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Associate Principal Adam Sanders Authors Article: Things You Need to Know About Kitchen Waste Piping and Garbage Disposals in Chicago Condos & Apartments

Elara Engineering Associate Principal Adam Sanders recently authored the above titled article that was placed in the Spring 2024 issue of Chicagoland Buildings & Environments.

A topic of discussion in recent years during plumbing replacement projects has been the effect of food waste disposers (garbage disposals) on kitchen waste piping. For large multi-family buildings with cast iron piping in the City of Chicago, the potential for costly projects to replace or repair kitchen waste piping should be considered when discussing the installation and use of garbage disposals.

In Adam’s article, he walks the reader through two approaches for the assessment of garbage disposals that should be considered: the impact of recent City of Chicago building code changes and Elara’s practical experience regarding garbage disposal usage, ongoing pipe maintenance needs, and options for piping replacement/repair when needed. A reprint of Adam’s article can be found here.

Adam Sanders

Associate Principal /

Plumbing Practice Leader

asanders@elaraeng.com

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City of Chicago, City of Evanston, and Village of Oak Park Energy Benchmarking Verification 

Elara Engineering would like to remind our clients that Energy Benchmarking for the City of Chicago and the City of Evanston are due this June. Additionally, Energy Benchmarking for the Village of Oak Park is due in December. For more information about the ordinance and required compliance actions, see below and click here. 

Our Energy Benchmarking Team would be happy to answer any of your questions and assist in verification of your building’s data. We can be reached at 708.236.0300 or energybenchmarking@elaraeng.com.

City of Chicago Benchmarking Verification Due June 1st

The City of Chicago requires owners of commercial, residential, and municipal buildings over 50,000 SF to track and verify (every third year by a professional) their building’s energy consumption using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool. It should be noted that manufacturing/industrial use type buildings are exempt from the ordinance. A property that is new construction, has new ownership or low occupancy is eligible to request an exemption. For more information, reach out to Elara. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 1, 2024.

City of Evanston Benchmarking Verification Due June 30th

The City of Evanston requires owners of commercial, residential, and municipal buildings over 20,000 SF to track and verify (every third year by a professional) their building’s energy and water consumption using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool. This includes apartment buildings, strip malls, schools, churches, hospitals, and condominium buildings. In addition, city-owned buildings that are 10,000 SF or greater in size are required to comply. It should be noted that condominium buildings 20,000 SF to 50,000 SF are exempt from the ordinance. A property that is new construction or low occupancy is eligible to request an exemption. For more information, reach out to Elara. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 30, 2024.

Village of Oak Park Benchmarking Verification Due Dec 31st 

Under an ordinance passed in 2023, the Village of Oak Park now requires owners of commercial, residential, and municipal buildings over 10,000 SF to track their building’s energy and water consumption using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool. It should be noted that single family, duplex, and triplex residential homes as well as manufacturing/industrial use type buildings are exempt from the ordinance. A property that does not have a certificate of occupancy or has low occupancy is eligible to request an exemption. For more information, reach out to Elara. The deadline to update your building’s data is Dec 31, 2024.

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Elara’s Experts Today’s Spotlight: Melissa Rodas

What Does Melissa Do?

Ms. Rodas, an Illinois Licensed Professional Engineer, is a Senior Electrical Engineer with Elara Engineering who has acquired diverse technical expertise within an equally diverse range of markets that include K-12, Hospitality, Photovoltaics (PV), Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station Power, High-Rise Commercial Office, Multi-Family Residential, and Healthcare clients. In her technical role, she develops complex and demanding electrical engineering designs for multi-disciplinary new construction, renovation, and energy retrofit projects that encompass a wide variety of electrical system types, power demands, and challenging internal building constraints.

Over the course of her career, Ms. Rodas has gained extensive hands-on experience with numerous technical and design applications such as Revit, AutoCAD, SKM Power Tools, AGI32 and Visual Lighting. In addition to her expertise with these tools and applications, she has extensive experience with assessments, surveys, planning, system studies, power delivery design, and construction oversight. Power system studies that Ms. Rodas has developed have encompassed short circuits, selective coordination, arc flash, and power quality analyses.

Her Areas of Expertise

  • Technical Knowledge
  • Industry Experience
  • Sustainable Design
  • Innovation
  • Construction Knowledge
  • Cost Estimating
  • Troubleshooting
  • Collaboration
  • Project Management
  • Experience in Multiple Markets

Ms. Rodas is driven by…

…the many aspects that have guided her role at Elara and her overall career. She is passionate about power infrastructure design and is propelled to provide innovative solutions to Elara’s clients through a collaborative team approach that addresses the needs of all project stakeholders. Additionally, with a desire to ‘pay it forward’ and to create a legacy of knowledge that others can build upon, she strives to impart her expertise and experience as an involved and caring mentor as well as providing direct encouragement to high school students considering a career in engineering. As an industry expert in electrical engineering design and as an exceptional and talented role model for Elara, Ms. Rodas has compiled a long list of successful projects for Elara’s valued clients.

Key Project Contributions

  • Kankakee Community College West Campus – Fire Alarm Replacement Project (Electrical Design Engineer)
  • Guaranteed Rate Field – Fire Alarm Replacement Project (Electrical Design Engineer)
  • 270 East Pearson Street – EV Charging Stations Power for Indoor Garage (Electrical Design Engineer)
  • New Construction Multi-Residential Campus – PV System Design (Lead Engineer)
  • Davenport Animal Hospital (Davenport, IA) – New Construction (Lead Engineer)
  • Lockport Park District Challenge Fitness – Renovation & Addition (Lead Engineer)
  • Joliet Park District Banquet Hall – Renovation (Lead Engineer)
  • Village of Lombard – Fleet Services – Renovation and Addition – (Lead Engineer)
  • Multiple K-12 Projects (Lead Engineer)
  • School District 126 – MEP Renovation & Additions to Multiple
  • School District 135 – MEP Renovation & Additions to Multiple School
  • School District 159 – HVAC and Lighting Replacement
  • School District 204 – District-Wide Facility Assessment
  • School District 300 – Numerous Projects

Key Industry Contributions

Melissa has been, and continues to be, an active contributor within the industry as she eagerly passes her experience and expertise to others in the field.

Beyond her education, training, and mentoring activities, Ms. Rodas is an active member of the Chicago Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Chicago Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and the Chicago Chapter of Professional Women in Construction.

As part of the SWE, Ms. Rodas volunteers as the K-12 Outreach Chair where she is involved in collaborations with K-12 schools to inspire the next generation of women engineers. She is also a mentor as part of iMentor where she is actively mentoring a Chicago Public School high school Junior as she guides them through the challenges that come with being a first-generation college student.

Ms. Rodas states that “as an immigrant who was fortunate enough to have great mentors, I know how important it is to give back to the community. It is a personal passion of mine to reach out and work with students from underprivileged areas.”

What People Are Saying About Melissa

“Not only has Melissa’s extensive electrical knowledge, commitment to excellence, and drive to innovatively solve complex engineering challenges made a significant impact on our team’s success; she also brings such positive energy to our office and has become a passionate and effective mentor to our young, aspiring engineers. Her ability to articulate electrical concepts clearly and concisely to both technical and non-technical individuals over the course of delivering a project has proven invaluable to all those that work with her. We are so proud and fortunate to have Melissa on our team and I look forward to her continued growth with Elara.”

~Bhupendra Tailor, Elara Principal

Life Before Elara.  

Ms. Rodas was born in Peru and then moved to New Jersey when she was seven years old. Her interest in STEM started in high school when her perceptive physics teacher noticed her interest in math and science. He encouraged her to look at engineering as a career – which ultimately led to her applying to an engineering school for college. Even then, she had an early interest in renewable and sustainable technologies and after a few introductory courses in college, Ms. Rodas decided to commit to a career in electrical engineering.

Upon graduating from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in central Massachusetts Ms. Rodas was offered a job in Glendale Heights, Illinois and – true to her nature as an adventurer – took it on as she was looking for a change of location from the East Coast and was eager to try life in the Midwest.

Like many new electrical engineers, she started her career doing power system studies which facilitated her growing knowledge of existing and older building electrical systems. However, ever looking for a challenge, Ms. Rodas wanted to design electrical systems for new buildings along with the necessary innovation that came with problem solving to meet specific needs. To this end, she applied for a position with her previous employer and was excited to be introduced to the world of electrical building design. It was a perfect fit as she enjoys the challenges and out-of-the-box thinking that is often required to provide practical, innovative, constructable, and sustainable solutions to clients.

Before her current role as Senior Electrical Engineer at Elara Engineering, Ms. Rodas was an Electrical Engineer IV at Syska Hennessy Group in Chicago, IL and a Power Systems Engineer at Eaton Corporation in Chicago, IL

Life Outside Elara

Likely to the chagrin of most Chicagoans – and possibly anyone beyond the NYC area, Ms. Rodas is an avid Yankees fan. But it’s totally understandable that she backs the Yankee pinstripes as her mom was a huge Derek Jeter fan in the early 2000s. Like mother, like daughter. And, Ms. Rodas is serious about this to the point that she heads back to New York to see one or more games a year with her mom or younger brother.

Now that’s a true fan. As a passionate baseball ambassador, she says that she’s often guilty of dragging friends and family members to games even when they have no interest in baseball. Further proof that she’s an effective baseball promoter is exhibited when she recently talked Elara’s entire electrical team into attending a game.

In addition to baseball, Ms. Rodas is an avid hiker and is on a mission to visit as many National Parks as possible in her lifetime. Needless to say, she loves to travel and her favorite countries visited – so far – are Spain and Ireland. Activities closer to home include bowling, reading, and boxing/mix-martial arts where she practiced Jeet Kune Do for several years – achieving Blue Belt status before an injury stopped her progression. She still boxes, though it’s more for fun and conditioning. Finally, she is the proud cat-mom of a 15-year-old kitty and occasionally volunteers at a no-kill shelter as part of PAWS Chicago.

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Three Elara Projects Win Chapter-Level ASHRAE Excellence Awards

On December 5, 2023, Elara Engineering was formally recognized by ASHRAE’s Illinois Chapter with three 2023 Excellence-in-Engineering Awards. This year’s recognized projects include:

  • 161 North Clark Street – Fan System Replacement
  • Loyola University Health Sciences Campus (LHSC); Center for Translational Research and Education (CTRE) – Winter Cooling Heat Exchanger
  • School District 300 Big Timber Elementary School – New Construction

We congratulate both Elara’s and each client’s dedicated project team for their vision, hard work, innovation, and collaboration that led to this well-deserved achievement. We further extend our thanks to the owners and managers of these award-winning buildings for their ongoing commitment to sustainable, energy efficient projects.

With these three additional awards, Elara has now received 33 ASHRAE chapter awards – each one uniquely showcasing our team’s ability to consistently deliver practical solutions and designs, and innovated applications of existing and new technologies.


161 North Clark Street: Fan System Replacement

  • Variable-speed ECM fans utilized in an array configuration allowed the fan systems to modulate fan speed based on duct static as measured at the top and bottom of the building’s primary supply air shafts which serve VAV FPBs on each floor of the building to achieve significant fan energy savings during operation of the system.
  • Improved indoor air quality was accomplished by optimization of the economizer sequences and replacement of the mixed air, outdoor air, and exhaust air dampers as part of the project.
  • Full project details can be found here.

Loyola University Center for Translational Research and Education: Winter Cooling Heat Exchanger

  • Implemented solution consists of a new water-to-water heat exchanger that connects the CTRE chilled water loops to exist­ing heat recovery coils in the air handlers. No new pumps were required as all existing pumps were found to be capable of supporting the new heat exchangers.
  • A key benefit of the new design is that the system can now be changed over quickly from the new heat exchanger to the original chiller loop with four manual changeover valves and one existing automatic control valve.
  • Full project details can be found here.

School District 300 Big Timber Elementary School: New Construction

  • The project further developed the school district’s model school MEP systems (previously updated 14 years prior) and included energy efficiency enhancements and airborne infectious contaminant control strategies.
  • Ventilation system comprised of 7 AHUs including 3 DOAS units and separate AHUs for specialty spaces, each with an energy wheel for heat recovery providing demand-controlled ventilation air or space conditioning.
  • Full project details can be found here.

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Prepare Your Building for Extreme Cold Weather

As many of you are aware, Chicagoland is forecasted to experience severe cold temperatures over the weekend and into early next week with lows occurring at or below zero with the forecasted overnight low this Sunday being -7˚ F. The forecast projects temperatures that will test the limits of the heating capabilities of your equipment. In advance of this and other extreme cold weather events, it is important to make sure your building is prepared.

We recommend taking the following steps to ready your building for the extreme cold, especially if you have made changes to how your ventilation system is operating since last winter, or you have new equipment experiencing extreme weather for the first time:

  • Turn off all non-critical exhaust systems (i.e. residential kitchen and toilet exhaust)
  • Temporarily reduce ventilation only where possible
    • DO NOT turn off 100% Makeup Air Units (MAUs)
      • If 100% MAUs shut down unexpectedly and cannot be restored, we advise shut down of the associated toilet and kitchen exhaust systems
      • Consider increasing the discharge air temperature setpoints for boosted heating and pressurization
  • Override unoccupied and overnight setbacks to occupied
  • Consider adjusting thermostat setpoints to minimum heating (i.e. 68F-70F) to ease stress on central equipment
  • Avoid scheduled shutdowns of systems
  • Avoid turning heating related equipment off
  • Verify all coil pumps are operational
    • DO NOT shut coil pumps off
  • Maintain continuous operation of all heating related pumps
  • Minimize infiltration
    • Keep doors, windows and other openings sealed
    • Add temporary heat where infiltration can’t be controlled
    • Maximize pressurization if possible
  • Keep blinds and shades closed on windows at night and those not receiving direct sunlight during the day
  • Perform a system check of all heating critical equipment
  • Remove snow and ice to ensure proper airflow form outdoor air-based heat pump systems
  • Verify the operation of all low-limit safeties such as freezestats to protect equipment
    • Ensure the sequence of operation is followed upon a freezestat trip (Example: outside air dampers properly shut and can be reopened)
  • Verify the operation of all backup or redundant heating equipment not normally used
  • Verify the location of isolation valves, verify their operation and understand when to use them
    • During an emergency situation where a pipe, coil or other system has frozen, the reliability, and proper use of isolation valves is critical
    • Isolate the leak to as local an area as possible
    • Take care not to close the wrong valve (essentially stopping the flow of water)
      • Water at rest is much more likely to freeze. Therefore, do not risk further freezing of the system by closing the wrong valve, should isolation be required


For more information or to address specific concerns or questions, please contact us at info@elaraeng.com.

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Elara Engineering Expands Downtown Office

To better meet the needs of our growing workforce and to continue to provide convenient access to clients, Elara Engineering has dramatically expanded the size and capabilities of its River North office location.

With 2,000 square feet added, our useable space has more than doubled in size and includes a second kitchenette, additional collaboration spaces, lounge areas, and twice as many individual workspaces as we had before. Cosmetic enhancements include refinished hardwood floors, a fresh coat of paint, new windows, and new furniture

As we worked to expand our downtown office, a key element was to ensure that it continued to support collaboration and efficiency as well as remaining a welcoming and comfortable work environment for our valued employees. We’d like to think that we’ve succeeded on all accounts. If you get a chance, you’re more than welcome to stop in and check out our new digs. We’d love to have you.

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Highlights from Loyola University’s Retreat and Ecology Net Zero Master Plan

Driven by Loyola University Chicago’s (LUC) long-term desire for a net zero ecology campus, Elara Engineering has been collaborating with LUC over the last 12 years to replace the campus HVAC systems with an ultra-low energy geothermal system. After the most recent phase of construction, approximately 50% of the campus has been converted with plans to continue to convert the rest of the campus in the coming years.  

We encourage you to view the attached video to learn more about the planning and design processes undertaken and the leading-edge technologies being implemented.  

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Elara’s 2023 Summer Internship Program Another Success

Elara Engineering’s 2023 Summer Internship Program provided six talented students the opportunity to contribute to our firm’s success as they worked side-by-side with our engineering experts and operational leaders on a variety of endeavors across all of our market sectors. Specifically, three interns supported our market-focused engineering design teams, one supported our Energy and Commissioning (ECx) Team, one supported our Electrical Engineering Design Team, and one supported our Operations Team with a focus on finance and marketing.

As members of Elara’s multidisciplinary engineering design teams, our interns completed field surveys at various sites, utilized AutoCAD (2D) and REVIT (3D) drafting/modeling software to support the preparation of engineering drawings, and executed basic engineering calculations. Elara’s ECx Team intern supported numerous building infrastructure studies by performing utility analyses, conducting site surveys, and developing conceptual design system sketches. For Elara’s internal business operations, our finance/marketing intern supported the development, processing, and compilation of data for Elara’s new ERP software, performed a variety of financial analyses, and provided marketing support such as involvement with our social media development process.

As members of Elara’s multidisciplinary engineering design teams, our interns completed field surveys at various sites, utilized AutoCAD (2D) and REVIT (3D) drafting/modeling software to support the preparation of engineering drawings, and executed basic engineering calculations. Elara’s ECx Team intern supported numerous building infrastructure studies by performing utility analyses, conducting site surveys, and developing conceptual design system sketches. For Elara’s internal business operations, our finance/marketing intern supported the development, processing, and compilation of data for Elara’s new ERP software, performed a variety of financial analyses, and provided marketing support such as involvement with our social media development process.

We congratulate all six of our 2023 summer interns and wish them great success in the school year ahead.

Elara is pleased to offer internships for aspiring engineers each summer with additional opportunities to engage students throughout the year. Resumes for internship consideration can be submitted to employment@elaraeng.com.

Elara’s internship program not only offered me a chance to learn from HVAC professionals and their work, but it also gave me the chance to contribute on various projects while expanding my skillset. I appreciate the opportunities presented by Elara this summer and the foundation they gave me for a career in HVAC.

~Ethan L., Cedarville University, Mechanical Engineering Major 

My summer interning at Elara was filled with immense learning. I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of things from sizing equipment, drafting in AutoCAD, and even performing system calculations. My favorite experience this summer was going on-site because it allowed me to see our design really come to life.  

~Sheel P., High School Student, Aspiring Mechanical Engineer

Interning at Elara introduced me to a whole industry I knew little about. This internship has furthered my understanding of programs like Excel and AutoCAD, and our site visits offered a first-hand look at the projects we planned and discussed which, in turn, made them very real and tangible. Overall, this internship has been a very important part of my consideration of future career paths.

~Owen P., Marquette University

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The Importance of Thermal Comfort on Education Outcomes in Pre-K12 Facilities, and How Elara is Paving the Way

Indoor thermal comfort in Pre-K12 schools is a crucial aspect of the learning environment that can significantly impact student and faculty performance, learning outcomes, and overall well-being in the built environment. Thermal comfort is comprised of temperature, humidity, air velocity, radiant exchange, and other factors; each of which plays an important role impacting an individual’s comfort and performance within a space.

Many prototypical Pre-K12 schools designed and built in the last 50 years within our geographical area and climate zone were never designed to provide cooling or dehumidification within a classroom. Even when certain air-conditioning systems were installed, a majority of these were simplified systems with relatively poor performance such as unit ventilators and window air conditioner units. This was a decision that was made to reduce the cost and complexity of projects at the time of their original construction. Even in cases where an initially holistic approach to maintaining good thermal comfort was designed and constructed, decades of deferred maintenance and other factors have negatively impacted the performance of the installed systems and therefore, the experience of the students and faculty that still occupy the buildings today. 

Studies Linking Thermal Comfort to Student Performance:

In 2021, a study by the Government Office of Accountability (GAO) found that over half of America’s school districts require major upgrades to their school buildings, with the most common upgrade needs being the HVAC systems followed by interior lighting. Simply put, 14 million students within the US public school system are impacted by poor-performing HVAC systems1. Unfortunately, the troubling state of infrastructure is trending in the wrong direction as evidenced by the growing capital investment needs and infrastructure deficiencies of our public schools.

Source: Filardo, Mary (2021). 2021 State of Our Schools: America’s PK-12 Public School Facilities 2021. Washington DC: 21 Century School Fund

Since 2016, there has been a marked increase in the number of academic studies performed that link thermal conditions to student and faculty performance. In general, the outcomes of these studies show a significant decline in student performance when indoor thermal conditions fall outside of acceptable ranges.2

Several studies provide evidence for the correlation between maintaining acceptable indoor thermal conditions and student and faculty performance and attendance. A study compiled in 2021 showed that optimal cognitive performance of students occurred at classroom conditions of 73°F and 55% relative humidity. Significant decreases in cognitive performance, short-term memory, and verbal ability occurred as temperature increased up to 79°F and above inside the classroom2.

A separate study performed by Harvard University in 2017 quantified the impact of heat exposure on educational performance and test scores in buildings that lacked air-conditioning. In cases where tests were taken on a 90°F day compared to cases where exams were taken on a 72°F day, significant test score reductions were recorded. This study also found a 12.3% higher likelihood of failing a subject in non-airconditioned classrooms when controlling for other factors3.

Design Framework to Maximize Thermal Comfort

These studies provide evidence of the link between student performance and thermal comfort. However, this correlation is complex and can be impacted by many other factors such as the age of children, climate zone, clothing, direct solar radiation, metabolic rates, and individual/cultural differences. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) acknowledges these variabilities and provides a framework that establishes comfort indices as part of ASHRAE Standard 55.

Specifically, Standard 55 takes into account six environmental and personal inputs when defining acceptable thermal comfort: temperature, thermal radiation, humidity, metabolic level (sitting/standing/play), the airspeed of the system, and student clothing levels (uniforms, etc.). These factors and others are used to model the predicted thermal acceptability of occupants within a specific space. These models can help gain insight into how designers can then tweak indoor conditions to cater to the comfort needs of students and faculty in that space.

Potential Design Options and Solutions

Elara’s approach to design incorporates these important factors for optimal thermal comfort in the built environment while also maintaining a high benchmark for energy-efficient and cost-effective design. In many cases, optimizing the decision-making process around maximizing thermal comfort will also maximize the future energy efficiency and performance of a building. As an example, the implementation of radiant slab systems in early childhood education settings can improve the comfort of children who spend more time on the floor. Outside of early childhood education, radiant systems have advantages in creating and maintaining good thermal comfort in classrooms while also operating at high efficiencies. Similarly, systems such as induction displacement are designed to provide levels of thermal comfort and high indoor air quality by supplying low-velocity air directly into the occupied zone of a room. These considerations should be brought to the forefront of a project so that infrastructure can be coordinated with the architectural aspects of the project. The key takeaway is that considerations for providing and maintaining high levels of thermal comfort in a classroom drive the development of the project.

In closing, an approach to design that considers thermal comfort in schools is crucial to optimize student and faculty performance. Ensuring compliance, or at least consideration of the factors that are established in ASHRAE 55 will help realize the full potential of capital investments in our schools that maximize the effectiveness of student learning environments.

We welcome the opportunity to provide more information and discuss how we can help improve thermal comfort in your facilities to positively impact the performance of students and faculty. Please reach out directly to our Pre-K12 Team Leader and author of this article, Jim Gibson or request more information via info@elaraeng.com.

References/Sources:

  1. Filardo, Mary (2021). 2021 State of Our Schools: America’s PK-12 Public School Facilities 2021. Washington DC: 21 Century School Fund.
  2. Brink, H. W., Loomans, M. G. L. C., Mobach, M. P., & Kort, H. S. M. (2021). Classrooms’ indoor environmental conditions affecting the academic achievement of students and teachers in higher education: A systematic literature review. Indoor air, 31(2), 405–425. https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12745
  3. Park, Jisung (2017). Temperature, Test Scores, and Human Capital Production 2017.
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Illinois Governor Signs into Law Electric Vehicle Charging Act

On June 9th, Governor JB Pritzker signed into law State Bill 40 (SB40). The effective date of SB40 — better known as the “Electric Vehicle Charging Act” is January 1, 2024.

In summary, the Illinois Electric Vehicle Charging Act (the “Act”) applies to new single-family homes and newly constructed or renovated multi-unit residential buildings that have parking spaces constructed or renovated after the effective date of the Act. It also includes electric vehicle charging station policies for unit owners and for renters.

Single-Family Resident and Small Multi-Family Residence
A new single-family residence or a new small multifamily residence (a single residential building that accommodates 2-4 families) must have at least one electric vehicle capable parking space for each residential unit that has dedicated parking, unless any subsequently adopted building code requires additional electric vehicle capable parking spaces or installed electric vehicle supply equipment.  

Large Multi-Family Residence
All building permits issued 90 days after the effective date of the Act must require that a new, large multi-family residential building (one that accommodates 5 families or more) or a large multi-family residential building being renovated by a developer converting the property to an association have 100% of its total parking spaces EV-capable.    It should be noted however, that “nothing in the Act shall be construed to require that in the case of a developer converting the property to an association, no EV-capable or EV-ready mandate shall apply if it would necessitate the developer having to excavate an existing surface or other parking facility in order to retro-fit the parking lot or facility with the necessary conduit and wiring.”  

Unit and Rental Policies   For condominium unit owners, any deed, contract, security deposit or other instrument that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation or use of an EV-charging system within the owner’s unit or a designated parking space is void and unenforceable under this Act.  
Regarding rental tenants, under that Act “a tenant may install, at the tenant’s expense for the tenant’s own use…a receptacle or outlet or a…charging system on or in the leased premises…” for which the landlord cannot assess or charge a tenant any fee for the placement or use of their vehicle charging system. 

A copy of SB40, which includes additional language about unit and rental policies related to EV-charging systems can be found here: Bill Status of SB0040

Also, please feel free to contact Elara’s Commercial / Multifamily Practice Leader, Matt Swanson, at mswanson@elaraeng.com for additional insights about SB40.

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Elara Employees Establish Company Vision

“We are committed to providing customized, sustainable, and innovative solutions that leave a lasting personal and global legacy. Let’s design today for a better tomorrow.”

Guided by the compass that our logo represents, the above statement is the culmination of Elara Engineering’s company-wide endeavor to create a common vision along with a representative vision statement.

We invite you to view the attached video to experience how we came together to define our company’s future. It was an energizing, exciting, collaborative process.

Elara Engineering is fortunate and honored to have so many smart, dedicated, and passionate employees committed “to providing customized, sustainable, and innovative solutions” to our clients for a better tomorrow.

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The Importance of Indoor Air Quality on Education Outcomes in Pre-K12 Facilities, and How Elara is Paving the Way

It has been well established for some time now that indoor-air quality (IAQ) significantly impacts  the learning environment of students, their health, and their educational outcomes within schools. Students, Faculty, Designers, and many others were all reminded of this during the COVID pandemic. Maintaining enhanced indoor air quality in schools will continue to be a priority for School Districts around the country, and with good reason.

IAQ and Student Health:

Indoor air quality is a crucial aspect of student health. Poor air quality in classrooms can contribute to a range of health issues, including headaches, dizziness, and respiratory problems. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that exposure to indoor air pollutants as a result of poor ventilation and filtration is a leading cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases in children. Poor indoor air quality can therefore lead to absenteeism, resulting in missed classes and decreased academic performance.

Enhanced Ventilation & Student Performance:

Several studies have shown that enhancing ventilation in classrooms positively impacts student performance. A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that increasing ventilation rates in classrooms resulted in a 14-15% increase in test scores. The study also found that improving ventilation rates led to a 3-4% increase in attendance rates. A similar study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that students in classrooms with enhanced ventilation had significantly better cognitive performance

Improved Ventilation Systems:

To achieve enhanced ventilation in classrooms, schools must improve their ventilation systems. Schools can increase ventilation rates by increasing the amount of outdoor air entering the classroom and by improving the air filtration systems. Installing energy-efficient ventilation systems and air filters can reduce the amount and cost of energy consumed while also improving indoor air quality (and, with an additional benefit of providing unused monies for direct educational purposes).

Elara Design Philosophies that Provide Enhanced IAQ:

Historically speaking, typical Architectural and HVAC design for the K12 market was optimized around cost efficiency, not optimization of classroom or building ventilation. Vintage HVAC systems such as unit ventilators, multizone, and Variable-air-volume (VAV) systems fall short when compared to more modern approaches available to design consultants.

Elara strives to provide enhanced classroom IAQ by designing systems which supply filtered, conditioned 100% outside air from a dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) directly to each classroom space, independent from the heating and cooling systems. We have successfully paired DOAS systems with equipment designed to satisfy the heating and cooling requirements of each space such as Variable Refrigerant Flow systems, Heat Pumps and Fan Coils. Opportunities to increase ventilation rate and delivery effectiveness also exist with systems such as Chilled Beam and Induction Displacement. These approaches to design can enable precise control of ventilation rates within spaces regardless of the heating and cooling loads, resulting in superior indoor air quality throughout the building.

As with any new construction or major renovation project, there are many factors that can dictate the decision making process of the design team. We welcome the opportunity to provide more information and discuss how we can help you improve the IAQ in your facility to positively impact the performance of students and faculty. Come visit us at IASBO on May 3-5 at the Peoria Civic Center (Booth 809) or reach out to Jim Gibson at jgibson@elaraeng.com.

References/Sources:

  • S. Environmental Protection Agency. Indoor Air Quality in Schools. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/iaq-schools
  • Mendell, M. J., Eliseeva, E. A., Davies, M. M., Spears, M., Lobscheid, A. G., Fisk, W. J., & Apte, M. G. (2013). Association of classroom ventilation with reduced illness absence: a prospective study in California elementary schools. Indoor Air, 23(6), 515-528.
  • Satish, U., Mendell, M. J., Shekhar, K., Hotchi, T., Sullivan, D., Streufert, S., Fisk, W. J. (2012). Is CO2 an Indoor Pollutant? Direct Effects of Low-to-Moderate CO2 Concentrations on Human Decision-Making Performance. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1671-1677.
  • Haverinen-Shaughnessy, U., Shaughnessy, R. J., Cole, E. C., & Toyinbo, O. (2015). Impact of classroom ventilation rate on the performance of schoolwork by children. Indoor Air, 25(6), 682-694
  • Allen, J. G., MacNaughton, P., Satish, U., Santanam, S., Vallarino, J., Spengler, J. D. (2016). Associations of cognitive function scores with carbon dioxide, ventilation, and volatile organic compound exposures in office workers: A controlled exposure study of green and conventional office environments. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 805-812.

 

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New City of Chicago Cooling Ordinance

As many of you are aware, the City of Chicago passed a new cooling ordinance on June 22, 2022, which was put into full effect as of July 2, 2022. The intent of this ordinance is to provide occupants of new and existing residential buildings over 80 feet tall and low-rise buildings with more than 100 dwelling units (including residential portions of mixed-use buildings) relief from unseasonably hot weather via at least one (1) common indoor gathering space when central cooling is not available. Housing for older persons is also addressed by the ordinance but subject to separate requirements.

For residential buildings within the identified groups that are not housing for older persons, the common gathering space (i.e., meeting rooms, party rooms, and exercise/fitness centers) must be served by cooling equipment independent of the building’s central cooling system and must be accessible to all building residents. The common gathering space must maintain cooling and dehumidification thresholds identified by the ordinance, be open to residents of the building, and operated to maintain “safe” indoor conditions when the heat index for the City of Chicago exceeds 80°F.

Key Dates

  • April 30, 2024: Temporary Cooling Equipment Exception Expiration
  • Temporary or portable cooling equipment for at least one (1) indoor common gathering space will be acceptable to meet the ordinance requirements until April 30, 2024.
  • May 1, 2024: Permanent Cooling Equipment Required
  • Permanent cooling equipment for at least one (1) indoor common gathering space must be in place and operational by May 1, 2024. Temporary or portable equipment will no longer be acceptable as of this date.

Recommendations

Considering the extended lead times for equipment and materials that have become commonplace within the construction industry, building owners and operators should be proactive in planning for their building’s compliance with the City of Chicago’s Cooling Ordinance. If a common gathering space without permanent, independent cooling and dehumidification is not currently in place for building residents, temporary cooling units should be procured to ensure compliance during unseasonably warm weather in the immediate term. Simultaneously, design efforts should commence for a permanent solution to be operational by May 1, 2024.

Please contact Elara’s Commercial / Multifamily Practice Leader, Matt Swanson, at mswanson@elaraeng.com to learn more about the City of Chicago Cooling Ordinance, how it applies to your specific building, and to obtain assistance in preparing your building for compliance.

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City of Chicago and City of Evanston Energy Benchmarking Verification Due in June

Elara Engineering would like to remind our clients that Energy Benchmarking for the City of Chicago and the City of Evanston are due this June. For more information about the ordinance and required compliance actions please see below and click here. Additionally, Maricruz Zepeda would be happy to answer any of your questions and assist in verification of your building’s data. She can be reached at 708.236.0300 x162 or mzepeda@elaraeng.com.

City of Chicago Benchmarking Verification Due June 1st

The City of Chicago requires owners of commercial, residential, and municipal buildings over 50,000 SF to track and verify (every third year by a professional) their building’s energy consumption using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool. It should be noted that manufacturing/industrial use type buildings are exempt from the ordinance. A property that is new construction, has new ownership or low occupancy is eligible to request an exemption. For more information, reach out to Elara. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 1, 2023.

City of Evanston Benchmarking Verification Due June 30th

The City of Evanston requires owners of commercial, residential, and municipal buildings over 20,000 SF to track and verify (every third year by a professional) their building’s energy and water consumption using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool. This includes apartment buildings, strip malls, schools, churches, hospitals, and condominium buildings. In addition, city-owned buildings, 10,000 SF or greater in size are required to comply. It should be noted that condominium buildings 20,000 SF to 50,000 SF are exempt from the ordinance. A property that is new construction or low occupancy is eligible to request an exemption. For more information, reach out to Elara. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 30, 2023.

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Elara Secures $400,000 ComEd Energy Efficiency Program Incentive Award for Client

After successfully submitting an application to Commonwealth Edison on behalf of its client, Colliers, Elara Engineering was informed by ComEd’s Energy Efficiency Program Team that its chiller replacement project at Two Prudential Plaza in downtown Chicago had been awarded a $400,000 incentive. The project scope included replacement of a large central plant chiller with a new variable speed chiller as well as control sequence optimizations which will lead to increased chiller plant efficiencies during operation. Nearly a dozen chiller options were analyzed as part of a life-cycle cost analysis which took into account first cost, energy efficiency, maintenance costs, and incentives.  On average, it is anticipated that the new chiller will utilize approximately 30% less energy.

With this most recent award, the total dollar value of accumulative incentives that Elara has obtained for its clients has exceeded $7,454,000.

Elara’s Incentive Procurement Team

Incentives are received after a detailed application process and successful completion of the designed project. Lead by Elara’s Incentive Procurement Team and working with our clients and program representatives during the assessment and design phase of an energy project; Elara checks project and equipment eligibility, develops, submits and tracks the pre-approval application, completes the project design, reviews the installation of selected equipment, and submits the final application once the project is complete, including required measurement and verification data for custom projects.

Through its relationships with program representatives and with over a decade of participation in incentive program round tables and conferences, Elara has the ability to maximize the incentive amounts for our clients and streamline the incentive application and approval process.

For additional information about Elara’s incentive procurement expertise and experience, please contact incentives@elaraeng.com.

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2021 & 2022 – Two More Years of Accomplishments for Elara Engineering

We are excited to announce that the last two years have again shown that Elara Engineering continues to grow in staff, awards, design issuances, and philanthropy efforts; all the while remaining an enjoyable and fulfilling place to work. Elara’s talented and dedicated staff are – without doubt – key to our ability to deliver industry leading innovative, sustainable designs and to build a work environment that prizes collaboration, technical development, work/life balance, and the enjoyment of each other’s company.

Given our accomplishments over the last two years, we eagerly look forward to the next two as we continue to provide our experience and expertise to meet the needs of our valued clients.

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Prepare your Building for Extreme Cold Weather

As many of you are aware, Chicagoland is forecasted to experience severe cold temperatures over the next week with lows occurring at or below zero with the forecasted overnight low on Christmas Eve being -4˚F.  The forecast projects temperatures that will test the limits of the heating capabilities of your equipment. In advance of this and other extreme cold weather events, it is important to make sure your building is prepared.

We recommend taking the following steps to ready your building for the extreme cold, especially if you have made changes to how your ventilation system is operating since last winter, or you have new space heating equipment:

  • Turn off all non-critical exhaust systems (i.e. residential kitchen and toilet exhaust)
  • Temporarily reduce ventilation where possible
    • DO NOT turn off 100% Makeup Air Units (MAUs)
      • If 100% MAUs shut down unexpectedly and cannot be restored, we advise shut down of the associated toilet and kitchen exhaust systems
    • Override unoccupied and overnight setbacks to occupied
    • Avoid scheduled shutdowns of systems
    • Avoid turning heating related equipment off
    • Verify all coil pumps are operational
      • DO NOT shut coil pumps off
    • Maintain continuous operation of all heating related pumps
    • Minimize infiltration
      • Keep doors, windows and other openings sealed
      • Add temporary heat where infiltration can’t be controlled or where you have observed cold temperatures in the past
    • Keep blinds and shades closed on windows at night and those not receiving direct sunlight during the day
    • Perform a system check of all heating critical equipment
    • Verify the operation of all low-limit safeties such as freezestats to protect equipment
      • Ensure the sequence of operation is followed upon a freezestat trip (Example: outside air dampers properly shut and can be reopened)
    • Test the operation of all backup or redundant heating equipment and sequences not normally used
    • Verify the location of isolation valves, verify their operation and understand when to use them
      • During an emergency situation where a pipe, coil or other system has frozen, the reliability, and proper use of isolation valves is critical
      • Isolate the leak to as local an area as possible.
      • Take care not to close the wrong valve (essentially stopping the flow of water)
        • Water at rest is much more likely to freeze.  Therefore, do not risk further freezing of the system by closing the wrong valve, should isolation be required
  • To the extent possible, remove ice and snow from air-source heating equipment such as VRF and air-source heat pumps
    • Also remove snow from the areas immediately surrounding the equipment

For more information or to address specific concerns or questions, please contact us at info@elaraeng.com.

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Elara Projects Win Chapter-Level ASHRAE Excellence-in-Engineering Awards

On December 6, 2022, Elara Engineering was recognized by the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE with two 2022 Excellence-in-Engineering Awards. Cumulatively, Elara has now earned a total of 30 ASHRAE chapter awards, several of which have advanced to earn awards at ASHRAE’s regional and international levels, including a recent International Award for 3833 North Broadway Urban Geothermal – New Construction.

The key to these recognitions is Elara’s dedicated and talented project teams and we congratulate them on their achievement and recognition by their ASHRAE Illinois Chapter peers. We also extend our sincere thanks to the owners, managers, and staff of these award-winning buildings for their vision and commitment to sustainable, energy efficiency projects.

These awards once again provide tangible evidence of Elara’s passion and commitment to the sustainable design of energy efficient building infrastructure systems. More specifically, they showcase the breadth and depth of our team’s experience and expertise to deliver practical solutions and designs, and innovative applications of existing and new technologies.

Chicago Public Schools – Christopher Elementary School

  • New, more energy efficient air source VRF system replaced main heating and cooling systems.
  • Hybrid VRF approach incorporated existing heating systems for supplemental heat to reduce implementation costs.
  • Ventilation systems upgraded to new, more robust setup that utilizes energy recovery wheels with improved distribution.
  • Displacement Ventilation added to spaces to improve IAQ and as a primary cooling source for select high occupancy, large volume spaces.
  • Full project details can be found here.

 

St. Louis County Residence

  • Geothermal field serves entire heating and cooling needs of building as well as DHW preheating.
  • Energy and custom, parametric TRNSYS model to determine field performance for appropriate geothermal field sizing.
  • Use of new technology – gravity wall units – minimizes (along with radiant floor) the need of fan energy for heating and cooling of spaces.
  • System conducive to project requirements with limited ceiling space and multiple temperature zones.
  • System eliminated reliance on natural gas for space heating and prepared site for potential future carbon neutral or net zero operations.
  • Full project details can be found here.
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Elara’s Experts – Today’s Spotlight: Adam Sanders

What Does Adam Do? 

Mr. Sanders is a 19-year industry veteran and a Project Engineer for a wide variety of multi-disciplinary, specialized projects.  Working with a team of engineers, designers, and support staff, he often serves as the Lead Engineer and Primary Contact for Elara’s clients in the commercial office and multi-family markets.

With a strong reputation for successfully completing highly complex projects in occupied buildings, he is passionate and committed to delivering sustainable solutions that improve building operations, enhance occupant comfort, reduce energy costs, and increase asset value.  Over his career at Elara, he has gained significant expertise related to mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection solutions including riser replacements in occupied, high-rise buildings, boiler and chiller replacements, air handling unit replacements, domestic booster pump and hot water heater replacements, de-watering strategies, renovations, and new construction.  He also has extensive experience in the design, troubleshooting, functional testing, commissioning of building systems such as boilers, chillers, AHUs, domestic water systems, waste and vent piping systems, and controls.

Through his years of experience in high rise condominium buildings, Mr. Sanders has become an experienced technical resource for reserve studies and estimating project costs while providing guidance to property managers and boards of directors.

His Areas of Expertise. 

  • Technical Knowledge
  • Industry Experience
  • Sustainable Design
  • Innovation
  • Construction Knowledge
  • Master Planning
  • Cost Estimating
  • Controls & Commissioning
  • Troubleshooting
  • Collaboration
  • Project Management
  • Experience in Multiple Markets

Mr. Sanders is driven by superior client service, collaboration, innovation (thinking outside the box) and an unyielding passion to successfully complete complex, challenging projects in occupied, high-rise buildings that require extensive planning, effective communication, and close collaboration with all stakeholders involved. These attributes have secured for Elara’s clients a long list of successful projects – including four ASHRAE Illinois Chapter First-Place Awards — while also benefitting those that have worked with Adam as he is eager to transfer his knowledge, lessons learned, and expertise to clients and fellow employees.

Key Project Contributions.

  • 33 West Ontario Fan Coil Riser Anchor Upgrades (Lead Engineer)
  • 3900 N. Lake Shore Drive Plumbing System Replacement and Conversion to Multiple Pressure Zones (Lead Engineer)
  • 1660 N. LaSalle Plumbing System Replacement and Mechanical Upgrades (Lead Engineer)
  • LUC Center for Translational Research Education (CTRE) LEED Enhanced Commissioning (Lead Engineer)
  • 2950 North Sheridan LEED Fundamental Commissioning (Lead Engineer)
  • LUC Mundelein Center Historic Landmark Phased (8-Year) Redevelopment (Lead Engineer)
  • 2800 N LSD Domestic Water Riser Replacement (Lead Engineer)
  • 3450 N LSD Domestic Water Riser Replacement and Bathroom Renovation (Lead Engineer)
  • Newport Condominium Plumbing Piping Replacement (Lead Engineer)
  • LUC Cudahy Library MEP Infrastructure Upgrades (Lead Engineer)
  • Completion of over 30 riser studies.

Key Industry Contributions.

Adam is an eager and active participant in industry associations, a frequent author and contributor of published articles in various industry journals, and an often-requested panel participant and presenter at association meetings and conferences.

For example, in addition to being quoted in others’ articles in at least a half-dozen instances, some of Mr. Sander’s authored and co-authored articles include the following:

  • Co-Author, “Electrical Vehicle Charging Station Retrofits for Existing Buildings,” Chicagoland Buildings + Environment, Spring 2022
  • Author, “Common Questions and Answers to High-Rise Condominium Plumbing Riser Replacement Projects,” Chicagoland Buildings + Environment, Spring 2019

Mr. Sanders is a member of the Chicagoland Buildings and Environment Advisory Board and is a regular panel participant at the annual Condo Lifestyles State of the Industry event held in downtown Chicago every winter.

What People Are Saying About Adam.

Adam is in a leadership position on my team and is a key contributor to the success of our company. While he is our most tenured employee, his passion for engineering and problem solving has only grown as he continually challenges himself to expand his expertise, product offering, and impact to our firm. Not only is Adam a reliable and knowledgeable advisor for our clients, he represents a strong technical resource, and sought after mentor for developing engineers and designers within our company. All of this is accompanied by a fun, outgoing personality and team player, who doesn’t hesitate to jump in when we need him. I am thrilled to be able to work closely with Adam and to celebrate his undeniable success.”  

– Matt Swanson, Principal / Practice Leader – Elara Engineering

Life Before Elara.  

Having grown up in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin (outside Milwaukee), Adam attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville (home of the Pioneers and Pioneer Pete) where he also worked as a Co-Op Intern at Pearson Engineering in Madison, Wisconsin.  Tempted by warmer weather and a job offer upon graduation, Adam headed south to Illinois to take a job with Elara Engineering – and hasn’t looked back since!!

Prior to his current role and responsibilities at Elara Engineering, Adam was a Senior Mechanical Engineer and a Mechanical Engineer at Elara.

 

Life Outside Elara. 

Adam, his wife, and his two sons currently reside in Batavia, Illinois where he is an active BBQer and sometimes woodworker, fisherman, and rock/wall climber when time allows. When pressed about his backyard BBQ acumen, he revealed that his smoked brisket is always a party favorite among his many offerings of smoked turkey, pulled pork, beef ribs, smoked wings, and baby back ribs.

Although typically utilizing indoor vertical climbing walls, Adam – with ten years of climbing experience – has scaled several outdoor faces including Cleopatra’s Needle at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin.  Adam’s love of fishing – unabated since his childhood – started when he and his father would head out after dinner every night for their own personal fishing derby – with the loser having to scoop ice cream for the winner upon their return.

With a hectic work and personal life where his sons keep him busy and entertained, Adam has had to limit his time and allegiance to only one professional sports team…from one football team: the Green Bay Packers – to another football team: Liverpool FC.

More about Adam’s professional and technical abilities can be found at here.

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The Future of Decarbonization in Chicago

Please find below a video link introducing a recently published article in Chicagoland Buildings + Environment entitled “The Future of Decarbonization in Chicago” authored by Elara’s Senior Energy Engineer Matt Johnson, PE, CEM, CEA, LEED AP.

If, after reading the article, you have any questions or would like to discuss elements of it, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d be happy to have the conversation.
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Elara is MBE Certified!

Elara Engineering is pleased to announce that – after being in business for over 20 years — the firm has decided to finally become a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) under the State of Illinois’ Business Enterprise Program (BEP) for Minority, Females, and Persons with Disabilities. 

We are proud to now be a part of this important program and to be driven by the opportunity it provides our clients to not only address project/contractual obligations, when applicable, but to do so confidently with a reliable, highly experienced team of professionals committed to achieve sustainable energy efficiencies through constructible designs that minimize the carbon footprint on the environment, save money, enhance occupant comfort, and increase asset value.

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Elara Wins ASHRAE Technology Award for MEP Upgrades

Elara Engineering’s design team has earned a 2022 ASHRAE Region VI Technology Award for energy retrofits that included innovative MEP upgrades at Hanover House in Chicago’s Near Northside Neighborhood. In addition to the recognized achievement, Elara’s team was able to secure $33,924 in incentive funding for obtained energy efficient equipment.

Constructed in 1962, Hanover House (21 Goethe) is a 19-story, 166-unit, 165,000 square-foot building with a heated pool, sundeck, common laundry, heated indoor parking lot, and commercial space that currently houses a restaurant.

Master Plan

Before design work was initiated, Elara’s Master Plan identified and prioritized projects to replace/enhance major MEP systems in phases based on Condominium Association financial constraints and a stated goal to reduce carbon emissions. Prioritization and planning enabled full occupancy of the building throughout construction and utilized creative sequencing to reduce the overall cost of all projects.  Additional efforts to reduce project costs while addressing the need for larger cooling capacity included a 30-day load study that avoided the need and cost to increase the building’s electrical service.

Phase I Projects

First prioritized projects replaced the existing heating boiler plant, dual temperature and hot water pumps, and makeup air unit (MAU) with a new, modular condensing boiler plant, rooftop MAU, and open protocol DDC system as well as new horizontal dual temperature, domestic and cold-water piping.

Phase II Projects

Second prioritized projects installed a new high-efficiency chiller that utilizes multiple compressors and refurbished the building’s existing cooling tower.

Project Innovations

Because inadequate dehumidification and spatial constraints within the building’s penthouse negated a “like-kind” replacement of the building’s undersized MAU, ventilation to corridors is now provided via a new 100% outdoor air, rooftop MAU equipped with MERV 14 filters and a dehumidification strategy that uses hot air bypass.

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

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Opening Celebrated for an Elara MEPFP-Designed Elementary School

To commemorate the opening of the newly constructed Big Timber Elementary School, District 300 recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in August with community leaders, project participants, school board members, and school district personnel in attendance. Big Timber Elementary School addresses population growth in the District’s western portion in Hampshire and Pingree Grove, Illinois. With its 40 classrooms, two playgrounds, gym, media center, multi-purpose room, kitchen, specialty rooms with sensory adaptation, and administrative and mechanical spaces; the new 2-story, 100,625 square foot building will accommodate faculty, support personnel, specialists, and students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Elara Engineering was pleased to partner with Dewberry Architects Inc. (Architect) and Lamp Incorporated (General Contractor) on this exciting project.

Elara’s Contribution
Elara’s MEPFP Design Team provided Schematic Design, Design Development, Permit/Bid/Construction Document, Bidding, and Construction Services to District 300 for the new school building. Specific design elements included mechanical/HVAC systems (ventilation, boiler/chiller plants, space conditioning, ductwork, piping, and controls), electrical (normal/emergency power distribution, interior/exterior lighting, fire alarm system), and plumbing (including fire suppression).

Elara also completed energy modeling and a building optimization study to support the early planning phase and to identify the most effective building design.

“District 300 is excited to recognize and celebrate the opening of Big Timber Elementary School,” said Superintendent Susan Harkin during the celebration Tuesday. “Many individuals contributed to the development of this beautiful building, and we cannot thank them enough for their hard work. I know this school will be a source of pride for us for many years to come.”

Project Highlights and Innovations

  • As a result of its modeling effort and building optimization study, Elara not only delineated the best design for Big Timber Elementary, but the project further developed the school district’s model school MEP systems (previously updated 14 years prior) and included energy efficiency enhancements and airborne infectious contaminant control strategies.
  • Big Timber Elementary School’s gymnasium – designed to ICC500 Storm Shelter Standards — is the District’s first storm shelter.
  • To accommodate likely future population growth in the District, Elara’s Design Team:
    • Ensured that the hot water boiler plant, which includes two 3,000 MMBTU fire tube condensing boilers located in the building’s second floor, was sized to support a future addition which was designed a short time later and constructed in time for the 2022/2023 school year.
    • Ensured that the chiller plant, which includes two 90-ton air cooled chillers located on the roof above the building’s second floor, was also sized to support a future addition.

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

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Record Number of 6 Students Complete Elara’s 2022 Summer Internship Program

As in previous years, Elara’s summer interns were once again embedded within market-focused teams working side-by-side with our engineering experts on a wide variety of multidisciplinary projects.

The 6 interns, as active members of Elara’s technical design teams, were tasked with completing field surveys at various sites, utilizing AutoCAD (2D) and REVIT (3D) drafting/modeling software to support the preparation of engineering drawings, executing basic engineering calculations, and completing an end-of-summer tour of a project currently in construction.

With the goal of introducing the interns to a wide variety of topics relevant to our industry, other elements of Elara’s Summer Internship Program included weekly presentations from our Principals, Team Leaders, Project Engineers, and other firm leaders. The variety of topics included “Plumbing Jeopardy”, an “Intern to Full Time Employee” panel discussion, “The Past, Present, and Future of CAD/BIM”, “Insights from the Principals”, and technical presentations for all of Elara’s MEPFP disciplines and markets.

Elara’s 2022 Summer Internship Program culminated in a joint presentation by the interns to Elara leadership (followed by a wonderful lunch celebration) covering a technical topic each student chose to learn about throughout the summer. Specifically, through both independent research and collaboration with our engineers, the interns developed presentations that exhibited what they learned during their internship, took a deeper dive into their chosen topic, and taught our firm’s leadership something new.

My summer internship experience at Elara was amazing. I had an opportunity to work alongside a dedicated team of engineers that helped me grow not only in my drafting and design skills, but also in my communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. My favorite experience was the onsite visits because they allowed me to see – right before me — what I was drawing on CAD.

~Sheel P., High School Student, Aspiring Mechanical Engineer

I know for a fact that the experience I gained from this summer – learning how the engineering side of buildings work — will greatly benefit me as I continue my schooling in architecture.

~Mason M., University of Colorado Denver, Architecture Major

It was great to intern with Elara this summer. I greatly improved my CAD skills, learned how to perform basic calculations, and got to go on site to see our design work come to life. It was great working with the people at Elara!

~Amelia M., Kansas State University, Architectural Engineering Major, Mathematics and Classical Studies Minors

My favorite aspect of the internship was the site visits I got to go on. It was awesome to see the parts of buildings most people don’t get to see. All around though, it was an amazing experience and I’m glad I got the opportunity to intern for Elara.

~Alex B., Purdue Northwest University, Mechanical Engineering Technology Major

My favorite aspect of working at Elara was the mix of things I got to do: from going on site, to working in AutoCAD, to working on benchmarking.  It was also a great introduction to some topics that I have not yet learned in school and it was very helpful to get real world knowledge.

~Luke P., Calvin University, Engineering Major with a Mechanical Concentration, Mathematics Minor

Elara is pleased to offer internships for aspiring engineers each summer with additional opportunities to engage students throughout the year. Resumes for internship consideration can be submitted to employment@elaraeng.com.

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Elara’s Experts – Today’s Spotlight: Bob St. Mary

What Does Bob Do? 

With a career-long commitment to the successful construction and improvement of commercial buildings including a focus on public facilities, Mr. St. Mary is one of Elara Engineering’s most experienced Project Engineers primarily supporting the firm’s K-12 school and public-bid market. In this role and directly because of the depth and breadth of his accumulated expertise, he has completed a wide variety of Elara’s most complex and demanding school and municipal projects.  Well-known within the industry as a skilled leader, manager, and technical expert, Mr. St. Mary – as Engineer-In-Charge and Primary Contact — leads a variety of engineers and support staff in new construction, renovation, and energy retrofit projects – including multi-million-dollar major capital improvement programs for entire school districts.  Although principally leading municipal and K-12 projects, Mr. St. Mary’s design and construction expertise extends to behavioral healthcare, higher education, recreational, high-rise residential, and commercial buildings.

His Areas of Expertise. 

  • Team/Project Management
  • Technical Knowledge
  • Industry Experience
  • Sustainable Design
  • Innovation
  • Construction Knowledge
  • Master Planning
  • Cost Estimating
  • Controls & Commissioning
  • Troubleshooting
  • Collaboration
  • Experience in Education Markets

Throughout his career, Mr. St. Mary has been driven by excellence, client service, innovation, collaboration, and a passion to build and improve learning environments for current and future school-aged children. These attributes have ensured a long list of successfully completed highly complex design and construction projects and have benefitted all those that have worked with him as part of any project execution team including clients, employees, vendors, suppliers, district officials, and community stakeholders.

Key Project Contributions.

  • Lead Engineer (District Projects)
    • DeKalb, IL School District 428
    • Maine Township High School District 207; Park Ridge/Des Plaines, IL
    • Community Unit School District 300; Algonquin, IL
    • Eastland Community Unit School District 308; Lanark, IL
  • Township High School District 113 Phased Capital Improvements; Deerfield/Highland Park, IL
  • Indian Trails Public Library Addition & Renovation
  • Wintrust Sports Complex at Bedford Park
  • Numerous behavioral healthcare facility renovations and additions throughout the continental United States.

Key Industry Contributions.

Bob is an active participant in industry associations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Illinois Association of School Board Officials (IASBO).

What People Are Saying About Bob.

Bob is incredibly passionate about what he does and his commitment to the project and the customer is unmatched. He is very hands on, practical and thorough, drawing from his extensive experience in a variety of markets during his tenure. He is an invaluable resource and an asset to any team. He’s also a force to be reckoned with on the golf course and always fun to be around.”  

– Caitlin Levitsky, Principal – Elara Engineering

Life Before Elara.  

Bob is a native of upstate New York and stayed in New England to earn an Architectural Design degree and a Building Construction degree in Boston, MA. With his degrees in hand and not passing up an offer from his brother to join him in Chicago, Bob relocated, put down roots, and has no-doubt completed his transition to a true Midwesterner.

Prior to his current tenure at Elara, Mr. St. Mary was Chief Mechanical Engineer, Mechanical Department Manager, and Project Manager at Metro Design Associates in Elgin, Illinois. Early in his career he was a Design Engineer at Brooke & Choporis Consulting Engineers in Lombard, Illinois and a Custom Fan Designer for Champion Blower & Forge in Roselle, Illinois.

Life Outside Elara. 

When not at Elara, Bob – always in motion and always involved in a project – likes to get his hands dirty with home renovation projects, gardening, and meticulous yard maintenance. Rumor has it that his yard is always the envy of his neighbors.

For additional rest and relaxation, you’ll frequently find Bob on the golf course. An avid golfer with a low handicap as proof of his skill, Bob has played rounds at some well-recognized courses that PGA professionals have tackled; including: the Blue Monster at Doral; Harbor Town Golf Links at Hilton Head, SC; Pinehurst #2 and #4; and Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI.

More about Bob’s professional and technical abilities can be found at here.

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Prepare Your Building for Extreme Warm Weather (and Keep Its Occupants Cool!)

In summer, the Chicagoland area is often forecasted to experience extremely hot temperatures with high humidity that will test the limits of the air-conditioning capabilities of building cooling equipment.

In advance of this and other extreme weather events, it is important to make sure buildings are prepared to provide comfortable conditions for their occupants. We recommend taking the following steps to ready your building, as applicable:

  • Override unoccupied and overnight setbacks to occupied
  • Avoid scheduled shutdowns of systems
  • Avoid turning cooling related equipment off
  • Maintain continuous operation of all cooling related pumps
  • Minimize infiltration by keeping doors, windows and other openings sealed and shut
  • Keep blinds and shades closed on windows during the day to avoid direct sunlight
  • Perform a system check of all air-conditioning critical equipment
  • Verify the operation of all backup or redundant air-conditioning equipment not normally operated
  • Ensure make-up water feeds to cooling towers are fully functional and water levels are able to be maintained
  • Ensure condensate drains and traps have been checked and are functional
  • Proactively change filters in fan coils and air-handling equipment
  • Enhance dehumidification by lowering cooling coil discharge air temperatures and slowing down fan speed, where necessary. Ensure equipment is operating within manufacturer guidelines. Adjustments to DX equipment should be made by a service contractor authorized by the manufacturer
  • Set all thermostats to typical design indoor conditions of 74°F-75°F
  • Sub-cool event spaces and venues prior to scheduled events
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Elara Undertakes Design for Tribune Tower Adaptive Reuse Project

A Renewed Chicago Landmark

Working alongside architect Solomon Cordwell Bunez (SCB), Elara Engineering recently completed the MEPFP design for an adaptive reuse project that converted the iconic 34-story Tribune Tower and surrounding buildings into 162 luxury condominium units with amenity and retail spaces, while respecting the building’s Chicago landmark status.

Originally constructed in 1925, Tribune Tower is one of Chicago’s most recognized historic landmarks. In 1935, the Radio Building was added to the site, followed by the Television Building in 1950. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune newspaper vacated the building and planning began to transform the site.

In addition to conversion of the Tribune Tower to condominiums, four additional floors were added to the northeast side above the TV Building, providing a modern, glass complement to the existing limestone facades and creating a new elevated courtyard. A full luxury amenity program encompasses several unique spaces, including a series of terraces at the tower’s crown that gives residents a one-of-a-kind experience beneath iconic, gothic buttresses.

Creative Solutions

As the project’s MEPFP engineer responsible for the design of new major MEPFP equipment and infrastructure throughout the existing tower and addition; the depth of experience, creativity, and problem-solving ability of Elara’s team, led by Multifamily Practice Leader, Matt Swanson, enabled the design to exceed the City of Chicago’s sustainability ordinance. Project highlights include:

  • Elara identified the opportunity and confirmed the ability to reuse the building’s existing emergency generator, ComEd vaults, diesel fire pumps, and existing chilled water plant that utilizes a river water condensing system.
  • Indoor air quality is maximized through the use of dedicated outdoor air systems that employ MERV-13 filtration, provide ventilation directly to each condominium unit to minimize the mixing of air, and use self-regulating exhaust systems.
  • Condominium units have smart thermostats with remote sensors and are served by four-pipe fan coil units installed in enclosures with ducted return and variable ventilation systems (including makeup air and toilet, kitchen, and dryer exhaust system).
  • New direct digital controls (DDC) were designed to serve all major mechanical systems.
  • Interior common area lighting is controlled by a state-of- the art, multi-zone dimming system with code required occupancy and daylight sensors. Exterior and facade lighting is controlled by a building lighting multi-zone dimming system.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure was designed to support the entire parking garage.
  • The main domestic hot water plant consists of high-efficiency water heaters located in the mechanical penthouse of the north tower while the hot water return heat exchangers are located in the 2nd floor mechanical room. A dedicated sub-water heater plant is located at the base of the highest zone for zone isolation.

Additional information about the Tribune Tower Adaptive Reuse project can be found here.

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Pressure Increasing to Decarbonize Buildings

Sustainability and carbon reduction are quickly shifting from voluntary endeavors to mandatory ones. For building owners and managers, it will be one of the greatest driving forces influencing building compliance over the next several decades as policy makers and regulators continue to increase their focus (and demand) to achieve sustainability targets and mitigate climate change. Soon, sustainability improvements will no longer be optional, and carbon neutral targets will have to be met. In many cities and counties around the country, including New York, Washington DC, Denver, and Boston, this is already a reality. In 2021, Chicago convened a Building Decarbonization Working Group and has been following the path forged by New York for many years. It is highly likely that within the next couple years Chicago will have a similar Decarbonization ordinance and, therefore, it is critical that owners are proactive to avoid potential fees and/or reduced property value.

Construction of new sustainable buildings is relatively common and straightforward. However, bringing existing buildings up to modern standards is significantly more difficult which of course, also means at a much higher expense. In short, moving existing buildings towards sustainability is a balancing act among time, capital, and technology and to successfully balance these constraints, it is critical to prioritize the retrofit and upgrade process. On the other hand, buildings and owners will benefit greatly from reduced energy costs and many buildings will be able to meet carbon reduction compliance metrics by implementing measures with attractive paybacks.

To this end, every building owner should be thinking about or have already completed an energy audit to determine the most cost-effective path to compliance and to benchmark current performance. Building portfolio managers should consider benchmarking their properties to focus efforts on the poorest performers first. Building owners should turn to an experienced MEP consulting firm to provide this highly beneficial energy audit and prioritization plan.

Because audits, upgrades, and renovations will likely not remain optional forever, incentives for early adopters will likely eventually give way to penalties for late adopters. Proactive owners will enjoy numerous benefits, including time for decision making and increased property values. As with any significant market shift, the initial challenges presented also represent a substantial opportunity.

For more information, please read through the following article: The Real Estate Industry’s Role in Decarbonizing Our Buildings