The Greenway Tech Centre has added another award to its growing trophy case. The project received the Overall Excellence award from the Green Building Association of Central Pennsylvania. The project is also recipient of a 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania Silver Award for urban redevelopment as well as a York County Community Foundation Eyster Award for energy efficiency. JDBE provided full-service engineering for the 60,000 sq. ft. adaptive reuse, as well as building commissioning services.
Sustainability: Paving Paradise
“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”
– Big Yellow Taxi
The early 1970’s, when this song premiered, were a time of environmental awakening for our nation. Green was good; asphalt was bad. Indiscriminate building activities were frowned upon by environmentalists who worried that the country was becoming over-developed. Protesters chained themselves to trees, marched against industries, and boycotted environmentally dangerous products. Today, however, some have come to realize that “paving paradise” is an option to be considered. Not all development is harmful to the environment. Planned developments are beneficial and can actually enhance environmental conditions at a site.
Present geo-environmental thinking considers various approaches in utilizing land and building developments to cap contaminated sites. This is illustrated in the following scenarios where different levels of environmentally friendly design can be utilized to help soil, air, and water resources.
Site A is a clean site. Subsurface investigations have shown no contamination by previous landowners or operators. With input from the landscape architect and architect, development plans maximize the green space on the site. Roof runoff is piped directly to inlets and stormwater conveyance systems. Runoff from parking lots and driveways is diverted through grassy lawn areas and earth swales, filtering petroleum residue and sediment contaminates prior to entering retention ponds where collected stormwater can percolate into the natural ground water regime. Environmentalists appreciate Site A’s common-sense design and consideration for green spaces.
Site B is a partially contaminated site. Years ago, industrial waste and by-products were improperly dumped onto a corner of the tract, leaving approximately one quarter of the site unusable for green space. A Phase I Environmental Assessment and subsequent laboratory testing has shown a heavy concentration of Total Recoverable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TRPH) and coal tar in the soil which cannot be completely removed. Since rainwater should be prevented from percolating through the contaminated soil and entering into the ground water regime, the architect, in consultation with a geo-environmental engineer, may recommend locating the building over the contaminated area. Engineers would then include vapor barriers and vapor recovery systems in the design to prevent moisture penetration and petroleum or other chemical fumes from filtering into the building. Runoff is routed away from the contaminated area. In addition, parking lots may be purposely located in this area to further cap the contaminated land. Landscape design utilizing pavers, plastic liners, underdrains, mulch covers over clay, and special plant material (tolerant to TRPH contamination) are another capping option. This capping approach to controlling surface infiltration allows a contaminated and formerly unusable site to be fully developed and/or transformed into a landscaped, protected green space.
Site C is every environmentalist’s nightmare. Contamination is everywhere and includes chlorinated solvents, coal tar, and leachable metals. Total clean-up is not practical. However, this abandoned property as it presently exists is more dangerous to the environment than if it were to be developed. Why? On an extremely contaminated site, rainfall filters through the contaminates, which are then carried through the soil to the ground water regime where these substances infiltrate and contaminate domestic water systems. Capping 100% of the site would be recommended for the presumed levels of contamination described for Site C. While this can result in massive building, parking lot, and sidewalk site coverages with limited or no green space, surface runoff from the site can be intercepted and piped safely to a lined stormwater detention basin, minimizing surface water percolation. Hence, contaminates do not enter the ground water regime. In this case, paving paradise is definitely an option to consider!
When property is under consideration for purchase, geotechnical and environmental engineers should be the first consulted. Whether contracted by developers, contractors, corporate real estate departments, or other engineers and architects, their input is critical to proper design and assessment of development feasibility. Buying, selling, and transferring property has become increasingly complicated. Most banking institutions and insurance companies require an environmental assessment and sometimes a geotechnical evaluation of a proposed purchase prior to settlement on the property.
Within JDBE, geotechnical and environmental engineers have combined forces to benefit the natural environment and our clients’ construction budgets. Not only does this joining of forces avoid the duplication of efforts in land assessments, design, and planning, but geo-environmental specialists are able to envision the complete development potential as opposed to focusing on only a narrow scope. For example, geotechnical and environmental assessments can assist a structural engineer in developing adaptive foundation designs, assist the architect in building placements and layouts, and provide guidance to a contractor for efficient earthwork operations, while still addressing remediation issues and incorporating environmentally-friendly land development designs.
A team effort within the design community is necessary. Often, one of the major hurdles in a land development plan is the approval process. To be approved, every land use plan must conform to an array of federal, state, county, and local regulations. A wide range of issues must be addressed and resolved, especially if contaminates are involved. A geo-environmental consultant with a thorough knowledge of governmental procedures and regulations can work with the architect and land development engineer to expedite projects through the potentially multi-layered approval and permitting process. Not only can this team effort save money and time, it also helps to optimize and fully develop the land. The team is able to develop an environmentally sensitive design which improves the landscape and helps cleanse our waterways and ground water drinking supplies.
Today we face increasing concerns about our fragile environment. The public demands a clean environment in harmony with nature. Government regulatory agencies are increasing enforcement and imposing severe penalties for non-compliance. Business owners, lenders, and buyers are now aware that environmental management makes good business sense. To the environmentalist, paving paradise may not be the most attractive path, but when considering a contaminated site, it is sometimes the only path to take.
Understanding Power Quality Issues
Power Quality problems are increasingly caused by in-house equipment; yet a misconception still exists that when an electrical disturbance does occur, it originates from an outside source.
As the business community has grown increasingly dependent upon computers and other complex electronic equipment, the need for reliable power has become critical. Corporations and institutions alike are annually losing billions of dollars from lost manhours due to computer downtime.
Types of Problems
There are various types of electrical disturbances.
Impulses and Spikes are fast fluctuations in voltage caused by lightning, switching capacitors, power supplies, or rectifiers.
Sags, Swells, and Surges are all voltage variations that are short in duration and are caused by a motor starting, welders, etc.
Longer voltage variations come in the form of Overvoltages and Undervoltages. These can result from circuit overloads, utility reductions, and poor voltage regulation.
Electrical Noise and Harmonic Distortion can result from a variety of electronic equipment including computers, motor drives, UPS, rectifiers, inverters, welders, and electric furnace controllers.
Finally, an Outage results from transformer failures, generator failures, downed power lines, or power system faults.
Identification of Problems
There are a variety of symptoms resulting from power quality problems: undervoltage trips; transformers and/or motors overheat; neutral conductors overload; circuit breakers trip for no apparent reason; starters trip sporadically; utility rate penalties for low power factor; emergency generator start & run problems; telecommunication distortions; and many other symptoms.
There is no catchall solution. Because there are so many potential causes of these problems, there are just as many potential solutions.
Sustainability: York County Administrative Center Wins “Green” Award
The renovation of the former York County Court House and conversion into the York County Administrative Center has received an “Energy & Atmosphere” award from the Green Building Association of Central Pennsylvania. This is not the first award for the project, which also received an Eyster Energy Efficiency Award from the York County Community Foundation as well as the prestigious Public Works Project of the Year – Historic Renovation from the American Public Works Association.
Sustainability: Thinking Green Without Seeing Red
by Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM
Lately it seems as though these two words have been getting a lot of attention. One newspaper article touts the success of a recent “certified” Green Building; the next touts the million-dollar budget overrun of a planned Green Building. So what, exactly, is a green building, and how can you “think green” without seeing red?
“Green Building” is both generic and specific. In its most general use, a Green Building is one that is environmentally-friendly; that is, it uses a lot of natural lighting, the engineered systems are energy-efficient, the materials used for construction are recycled, etc. More specifically, however, it refers to a building that meets the rating criteria under LEED — Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED Rating Program evaluates buildings in six categories (see sidebar), each with specific prerequisites as well as credits for various attributes. The lowest level for a LEED green building is “Certified,” followed by designations of “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum,” depending upon credits earned. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “LEED is a self-assessing system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings. It evaluates environmental performance from a ‘whole building’ perspective over a building’s life cycle, providing a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building.”
Buildings earn points for meeting such criteria as building re-use, brownfield or urban redevelopment, water efficient landscaping, energy efficient building systems, recycled materials, specification of locally-manufactured products, building siting, use of natural lighting, and more.
It is important to note that a building cannot automatically be LEED-certified. There is an application process and accompanying fee. However, just because a building is not LEED-certified does not necessarily mean it is not a Green Building. In fact, many buildings meet the minimum criteria for LEED certification; however, no application has been submitted for the certification.
The challenge with building green is to match initial cost with life cost. There are many “green features” within a building that add no cost and, in fact, are quite typical for any project. An example of this is proper site orientation for a new building in order to take advantage of solar conditions for natural lighting, heat gain, and/or heat gain minimization. Then there are those features that add a moderate cost, but can lead to long-term cost savings. An example of this would be operable windows and light monitors to reduce utility expenses, or highly durable finishes, which minimize replacement costs over the life of the structure. And finally, there are those features that come at a high initial cost, with a longer term payback. Thermal ice storage systems with heat recovery and “smart” facades are examples of this.
One of the keys to success in building green is a holistic approach; that is, looking at the architecture, interiors, civil, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing disciplines from a common “green” approach. This is also referred to as “Whole Building Design.” Not only must all the design disciplines coordinate regularly, but they must also buy-in to the necessary trade-offs required to make a project stay within budget.
Obviously, the Owner’s needs and budget are the driving force behind any project. Early in the pre-design stages of a project, the Owner and design team need to define “green building” goals. Feasibility and life cycle cost analyses may be needed to more accurately determine the trade-offs between initial costs and life costs. These studies do slightly increase the overall design-phase costs; however, in some cases they can be offset by grants and—even more importantly—can significantly reduce operations and maintenance costs during the life of a building.
As a full-service engineering firm, JDB Engineering has always endeavored to add value to our clients by designing cost-effective, energy efficient buildings. Three decades ago, we designed one of the earliest ice storage systems of its kind in the United States at the General Public Utilities facility in Reading, PA. We went on to design a number of additional ice storage systems, and were featured in “The Military Engineer” for our leading-edge energy efficient design capabilities. The concept is to produce ice at night in insulated tanks, then melt the ice during the day to provide building cooling.
One of the most important aspects of green design — but also frequently overlooked — is the life cycle cost implications of a project. In its most basic form, life cycle costs incorporate the operations and maintenance expenses for a building, including energy consumption. Using this benchmark, the life cycle cost of a building can be broken down as follows: design = 2%; construction = 34%; and operations & maintenance = 64%. The “Total Life Cycle Cost” model (TLC) goes a step further and incorporates the cost of the people and function of a given space. Under this scenario, planning, design, operations, and maintenance only account for a minimal 5% of the Total Life Cost of a given building. (Source: Carnegie-Mellon University, Center of Building Performance and Diagnostics.)
Regardless of the benchmarks, it is important to realize that a proper design can increase facility productivity from 5% to 30%. In addition to sound, energy-efficient design, post construction commissioning can also play a major role in the energy efficiency of a given building. At JDBE, we have commissioned a number of systems and buildings, and have routinely found that the automatic temperature control sequences and setpoints were not optimal for energy efficiency and cost savings.