It’s What You Don’t See That Counts

Re-tooling the design philosophy by providing an economical and efficient way to build.  
By Saeed Bekam

In today’s environment, sustainability has become a greater concern with rising operational and energy costs. Over the years, not only has the building industry been moving towards sustainable construction, Gouvis Engineering has had a part in this transformation as well.

The ABC Green Home is utilizing state of the art engineering software to develop a cost effective and energy efficient way to build by using a minimal amount of wood framing members, while meeting or exceeding building code requirements for resisting earthquake and wind loads. Each of our Engineering disciplines, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP), focus on using highly efficient equipment and construction materials to improve sustainability.

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A 3-D rendering of the ABC Home showing structural members and trusses to be executed in the built model.

By using wood as the main structural element to resist gravity and lateral loads we are able to substantially reduce the amount of energy used in the production of homes. The utilization of wood for construction uses far less energy than steel or concrete. Using a minimal amount of wood by spacing studs at 24” on center for exterior and interior walls will reduce the number of wood members needed in this building by more than 30 percent. In addition, utilizing 2X framing members for beams, headers and posts, as well as reducing the use of solid sawn lumber reduces material costs drastically. We used pre-fabricated trusses manufactured locally using 2X4 elements for roof members and value engineer foundation system for performance and cost effectiveness while meeting code and performance criteria. The ABC Green House project is also using tried and tested construction specifications and details, which have proven to reduce waste at the construction site.

Included in our structural details and standards we have provided many alternatives for contractor’s ease of use, such as common field fixes as part of construction documents for limiting construction time delays. Communication with other consultants and field personnel will take place through electronic means such as e-mail and phone and with the newly developed software created by our computer programmers; this allows field personnel to view our construction documents electronically reducing/eliminating paper use.

Our main MEP strategy in designing the ABC Green Home is to improve water efficiency, provide energy savings, and enhance indoor environmental air quality, which has demonstrated to be economically beneficial. Throughout each discipline, specific steps are taken to ensure designs are developed with these strategies in mind.

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During design MEP works with structural to provide design efficiency and offer recommendations to simplify project implementations prior to construction.

The mechanical design provides for highly efficient equipment, using the least amount of energy for an increased Title 24 margin. Minimizing energy loss will include reducing air leaks in the ducts and providing air retarding wrap for all exterior services. In addition, we will reduce duct bends and turns to lessen the loads on the HVAC equipment. By placing supply air diffusers at the ceiling level and return air near the floor provides efficient airflow and distribution throughout the home. Installing CO2 sensors and highly efficient filters for the HVAC equipment ensures the ventilation system will meet or exceed indoor air quality requirements.

Electrical design focuses on lighting plans and power distribution systems in order to minimize energy consumption and improve the overall lighting scheme of the home. Several ways to maximize energy efficiency and consumption is the use of compact florescent bulbs, recycled lighting fixtures and lighting controls; such as motion or occupancy censors and timers for outdoor lighting. The use of these materials (resources) minimizes the impact to the environment.

Water usage and homeowners’ comfort levels during the design phase is also a major concern; by incorporating effective water conservation techniques within the home, including ultra low-flow plumbing fixtures, hot water circulating pumps, a highly efficient water heating system and insulating the hot water distribution system we can conserve water without reducing comfort. Another option to preserve water consumption is to supplement landscape water irrigation with recycled gray-water.

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Structural 3-D view provides the team members a look into the framing layout of the ABC Home — a lumber take-off can be used from this model.

Knowing this house will be re-located to another place at a later time, we applied the most critical requirements for designing the lateral resisting systems to resist and sustain seismic and wind forces. We also designed and detail the building — including the foundation system — for ease of transportation when the time comes.

During the design phase our engineers aimed to provide cost effective and environmentally-sound solutions to respond to today’s energy crisis. The ABC Green Home received a thorough energy analysis, which optimizes system performance within the guidelines set by the Title 24 residential and nonresidential standards. Our engineers are LEED Certified and provide a framework for identifying and implementing convenient and measurable green building design, construction, and operation.

 

Saeed Bekam is president and CEO of Gouvis Engineering Consulting Group. He may be contacted at sbekam@gouvisgroup.com.

 

 

 

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