Fall 2022, Vision Issue 14: The Fast-Paced Move to Electrification

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The Fast-Paced Move to Electrification

In recent years, the AEC industry has been making a rapid shift to all-electric buildings. Primarily driven by local legislative action, gas moratoriums put in place by utility companies, and client demands, this move to electrify is forcing the HVAC community to rethink its tried-and-true methods for space heating. The impact of this move, however, will not be limited to HVAC designers and engineers. So, in what ways will this impact the greater architecture and engineering community? The answers will vary wildly depending on project location, building type, and whether the project consists of a new building or renovation of an existing structure.

and electric resistance heating coils (in airhandling equipment or ductwork) have been around for decades and are readily available. On smaller scale projects, electric resistance equipment may be a good option to consider. However, equipment of this type tends to be more difficult to scale and puts enormous pressure on a building’s electrical infrastructure.

Electrical Resistance Heating: More Power & Potentially More Space

In colder climates where heating loads are dominant, the electrical contribution of the air-conditioning equipment (chillers,

however, it could cause some issues. In addition to the physical space needed for the larger electrical equipment, standard service clearances and means of egress could change as well. The images below illustrate what could happen by jumping from an 800-amp service to a 1200-amp service.

Heat Pumps: Another Efficient Option

HVAC systems are one of the largest consumers of energy in commercial buildings. Until recently, it was standard practice to meet this energy demand by burning fossil fuels on site to heat buildings. For buildings with hydronic heating systems, gas- or oil-fired boilers were widely used. In all-air building systems, gas-fired furnaces were the norm. In today’s market, there are two main electric heating options: (1) electric resistance heating and (2) heat pumps. Electric resistance heating options can be thought of as a 1 to 1 replacement for oil- or gas-fired equipment. The burner is simply being replaced by an electric resistance heating element. Electric boilers

condensing units, cooling towers, etc.) is considered when sizing a building’s electrical service. Conversely, the electrical draw from the heating plant is usually not a consideration because it is significantly lower due to the on-site burning of fossil fuels. Utilizing electric resistance equipment can cause a substantial increase in power draw during the heating season. While the space allocated for a gas meter room or fuel oil storage would no longer be required, the incoming electrical service will be greater and may actually force a net increase in space required for MEPs. For a new, out-of-the-ground building, this may not be significant. For a renovation project,

If electric resistance heating does not work well for a given project, the team can look to heat pumps as another potential solution. Heat pumps are air conditioners operating in reverse, pulling heat from a “heat source” and moving it to a “heat sink.” The heat source is typically air or water. With


The Fast-Paced Move to 1 Electrification

A Holistic Approach to Energy 2 Modeling, Design, and Cx

Video Conferencing in Today’s 3 Office Environment

Revit ® Corner 4 Project Highlight 5

Figures 1-3
3 8 ” 14’-1078” 9’-2 1 4 ” DP LP TX PPM MCB MDP AND SERVICE ENTRANCE INV RP RPM FACP 800A @ 480V
“Electrification” continued on page 4
1200A @ 480V w/ DOUBLE CLEARANCE 17’-6”
@ 480V w/ 2 EGRESS

A Holistic Approach to Energy Modeling, Design, & Commissioning

Separate consultants are frequently included for project teams such as MEP/FP engineering, energy modeling, and building commissioning. Although some projects may benefit from this “thirdparty” type approach, it is frequently more advantageous for building owners to have a single firm responsible for these separate but synergistic services. On almost all new and existing building projects, owners are looking for ways to reduce operational and embodied carbon emissions, maximize cost-effective energy improvements, and improve health and wellness of occupants. As a result of this, both energy modeling and commissioning have transitioned from “best practice” to “standard of care” because every project stands to benefit from the value addition that these services offer.

comprised of energy analysts, mechanical engineers, and commissioning agents can provide a holistic, integrated project delivery process that meets these elevated levels of building standards during design, construction, and operation.

Third-Party Arrangements and Their Possible Pitfalls

Successful projects begin with a clearly defined Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) document which includes specific parameters for modeling and functional performance, and which establishes requirements for design. Having professionals assist the owner in developing an OPR with this level of specificity lays the sturdiest project foundation and enables the design team to produce a Basis of Design (BOD) that holistically addresses these requirements.

A mechanical BOD needs to consider the impacts of its design on as-pects such as energy performance, carbon emissions, operations and maintenance, space, indoor environmental quality, and acoustics. Additionally, as owners and facilities teams are increasingly aware of the advantages and complexities present in modern building systems, they demand that the two be balanced. A team

Often, design teams are comprised of third-party energy modelers and commissioning agents, and it can be argued that this structure enables a system of checks and balances as well as transparency. In fact, projects that pursue Enhanced Commissioning (under LEED) are required to have commissioning agents who are specifically not part of the design team. Similarly, many successful highperformance projects have been designed using third-party energy modelers and commissioning agents. Because the energy modeling and commissioning firms or agencies are separate from the design process, analysis gaps, checklist-style task completion, and inefficient feedback loops could result. Further, depending on the specific project delivery method, all necessary professionals may not be onboarded early enough to participate in the development of the mechanical BOD, thus calling into question compliance with the OPR.

MEP 2040 Challenge

For building performance teams, a coordinated, in-house, multi-disciplinary approach provides the opportunity to design, analyze, and offer feedback regarding operational issues from project kick-off through occupancy. There is the possibility of continuous interactions between team members, depending upon the complexity of projects, leading to a true iterative design. Engineers are able to balance the expectations outlined in the OPR, while designing the appropriate systems and taking into account the desired energy efficiency and O&M. There is a sense of ownership toward the project which would be suggestive of a higher level of involvement from in-house energy analysts and commissioning agents when compared with that of a third party.

Regardless of how the project team is ultimately structured, Kohler Ronan strongly advocates for early engagement of a collaborative group of professionals focused on clearly defining measurable Owner’s Project Requirements. In this way, the professionals involved can best inform a targeted, iterative design—optimized using building energy analysis tools and verified in the field via functional performance testing throughout construction

“A Holistic Approach to Energy Modeling, Design, and Commissioning” continued on page 3

Kohler Ronan is an approved Technical Consultant providing valuable assistance to clients interested in accessing incentives in both New York and Connecticut. In New York, we are approved under NYSERDA’s Commercial New Construction Program and also serve as an Independent FlexTech Consultant. As part of the Energize Connecticut initiative, Kohler Ronan is approved for projects within Eversource and United Illuminating territory. Under each of these programs, our professionals provide technical support in the form of energy modeling and controls commissioning to assess and identify appropriate energy efficiency opportunities for new construction and substantial renovation projects. For details, please email Madhav Munshi at mmunshi@kohlerronan.com. Kohler Ronan is pleased to join a growing number of MEP/FP industry leaders in accepting the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF)’s MEP 2040 Challenge. As signatories, we are committed to “advocate for and achieve” net-zero operational and embodied carbon by 2030 and 2040 respectively, across all our projects. Approved Technical Consultant
in NY & CT –Incentive and Rebate Assistance

Video Conferencing in Today’s Office Environment

Whether an organization has fully returned to the office, evolved into a hybrid environment, or opted for completely remote operations, video conferencing has become essential for communication. Meeting rooms and conference rooms must now provide a seamless experience between individuals in the meeting room and those working remotely. Three innovative technologies have emerged within videoconferencing systems: beamforming array microphones, tracking/ preset recall cameras, and wireless presentation systems.

Traditional analog microphones consist of a singular element that picks up audio in a room. Depending on the microphone’s polar pattern, a microphone would be located at each participant’s location and then tuned using an audio Digital Signal Processor (DSP). With a beam-forming array microphone, a series of microphone elements evenly covers a large space. The microphone can then be digitally steered to pick up the active talker and block unwanted noise. This information can be sent to a camera preset-recall system.

Since most conference rooms will not have a dedicated technician to operate the camera, users have to decide between a fixed overview of the table from the videoconference camera or an automated camera system. In a typical conference room setting, the two types of camera automation are tracking systems and preset-recall systems. Early tracking systems required the presenter to wear an IR lanyard around their neck for the camera to track. With a modern motionbased tracking system, the Pan-TiltZoom (PTZ) camera does not require any peripherals and uses motion-tracking software to track the movement of participants to determine who is talking.

New Technologies Deliver Increased Flexibility

In a preset-recall system, fixed camera view presets are programmed into the system and are recalled based on certain

conditions. For this example, a 5- or 6-person conference room is installed with a video monitor, PTZ camera, and microphone array. The conference room PTZ camera is set up with the following camera view presets: (1) an overall view of the table, (2) a zoomed-in view of the head of the table, and (3) a view of the left and right sides of the table. When no one in the room is talking during the video conference, the camera recalls a default overall view. As people in the conference room start talking, the microphone array will automatically adjust its coverage pattern to pick up the audio and send that information to the preset-recall system. The preset-recall system will then use that information to recall one of the defined presets listed above.

One audiovisual feature that has migrated from the residential world to the commercial world is the ability to wirelessly stream content from a user’s laptop, cellphone, or another portable device. While residential casting systems like Chromecast and Airplay are designed to stream content from streaming services and mirror displays, commercial wireless presentation systems include USB inputs to add audiovisual peripherals to the system which can be transmitted to the host laptop wirelessly over the LAN. This means we can install USB cameras, microphones, or DSPs in a conference room, and anyone with a laptop can connect to the same network and access those resources for their video conferencing meeting. Since the computer will recognize these peripherals as audio and video inputs, they can be used for any software-based video conferencing system such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

While a conference or meeting room may seem fairly standard, every organization operates differently, and each space is unique. There are several different AV products that work together to create a seamless meeting experience. Our goal is to provide an audiovisual system that is easy to use and aesthetically appealing.

““A Holistic Approach to Energy Modeling, Design, and Commissioning”” continued from page 2

and continuing into the occupancy phase. Whether opting for a “third-party” or solesource approach, both commissioning and building performance modeling are proven key components to ensure the successful delivery of a fully functional building, optimally designed to an owner’s unique criteria.

Figures 5-7: Pan-Tilt-Zoom

water-source units, the heat is either pulled from the ground via a large heat exchanger loop (geothermal) or from a condenser water loop (boiler/tower loop). In the case of air-source units, heat is pulled from the atmosphere (outside air). Heat pump operation can be counter intuitive given that the equipment is pulling heat from a “cold” source. When the outside air is considered to be “cold,” there is still heat available for extraction. Heat pumps offer a substantial efficiency advantage over electric resistance options; they are typically at least twice as efficient. Groundsource units tend to be the most efficient, utilizing the constant temperature of the earth. That said, they require ample space for the well-field and are typically the most expensive option. When looking to replace



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oil- and gas-fired equipment, air-source units will emerge as a popular solution.

Whatever the system selected, increased noise during the heating season must be a key consideration. An acoustical consultant should be engaged to ensure that the local noise ordinance is not being violated when installing outside equipment that has the potential to increase the ambient noise levels for a neighboring property. Below is an excerpt from the NYC noise code.

HVAC Exterior Noise Criteria

The NYC Noise Control Code Section 24-227 specifies the following HVAC equipment limits:

•42 dBA Lmax (slow) for a single air circulating device

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•42 dBA Lmax (slow) for the cumulative noise level of multiple air circulating devices

Both limits apply to noise levels measured within the receiving property at a distance of three feet from the open portion of a window.

Electrification will present new challenges for engineers and architects alike. Additional investment will be required in existing building infrastructure, and new projects will need to focus more than ever on optimizing space, efficiency, and budget. No matter what the specific scenario, the move to all-electric buildings is a train which has left the proverbial station. All aboard!

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Using the Autodesk Desktop App

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4 “Electrification” continued from page 1

Project Highlight — Mansfield Elementary School

Rendering Courtesy of TSKP Studio

The Town of Mansfield, CT, is constructing a new elementary school that will consolidate three separate elementary schools into one facility serving approximately 600 students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 4. Scope of work will support enhanced programming for common spaces, classrooms, quiet spaces, integrated outdoor spaces, and accessible resources. Sustainability is especially important to this Mansfield project whose stakeholders hope to achieve a net-zero energy building through innovative design and best practices. No fossil fuels will be used in the school building’s normal daily operations. Kohler Ronan is pleased to be providing comprehensive mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection design in support of this program and its ambitious energy goals. When completed, the new school will be Connecticut’s first net-zero school.

Author Credits

The Fast-Paced Move to Electrification, James Hurley, PE, LEED AP, Senior Associate A Holistic Approach to Energy Modeling, Design, and Commissioning, Madhav Munshi, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP, Senior Associate and John Himelrick, Commissioning & Energy Analysis Engineer

Video Conferencing in Today’s Office Environment, Benjamin Thirakul, CTS-D, Senior Technology Designer Revit® Corner, Victor Alves, BIM Coordinator

Figure & Image Credits

Figures and Images are courtesy of Kohler Ronan, LLC unless otherwise indicated.

Figures 5-7: Courtesy of QSC

About the Firm

From our offices in Danbury, Connecticut and New York, New York, our diverse team of approximately 70 professionals collaborates with prominent architectural firms on a wide array of regional and nationally recognized project assignments. Commissions include those for world-renowned museums, fine and performing arts centers, prestigious universities, state-of-the-art educational and healthcare facilities, luxury residences, and premier recreation establishments. Additionally, we have the privilege of designing specialty systems for landmark sites and historically significant buildings across the country. Regardless of project type, sustainability and environmentally responsible, forward-looking design are at the center of our work.

For more information, please visit our website at kohlerronan.com or connect with us on social media.

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