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Elara’s Matt Swanson Publishes Article: “Proactive Energy Cost Reduction on the Rise in Chicago High-Rise Buildings”

Elara Engineering Associate Principal Matt Swanson, LEED AP, CEM has had the above titled article placed as the cover story in the Autumn 2019 issue of Chicagoland Buildings & Environments.

The article presents the proactive approach taken to lower energy costs at the existing 474 North Lake Shore Drive high-rise condominium building located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago.  Elara’s forward-looking approach implemented over several years by the 474 North Lake Shore Drive Condominium Association resulted in a 23% reduction in relative energy costs since 2007; a savings of $127,930 annually.

Beginning with Elara’s 2008 energy audit, the building’s Condominium Association maintained a constant focus on the energy performance of their building and continuously implemented energy conservation recommendations identified in the 2008 audit report, and subsequent reports in 2011 and 2015.

Consistent with Elara’s recommended strategy, projects that addressed “low hanging fruit” such as controls and VFDs that have a short-term payback and reduce the overall load of the building systems, were implemented first.  This strategy paid dividends during a 2016 chiller plant replacement.  Reduced demand of end-user systems (e.g., AHUs, exhaust fans, etc.) from previously recommended energy efficiency projects allowed for the installation of new chillers that were smaller in capacity; resulting in both lower initial and operating costs.  The associated savings allowed the Condominium Association to fund other energy efficiency upgrades.

In total, all of Elara’s recommendations that were implemented represented an incremental cost of $900,000 with a payback of less than 10 years.  Additionally, $58,275 was obtained through utility incentive programs to assist in funding the projects as a result of the energy efficiency improvements implemented.

A reprint of Mr. Swanson’s article can be found here and more detailed information about Elara’s 474 North Lake Shore Drive Project can be found here.

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Elara Completes UIC Residence Hall/Academic Building Complex for 2019-2020 Academic Year

Elara Engineering recently attended the ribbon cutting ceremony of a newly constructed 10-story residence hall and attached 2-story double height academic building at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As part of a combined Academic and Residential Complex, the new building reflects the University’s ongoing role as a driver of innovation and opportunity in Chicago.

 

Elara’s Services, Technologies, and LEED Gold Designation

Elara’s technical services throughout the entire lifecycle of the project included conceptual planning, schematic design, design development, permit documents, construction documents, bidding assistance, and construction administration. To accommodate dramatically different uses and occupant needs between the academic and residential spaces, Elara’s unique design separated the mechanical systems for the residence hall and the academic building; while incorporating shared – but separately metered – mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.  Specific design technologies include; air-cooled VRF, packaged DOAS, air-cooled VAV system, hot water reheat, condensing boilers, radiant heat, DCV, automated lighting and shade control, and DDC. A LEED Gold rating under LEED v4.0 New Construction is anticipated later in 2019.

 

Academic Building

The 52,700 sq.ft. 2-story academic space contains open circulation lounge spaces, a grand staircase, a student communications stop (“C-Stop”) and large auditorium style classrooms designed for student collaboration. The academic building incorporates a glass enclosure with exterior shading.

 

Residential Tower

The 147,000 square foot residence hall includes 548 beds in traditional two-person dorm rooms and semi-suite style units; and, 16,000 square feet of shared spaces that house a fitness center, laundry facility, and a 10th-floor sky lounge.

 

“I am thrilled and grateful to be part of the design and construction of this exceptional building for UIC where my passion for energy and building systems began when I was an engineering student here. UIC has been an important contributor to HVAC design and construction in Chicago with a long history of developing talented engineers for our industry. It is truly an amazing experience for me to return to campus as part of Elara’s design team for a building that will be identifiable with UIC for years to come.”

                                                                                                                                                                         – Brian Malone, P.E., C.E.M., C.E.A., LEED AP
                                                                                                                                                                          Associate Principal, Elara Engineering
                                                                                                                                                                          UIC Engineering Alumnus
More information about this and other Elara projects can be found here.
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KCC ATEC Building Construction Completed with $133,048 Awarded in DCEO Funding and LEED Gold Certification

First designed by Elara Engineering in 2009 using Building Information Modeling (BIM) and then delayed significantly by sudden, unexpected State of Illinois budget freezes, final construction of Kankakee Community College’s (KCC) Advanced Technology Education Center (ATEC) was completed earlier in 2019.  The ability to maintain project focus over a ten-year period was only possible because of Elara’s, KCC’s, and the lead architect’s commitment to keep the same core team throughout the entire duration of the project.  This long-term buy-in to the project’s ultimate completion and success was the critical success factor that made this objective possible.

State Funding Interruptions

Soon after construction bids were let in 2010, the State of Illinois froze its funding contribution to effectively cancel the project.  In 2014, State funding was re-established, and construction bids were reissued. However, immediately after completion of the new building’s concrete footings in 2015, State funding was once again frozen, and the project was suspended for the second time.  Finally, in 2018, KCC received the State’s funding portion to allow construction to proceed uninterrupted to completion in 2019.

Budget Success

Even though the building design was ultimately adjusted to accommodate (1) technology advances and opportunities to further enhance system efficiencies, (2) changes in student/faculty use habits within the building, and (3) the unavailability of previously specified equipment (e.g., production of the originally selected roof top AHUs had ceased); the project – even after ten years of inflation and incurred stoppage/restart costs – only required a less than 3.4% change order ten years after the initial design.

Technology Success

Recently awarded LEED Gold designation, ATEC earned a $133,048 U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity incentive to alleviate project costs and uses 30% less energy than a baseline ASHRAE 90.1-2004 building.  The building features classrooms and functional, green technology laboratories; including wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, electrical simulation and “roof labs” where photovoltaic cells were installed with walk-out access to enable student “hands-on” learning.

The highly innovative design includes:

  • Variable ventilation/demand CO2 control
  • A dedicated outside air system to provide fresh air at the floor level
  • A single pipe loop geothermal/ground source heat pump system for heating and cooling in lieu of a two-pipe geothermal system which reduced pipe and insulation use and material costs
  • High-efficiency lighting throughout the building with external and internal shading to help maintain a comfortable learning environment

Although the ATEC project was atypically long due to impacts and hurdles beyond the client’s control, it is representative of the strength of our client relationships and of our unwavering commitment to see any project through to completion – no matter what it takes.

Additional information about this project can be found here.

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Elara Decentralizes Steam Plant Serving Northwestern University’s Downtown Chicago Campus

Elara Engineering recently completed the first of two phases of engineering to decentralize an aging steam plant serving Northwestern University’s downtown Chicago campus through the design and installation of several distributed hot water, medium-pressure steam, and low-pressure steam boiler plants.

Through its assessment and investigation to define the project scope and objectives, Elara determined conversion to hot water heating via distributed plants presented opportunities for energy and maintenance savings while the remaining steam production could be focused specifically on humidification and process loads. Locating small, high pressure process boilers in each building near process users allows for a significant reduction in energy and maintenance while limiting the low-pressure steam plant to winter usage allows the plant to be shut off during the summer. This design approach reduces energy costs but also allows for maintenance to occur during the summer when the boilers are not operational. Most heating, re-heat, and domestic hot water loads are served from condensing hot water boilers to maximize energy savings.  Other identified benefits of decentralizing campus heating include updating a large portion of existing infrastructure and freeing up additional land for future development in a highly urbanized environment.

The first phase of the project – completed in Fall of 2018 — addressed six campus buildings that primarily house classroom and office spaces and that do not require process steam. With Elara’s design, Northwestern University’s Abbott Hall, 345 E. Superior building, Rubloff Building, Levy Mayer Hall, McCormick Hall, and Wieboldt Hall are now supported by three new boiler plants. The plants in Abbott Hall and 345 E. Superior are stand-alone systems dedicated to supporting the building they are housed within; whereas, the Rubloff Building boiler plant supports Levy Mayer Hall, McCormick Hall, Wieboldt Hall, and the Rubloff Building itself.

In addition to the development of permit documents, contractor selection assistance, construction services, and functional testing; Elara reviewed applicable local incentive programs, prepared applications, and facilitated the approval process for selected incentives. To date, $129,952 of incentives have been procured for this $5.9M project.

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Elara Replaces Galvanized Domestic Water Piping Throughout Occupied 42-Story Condominium Building

Elara Engineering recently completed the engineering design and coordinated construction effort to replace leaking galvanized steel domestic water piping with new copper piping for an entire 42-story residential building, while fully occupied.  The large-scale project – completed under budget and ahead of schedule included common areas, hot and cold supply risers, condo unit branch piping, hot water return risers, and express risers (a total of 17 risers).

Key project factors included creative scheduling and work coordination to balance project speed and cost while minimizing unit occupant disruptions.  Working within these parameters, the project maintained water service to each unit at the end of each work day while impacting each unit for no more than 20 consecutive business days.  Elara worked closely with contractors, building staff, the condominium association board and building occupants to achieve a successful project.

The building’s risers are divided into two vertical zones that span Floors 1-22 and 23-42. One of the risers consists of express vertical risers to deliver domestic cold and hot water from the basement directly to the ceiling of the 22nd Floor, and horizontally to risers that serve Floors 23-42.  Two other risers serve the high and low zone and return hot water to the domestic hot water heaters located in the basement.

Elara recommended, further customized and then executed a three-phased project approach for this building.

  • Phase 1: An initial study was performed to identify scope, major obstacles to the project, potential project phasing, and cost estimate.
  • Phase 2: Replaced horizontal distribution piping, isolation valves, and an initial riser.
  • Phase 3 Replaced remaining piping throughout the building utilizing the knowledge obtained in the previous phases.

More information about this project and other Elara projects can be found here.

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Mechanical Upgrade of Library Protects Rare Book Collection and Lowers Energy Bills

Elara Engineering has completed a mechanical, electrical, and fire alarm retrofit of Loyola University’s historic Cudahy Library located on its Lake Shore Campus in Chicago, Illinois.

The MEP upgrade of the 3-story building, originally constructed in the 1920s, will dramatically reduce energy costs while installed systems to control temperature and humidity will help protect and further preserve the life expectancy of the 12,600+ rare books housed in the Archives and Special Collections department of the Library.  The prized collection reflects the liberal arts foundation of Loyola University in the areas of Philosophy, Religion, History and Geography, and Language and Literature.

To achieve the project’s objectives, Elara:

  • Converted the building from costly electric resistance heating to hot water heating fed by the Campus’ high efficiency hot water plant.
  • Replaced aged and noisy Air Handling Units (AHUs) that provided insufficient humidity control with new custom consolidated VAV and heat pump systems which incorporated energy recovery, including the innovative installation of new fan powered boxes with hot water reheat coils designed to circulate chilled water during cooling to act, in essence; as active chilled beams.
  • Installed a new heat pump system with a fluid cooler for the Library’s book stack area and waterside economizer for fan powered boxes via heat exchanger.
  • Replaced existing pneumatic control system with a new state-of-the-art Direct Digital Control building automation system tied to the Campus’ network.
  • Upgraded the building’s main electrical panel and fire alarm system and modified the electrical infrastructure to support the new and upgraded mechanical systems.

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Elara Improves Comfort and Reduces Energy Costs by 50%

The Residence at Water Tower Place Condominium Association retained Elara Engineering to perform a holistic review of the building’s ventilation system to identify opportunities to improve performance, reduce energy consumption, and to improve occupant comfort.  The following two-fold design approach reduced energy costs by 50% ($210,000 over the first eight months of operation) and improved occupant comfort through upgrade of the building’s central ventilation systems including reestablishing central humidification and improving building pressurization.

Intelligent Ventilation Control

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) with dampers behind each condominium unit’s exhaust grille that open when exhaust is required (morning, evening) and close when not needed (mid-day, overnight) was utilized to:

  • Reduce Fan Power to save significant energy,
  • Improve Building Pressurization to reduce air and water infiltration, drafty conditions, and stack effect, and
  • Reduce Makeup Air Volume to save significant energy.

Optimization of Makeup Air Unit Performance

Once the building’s exhaust and makeup air systems were operating intelligently, the Makeup Air Units (MAU) were improved by converting the ventilation system to an intelligently controlled demand oriented system, converting existing electric MAUs to gas, and adding three forms of heat recovery.

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Elara Engineering Contributes to Successful Highland Park HS & Deerfield HS Renovation Project

“We could not have done this without a solid team.  Many thanks to the Gilbane, Elara, Perkins + Will and all the contractors that worked on this project!!” 

Daniel Mortensen, CPMM
Director of Facilities Management
Township High School District 113

In a recent article in the Daily North Shore highlighting the work at the District’s Highland Park High School, Mr. Mortensen indicated that the most challenging part of the effort was the multi-year phasing of the project.  “We wanted to ensure that the construction activities would not have a negative impact on the learning environment over the four years of ongoing construction.”  He further stated that the four-year project is ahead of schedule. The project was initially targeted for completion in August of 2018. “The project is not closed out yet, but we are currently under budget and we’re anticipating it being 100 percent complete in August of 2017.”

Additional details about the Highland Park High School renovation project can be found in the Daily North Shore article at (https://jwcdaily.com/2017/03/13/hphs-unveils-21st-century-learning-renovations/).