In this case study, we discuss a sustainable building project, the importance of learning national and state energy codes/green building requirements and an overview of large scale initiatives currently taking place with alum Paul Correa.
Paul A. Correa is the Principal/Founder of California’s CPG Consultants, and has the following certifications: LEED AP, GreenPoint Rater, HERS Rater, BPI MFBA & BA, So-Cal Multifamily Energy Upgrade Rater, Sustainable Building Advisor and CalGreen Inspector.
Talk to us about your story – how’d you get into the Green Building industry?
I have been working in the land development and land planning field for over 15 years now, which lead me into the green building industry. I used to work for a home builder doing land acquisitions and development, and I was also a council member and the planning commissioner for my hometown of Gilroy for about 6 years. All of these experiences (plus the fact that I have a master’s degree in land use) touched upon or involved the green building and sustainability field. Working for a home builder, I had to be knowledgeable of land use and building codes, which often entailed green building requirements, as the company was a proponent of green building. As a strong advocate for smart growth issues, I constantly pushed for green building requirements for development projects when I was a public official reviewing and approving projects.
Overall, I would say that I became more focused on the green building industry when I started working on my own in 2008 and began leveraging my experience, building industry networks, and growing my understanding of the development and land planning field to build my business in green building services. Because we live in a state that is very progressive when it comes to the preservation of natural resources, smart planning, and green building, I saw this as an opportunity to build my own business, offering services to the building and real estate industry in California.
What was your capstone project in this course?
My capstone project involved performing a green building assessment for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDCC), a non-profit affordable housing operator and builder in San Francisco. My team consisted of 2 other members and we all chose different aspects to cover for the report on 4 buildings.
The main goal of the report was to perform an assessment on the targeted buildings, determine areas in need of improvement, and develop an outline/strategy on how to focus a potential renovation of the targeted buildings (with an emphasis on upgrading energy efficiency and implementing green building measures that would improve living conditions for the residents.) Recommendations included lighting retrofit and insulation improvement, as well as utilizing low VOC paints and green buildings materials (such as new carpeting) for interior improvements.
[All project photographs courtesy of Paul Correa, used with permission]
I focused on assessing the building envelope and recommending improvements to the existing conditions to bolster energy efficiency and occupant comfort. For example, a majority of the buildings had single pane windows (which poorly insulate the interior from exterior temperature swings) and little to no exterior wall insulation and penetrations through existing walls to the outside. Where possible, I recommended using a “blown in” insulation strategy on all existing exterior walls to create a new building envelope that would be better insulated from outside temperatures. This would maintain occupant comfort during the cold and warm seasons in San Francisco. The “blown in” approach could also lower heating bills, as tighter building envelopes lead to less heat loss during the cold seasons and thus, little need to use one’s heating systems.
Other recommendations I made included: sealing all visible penetrations from the inside to outside of the buildings to better protect the interior of the building from outside air infiltration and block passageways used by rodents to enter the residential areas. To develop these recommendations, I performed site visits for a visual inspection and I also used an infrared camera to get a better idea of how much heat loss the buildings were undergoing during cold temperatures. The use of the infrared camera was extremely instructional since it easily highlighted where no insulation existed in the exterior building walls and where heat loss was occurring the most (like at the all single pane windows and door areas to the exterior where there was poor sealing between door jams.)
3 big takeaways after finishing the Sustainable Building Advisor course?
I’d say my 3 big takeaways after taking the SBA course is that it…
1.) definitely improved my knowledge base of the green building industry
2.) opened my eyes to new areas of the industry where I can grow my own business
3.) proved that the green building industry is not going to go away – that is, the industry is firmly part of the mainstream and there is now a market demand and regulatory need for professionals well versed in sustainability to improve energy efficiency and develop building strategies that respect the environment. For instance, workers in this space should use materials that are locally resourced and make better use of non-renewable resources such as wood and water and work with construction materials made of low to zero VOC content.
What can you do now that you couldn’t before taking the course?
Overall, I would say the SBA program helped me become a more well-rounded Sustainable Building Advisor. It has given me a better knowledge base from which I can more confidently speak about green building issues and better approach my work in the industry with a whole building analysis. That is, I now have a better grasp of the many systems impacting buildings, occupant comfort, and energy efficiency and can more successfully implement green building strategies. The diverse group of professionals presenting at every class definitely helped me gain a deeper understanding of these concepts.
What’s one project you’re really excited about right now?
All my projects excite me, but, if I would pick one or two, I would choose my Cannery Park project in San Jose and my St. Timothy’s project in Compton. Both are very different, very exciting projects. For the San Jose project, (the largest project to date) my company is the lead sustainability consultant for the design and development of a 400-unit 5 story apartment building located in the heart of San Jose’s Japantown. I advise the development and design team on how to meet their green building goals such as Green Point Rated certification and any local and state green building and energy efficiency requirements for new construction (as dictated by the 2013 Title 24 Energy Code and Cal Green Code). These new building and energy requirements can be confusing for home builders- so it’s exciting to be on a project where I can advise the developer on how to meet them for their project design.
As a proponent of not only green building issues but also affordable housing, my Compton project is another exciting undertaking… but for different reasons. It is an 8 story high-rise affordable housing rehab project on which I am the lead energy and sustainability consultant. What excites me about this project is that my sustainability work is improving the quality of life for residents at the high rise affordable housing community. Also, I love the fact that it is a rehab project where I have to get my hands dirty… that makes it fun! By this I mean, I have to do numerous sites visits to document existing conditions and for the green building assessment report. This coupled with the responsibility of performing combustion appliance and gas leakage testing on existing appliance and gas lines makes it very hands on and gives me a very unique perspective on an existing building while highlighting any potential dangers that need to be corrected in order to improve living conditions of residents.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on over a dozen projects today that range from the green certification of a single family home to large multifamily residential project with over 300 units. My clients include everyone from residential building owners to home builders, to commercial building operators and clothing retailers seeking green building advising for new tenant improvement projects. I have clients all over the San Francisco Bay Area including Southern California.
Any new knowledge colleagues and peers in your industry should know?
The number one thing I recommend is to be aware of the constantly changing energy code and green building requirements in California, as well as on the national level. The energy code, like the green building code (CalGreen) is becoming more strict every year as the State of California pushes towards Net Zero. The state is also pushing and implementing stricter green building requirements each year to follow the lead of many cutting-edge cities by requiring the use of sustainable materials such as paints, carpets, and flooring for new construction and/or renovation of existing buildings. It takes a lot of effort to stay on top of all these changes, but, it’s important for green building professionals like myself to stay abreast to all these changes, in order to provide the best service for our clients and projects. The EPA and Energy Department are also pushing for states to implement stricter energy and sustainability goals/requirements as energy costs continue to rise, building materials dwindle, and the public becomes more demanding of green building materials that pose fewer health risks for individuals and a smaller impact on our natural resources.
Do you have a free tool or resource we could share with the HeatSpring audience?
Yes! There are a couple of free, quality resources that I recommend to clients who may be home builders, architects or homeowners in the process of remodeling.
EnergyCodeAce is an excellent resource for builders and architects who need cheat sheets on how to meet the new 2013 California building energy code requirements (which is more stringent than prior codes). The new code has many requirements that push builders, designers of new buildings and individuals altering existing buildings to higher levels of energy efficiency. The new code aims to move California towards the state wide goal of Net Zero for new homes by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. The EnergyCodeAce web resource is also excellent tool to use when navigating the new code… this is very important for individuals like myself who advise clients on meeting local and state regulatory requirements while pushing the envelope above these green, energy efficiency requirements.
Another resource is www.greenpointrated.com. This site provide a directory of green products and tips to help meet green building goals for a new or existing residential project. The site provides recommendations on low flow water fixtures, sustainable building materials (such as paints and flooring, etc.) I use it when analyzing a client’s materials list for a proposed project or when building a list of recommended materials for a new project.
- HeatSpring Course: Sustainable Building Advisor with Ann Edminster
- HeatSpring Course: LEED Project Management with Brenda Martens
- Free Tool: Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Student Manual by Ann Edminster
- HeatSpring Course: Energy Modeling with Chris Schaffner, P.E., LEED Fellow
- Free Lecture: High Performance Building Assemblies with Peter Yost