and collected data are also used to verify that construction has achieved the goals set for that project. This information continues to be applied in future planning. Monitoring-based Commissioning using building sensors, monitors and an "energy dashboard" ensures that energy efficiency goals are maintained over time.
A successful energy master plan addresses utility consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable and alternate energy sources, spatial requirements, as well as occupant comfort and productivity. Studio St.Germain takes a methodical, step-by-step approach to navigating this complex process to achieve maximum return on investment.
It is with great pleasure that we announce we have moved to a new location. We are proud to be joining Sewickley's commercial business district and look forward to participating in many upcoming community events. Our new address is:
435 Beaver Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
We are pleased to be invited to present on Passive House to the AIA New Jersey Chapter.
We are delighted to have a new restaurant project underway in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Bruneaux is a fine-dining French-influenced restaurant set to open by late summer or early fall. Below are renderings of the storefront design, the original storefront, as well as the new restaurant interior.
Studio St.Germain is proud to announce that we've been featured in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review's article Architectural firm revitalizes Sewickley street. The article showcases three of our recent projects on Sewickley's main street, including a new restaurant opening soon. To check it out you can click to the article link above or pick up a copy of today's paper to see it in the Living section.
When most people hear of energy-efficient building techniques or high-performance buildings, they assume that there must be a cost premium associated with the increased efficiency. However, this is not always the case. Some of the premiums typically associated with energy efficiency can be reduced if planned for with a strategic method. When designing a building, or renovating a building, with energy-efficiency in mind, it is important to consider passive measures as a first priority, followed by active measures, and then last consider renewable options. What do these terms mean, and why this specific order?
Passive measures include things like building orientation and massing, which would optimize the building for daylighting, shading, and natural ventilation. Properly orienting and massing a building is a highly effective way to lower energy use, and may be very simple and inexpensive to accomplish when taken into account in the early phases of design. Other passive measures include insulation, air-tightness, and high-performance windows and doors. If your building has ideal natural light coming through the windows, your need for electrical lighting could be significantly reduced. If your building is well-insulated and airtight, the cooling and heating loads would be significantly reduced. These reductions then impact the size and cost of the "active" electrical and mechanical systems that are required in the building.
After the passive measures have been implemented, the second priority should be to maximize efficiency of the building's active systems: electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. These could include many options such as LED lighting, Energy Star equipment, low-consumption plumbing fixtures and energy recovery ventialtion systems.
And finally, after the passive and active measures have been considered, renewable energy systems may be implemented. Examples of renewable systems include photovoltaic panels, solar thermal collectors, geothermal heat pumps, wind turbines and hydroelectric turbines. In some instances, combining passive and active measures may impact energy consumption enough that renewable measures are not required, or would be considerably reduced. Therefore by first implementing passive and active systems, the investment required to implement a renewable energy system could be eliminated or decreased.
We are honored to have the Midtown Passive House project selected as a Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Case Study. NESEA is the region's leading membership organization promoting sustainable energy practices in the built enviornment. For more information please visit the NESEA website.
Studio St.Germain was recently interviewed by Pittsburgh Magazine for Anything But Passive - These Houses Can Save You Money. The article in January's issue showcases local architects, projects, and non-profit organizations influencing the Passive House movement that has taken shape in the greater Pittsburgh region. If you're interested in learning more about Passive House or considering building one, contact us.