NFPA Driven Sprinkler System Antifreeze Replacement Required by September 30, 2022

The Problem

Fire protection systems typically use an antifreeze that is manufactured with propylene glycol or glycerin, both of which are flammable. In some cases, previously permissible concentrations of antifreeze in fire protection systems have been proven to have exacerbated fires and even resulted in explosions when antifreeze solution has come into contact with the flames that initially triggered the system.

To address the above concern, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) established requirements in 2014 regarding the chemical makeup of acceptable antifreeze solutions, the allowable concentration of antifreeze in systems, and the size of systems that uses antifreeze. Included in the 2014 changes to NFPA 13 and NFPA 25 were maintenance requirements for existing antifreeze sprinkler systems. These maintenance requirements include:

  • Annual testing of the system
  • Installation of an additional control or test valve, if needed
  • Installation of signage explaining the locations of antifreeze in the facility, the antifreeze supplier, and the concentration and volume of antifreeze in the system.

What’s Now Required

All existing antifreeze sprinkler systems must be brought up to current NFPA requirements no later than September 30, 2022. If a building utilizes an existing antifreeze sprinkler system that was installed before 2012, NFPA 13 and NFPA 25 require that the system either be modified to utilize an acceptable antifreeze solution (described below) or converted to a fire protection system that does not require antifreeze.

The Solution: Modification Process and Antifreeze Replacement Options

To replace an existing antifreeze solution, the following process should be followed:

  • Flush the System. The fire suppression system must be flushed to eliminate any traces of the antifreeze solution.
  • Replace the Antifreeze. Once the sprinkler system has been properly flushed, the antifreeze solution must be replaced with a UL listed, noncombustible, solution.

Currently, only two antifreeze replacement solutions are available on the market that meet NFPA requirements for new fire protection systems or retrofit of existing fire protection systems:

  • Viking FreezemasterTM
  • Tyco LFP Antifreeze+TM

Both of the above products have passed stringent corrosion tests and are identified as safe for use in cold-weather antifreeze sprinkler systems. Retrofit of an existing sprinkler system with the above identified products requires modifications to the existing sprinkler systems to ensure proper functionality.

How We Can Help

For buildings containing antifreeze sprinkler systems, Elara’s Fire Protection Design Team is ready to assist building owners and managers in navigating the decision-making process and implementing system modifications. Specifically, Elara’s experts can:

  • Confirm where antifreeze systems are permitted.
  • Evaluate existing antifreeze systems to identify options for modification to meet NFPA requirements.
  • Specify a retrofit for existing fire protection systems to use a listed antifreeze product.
  • Design a new compressed air or nitrogen dry system that will not require antifreeze to protect areas subject to freezing temperatures.

For more information about the required sprinkler system modifications and the upcoming September 30, 2022 deadline, please contact us at



Long Lead Times for MEP Equipment Require Project Planning Up to One Year in Advance

The New Normal – A Longer Planning Timeline

Simply put, if a building representative believes they need a new chiller, boiler, or other mechanical, electrical, or plumbing (MEP) equipment by the Summer of 2023, they likely should be planning to have their project in design during the Summer of 2022.

Elara Engineering’s design teams are tracking MEP equipment delivery lead times as long as 16-20 weeks, with certain situations extending beyond this duration.  This includes major equipment such as air handling units, chillers, and boilers as well as major components (larger sized valves, pipe fittings, etc.) which are impacting both retrofit and repair projects.  Due to the long equipment lead times, clients may not realize that advanced planning is necessary to ensure their project is completed on time.


What is Elara doing to assist Clients during the preliminary phases of the Project Development?

  • As soon our MEP design teams become aware of a client’s interest in undertaking a project – before we’re even retained or formally asked for a proposal; we make inquiries with major equipment manufacturers regarding general lead times and integrate this information into the projects and timelines we propose.
  • We then advise our potential client about when approval to proceed is needed – particularly if the project is driven by a seasonal need (e.g., winter heating, summer cooling, etc.).
  • As part of our engineering proposals, we also identify and incorporate tactics to preorder long lead equipment, if required, to ensure that the project schedule can be achieved.  Proposals may even include a preliminary schedule so that stakeholders know what to expect and when key decisions should be made.


What is Elara doing to assist Clients during the Engineering Design Phase?

  • As we evaluate multiple equipment manufacturers on key attributes like energy efficiency, physical size, etc., we also consider equipment delivery lead times as part of the overall selection process.
  • We identify and evaluate phasing opportunities to minimize the risk that the building is without the service of the equipment being replaced. For example, if multiple boilers/chillers are planned for replacement, we evaluate a sequenced construction approach so that only one unit is replaced at a time to ensure that existing equipment can continue to support the building until all new boilers/chillers are operational.  We also evaluate if the new equipment can be installed at a different location (e.g., adjacent to existing equipment) so that downtime is further reduced.


Additional Thoughts

  • Even with the efforts described above to address current market conditions, delivery times can be further delayed. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead as much as possible and to be conservative when establishing project schedules as actual equipment delivery dates are ultimately beyond full control of the client, contractor, and design engineer.
  • When purchased equipment is a major component of a new or retrofitted MEP system – like an air-handling unit , boiler, chiller, or switchboard – and if delivery of that equipment is delayed, the building’s owner, manager, and occupants can be negatively impacted due to a lack of service when needed and when required to meet local ordinances. As a result, we recommend that clients contact us as soon as they are considering an MEP project so that, together, we can begin evaluating equipment lead times and planning the project schedule.


For more information about equipment lead times and planning for your future project, we urge you to contact us at


Elara Completes Wintrust Sports Complex At Bedford Park Project

Wintrust Sports Complex at Bedford Park – a multi-purpose sports tourism and local programming facility – recently opened its doors after completing construction in September 2021. The 2-story, 111,000 square foot venue houses 8 high school hardwood basketball courts (or 16 NCAA volleyball courts), one championship court, a Redemption Arcade, Laser Tag/Laser Frenzy, an e-Sports Café, flexible meeting and event space, a café with full kitchen service and lounge, and offices.


Working in collaboration with ALPA Construction, Elara Engineering’s services for the project included Schematic Design, Design Development, Permit/Bid/Construction Documents, Bidding, Construction Services, and Functional Testing.


Creative Solutions

A key challenge for this project was the need to address the many, highly diverse uses of the building which included individual offices, café/lounge space, recreational areas (e-Café, laser tag), flexible event spaces, and a large, high-ceiling sports facility (gymnasium). As the project’s MEPFP engineer responsible for the design of MEPFP equipment and infrastructure for the newly constructed facility, Elara’s design team – beyond addressing the overall MEPFP design challenges posed by the diverse uses of the facility – successfully incorporated the following sustainable project features:

  • Outdoor air CO2 control, saving energy by tracking CO2 levels within the occupied spaces.
  • Energy recovery enthalpy wheels to recapture energy from the discharge air stream to pre heat or pre cool the mixed air.
  • Variable speed compressors for rooftop units operate efficiently based on space load.
  • Fabric ductwork distribution system within the gymnasium.
  • State-of-the-Art web-based, open protocol building automation system.
  • Lighting control that includes occupancy sensors and automatic daylight harvesting.

Additional design elements include:

  • Gas-fired packaged rooftop units that are either single-zone VAV or VAV for individual room control to effectively serve all areas and functional uses of the building.
  • VAV systems are a combination of perimeter fan powered and interior single-zone VAV boxes with electric reheat.
  • Bathrooms are exhausted with variable flow toilet exhaust, including automatic Control dampers.
  • Natural gas generator for life safety, elevator, and fire pump.
  • Event power distribution system.

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


K-12 Schools Pursue Projects to Improve IAQ/Ventilation

As K-12 school leaders, officials, and stakeholders have kicked off what they hope will be a more typical academic year for 2021-2022, they also recognize that COVID-19 cases are still present in their communities and that this virus, or any other airborne pathogen, can negatively impact student and instructor educational spaces.  As a result, and because of the potential to access new Federal and/or State funding opportunities (e.g., CARES Act), Elara Engineering’s K-12 MEPFP Design Team has seen increased interest in strategies and projects to improve ventilation systems and Indoor Air Quality within K-12 educational facilities.

CARES Act Funding Resources

To address questions about funding opportunities through the CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued the following FAQ document regarding Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Programs and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.

Included in this FAQ document are the following two questions:

B-6. May ESSER and GEER funds be used for construction?  The short answer is Yes; but qualifiers, restrictions, requirements, and timing constraints that may be applicable at the State level are also described in the FAQ document.

B-7. May ESSER and GEER funds be used for renovation, including for such projects as making improvements to a school facility to improve indoor air quality (such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems), and projects that would promote social distancing and safe in-person instruction? Again, the short answer is Yes; but qualifiers, restrictions, requirements, and timing constraints that may be applicable at the State level are also described in the FAQ document.

Elara’s Expertise

While some School Districts are electing to utilize their CARES Act funds for short-duration, smaller scale IAQ and ventilation system upgrade projects, others are electing to allocate their funds towards additions and major renovations to reduce the density of students in classrooms. Elara Engineering has seen a large increase in the number of projects being considered and implemented.  Specifically, Elara’s K-12 MEPFP Design Team has collaborated with several School Districts in preliminary planning for IAQ/ventilation projects that are now being designed for bid this Fall/Winter for Summer 2022 construction.

More information about our previous and ongoing K-12 projects can be found on our website here.


Elara Successfully Completes 2021 Summer Internship Program

While still adhering to ongoing social distancing, handwashing, and mask-wearing practices, a slowdown in the number of Chicago-area COVID-19 cases during the summer months gave Elara Engineering the opportunity to continue its invaluable 2021 Summer Internship Program and allow for a hybrid format (in-person and virtual).

This year’s three talented summer interns were assigned to market-focused teams and were quickly working alongside Elara engineers on a variety of multidisciplinary projects. As active members of Elara technical design teams, the interns performed field surveys to document existing conditions, utilized AutoCAD (2D) and REVIT (3D) drafting/modeling software to support the preparation of engineering drawings, executed basic engineering calculations, and toured one of Elara Engineering’s active construction sites. Additionally, Elara’s Intern Training Program included weekly presentations conducted by Elara Principals, Team Leaders, and Project Engineers covering a wide variety of topics, including MEPFP technical presentations, HVAC 101, Plumbing Jeopardy, History of Elara, numerous project presentations, and a panel discussion conducted by previous Elara Interns who are now full-time Elara employees.

My experience with the Elara internship program was one of immense learning. Not only was I able to expand my skills in drafting software, but I was also able to create a deeper understanding of my work through several site visits. As the summer went on, I felt a lot of satisfaction in using floor plans that I had drawn to survey job sites – knowing a lot more at that point than I had when the internship began. Every engineer I worked with this summer provided a unique look into the HVAC industry, which helped me to envision future career possibilities.
~Matt L., Loyola University Chicago, Environment Science Major, Political Science Minor

Elara’s summer internship program allowed me to meet people who cared about helping me learn the industry and who made me feel right at home from the very first day. My favorite part of the internship was the site visits, where I was able to see how my work on CAD would impact the overall project. The internship program was an enjoyable and enriching addition to my school studies.
~David S., University of Notre Dame, Mechanical Engineering Major, Engineering  Corporate Practice Minor

I learned so much at Elara this summer and worked with many amazing engineers. Maine East High School was the main project I worked on and my favorite. I was able to go on site and see the things we were working on, as well as what had already been done during the previous summers. It was interesting being able to work on this project alongside some of the smaller projects. My Revit and AutoCAD skills and efficiency improved throughout the summer, working on many different projects in each. Overall I learned a lot of new things and enjoyed my experience at Elara this summer.
~Stephen M., Yale University, Mechanical Engineering Major

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


Elara Projects Win 2020 Region VI ASHRAE Excellence-in-Engineering 1st Place Awards

Advancing beyond local chapter recognition, the following two Elara projects have been selected to receive a Region VI ASHRAE 1st Place award:

  • Hilton Washington Hotel & Conference Center High Pressure Boiler Conversion/Upgrade (Washington, DC)
  • 3833 North Broadway Urban Geothermal – New Construction (Chicago, IL)

These projects represent Elara Engineering’s fifth and sixth ASHRAE recognitions in Region VI which spans across portions of six US states (IL, WI, IA, MN, MO, ND).

As both projects continue to progress for potential International/Society level recognitions, we once again congratulate our dedicated and talented experts on their achievements.  We particularly recognize Don McLauchlan, Jay Parikh, and Chad Von Holten for their contributions to the Hilton Washington Hotel & Conference Center project and Don McLauchlan, Dustin Langille, Bhupendra Tailor, Nick Capretta, Mark Rockwood, and Adam Sanders for their contributions to the 3833 North Broadway project.

We again thank the owners, managers, and staff of these now Regional winners for their commitment to sustainable, energy efficiency projects and for their trust and confidence in Elara Engineering to successfully complete their projects.

Hilton Washington, DC Hotel High Pressure Boiler Plant Conversion/Upgrade

  • $56,000 in utility incentives
  • Energy opportunities identified by Elara Energy Audit and Engineering Analysis
  • Boiler conversion from medium to low pressure, burner upgrades, and DA tank modifications in lieu of replacement due to space constraints
  • Required collaboration with local authorities to gain required project approvals
  • Significant energy savings and reduced operating costs due to elimination of stationary engineers required for high-pressure steam plants
  • Full project details can be found here.



3833 North Broadway Urban Geothermal New Construction

  • New construction 8-story mixed-use building with 134 residential units, an indoor heated parking, retail spaces, and shared amenity areas
  • Geothermal heating and cooling, solar PV, exhaust air heat recovery, shower drain heat recovery, sidewalk snowmelt and demand control strategies
  • Actual EUI: 21 kbtu/ft²
  • Full project details can be found here.






Elara Engineering Opens New Office in Chicago’s River North Neighborhood!

To accommodate the firm’s growing staff and to ensure that our teams are readily accessible to our many downtown clients, Elara Engineering has opened a new, satellite office in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

213 West Institute Place
Suite 702
Chicago, IL  60610
Near Chicago Avenue and Wells Street

The open concept loft space will support up to 14 employees, has two conference rooms, and a collaboration space.  In addition to providing a workspace for more Elara team members, the new office space accommodates many of those employees that live in Chicago and will reduce commute time as many can now use public transportation to further lower Elara’s carbon footprint.  The new office will also provide flexibility for our employees that typically work out of our Hillside office as they can now use the River North location to meet downtown clients and/or as a short-term base for ongoing downtown projects.

In finding and building-out a new office space, it was critical that we once again created a workspace that gives our talented and dedicated professionals the freedom and flexibility to work individually or in groups to analyze, problem solve, and innovate complex engineering problems.  We are confident that we have achieved this objective as we continue to be guided by our principles of Big Picture Thinking, Practical Approach, and Sustainable Designs.

Needless to say, we are excited to have a new downtown Chicago location and we invite you stop in for a cup of coffee.


Elara Engineering Celebrates 20 Years of Collective Passion Delivering Sustainable, Energy Efficient MEPFP Designs

Today, on June 1st, 2021, Elara Engineering attained the milestone of being in business for 20 years.  Throughout the last two decades, Elara has continuously evolved and grown to meet the needs of the industry and the many clients that it proudly serves. From its humble beginning derived from the common passion of the firm’s founders to its current leadership team and dedicated and talented staff, Elara has not wavered from its mission to achieve sustainable energy efficiencies through constructible designs that minimize the carbon footprint of the environment, save money, and increase asset value.   This passion will – without question – continue to carry Elara Engineering forward for the next 20 years.

As with any milestone, it presents an opportunity to reminisce and reflect on how far one has come, what has changed, and what it all means for the future.  In this context, Elara’s founders and partners offer the following thoughts.

Don McLauchlan – Founder, Principal

20 years ago, with our collective passion for making buildings more energy efficient and for creating value for clients; Steve Maze, Doug Smith, and I formed Elara Engineering. With our previous experience of design build contracting, we saw a need for a pragmatic engineering firm that thought outside the 9 dots to find cost effective and innovative solutions to save energy and improve comfort and indoor air quality in the indoor environment. Our firm quickly grew with the early addition of Caitlin Levitsky, Iole Cappiello, David Lavan, and Adam Sanders; followed by Jay Parikh, Brian Malone, and Matt Swanson. We have now grown to almost 50 employees serving a wide spectrum of clients including major Universities, Health Care, K-12, Hospitality, Pharmaceutical, and High-Rise Residential markets in multiple states. We also grew our services to include full Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection design for both new and existing buildings. Through all these changes, and as we brought in new engineers that began their careers at Elara, we have maintained the hands-on culture of our beginning. We want to thank our clients for their confidence and support over these last 20 years.


Steve Maze – Founder, Principal

We knew we could make a difference. Don McLauchlan, Doug Smith, and I each with a unique skill set, but with one singular goal; provide a quality consulting experience. “Quality”… a focus we encountered in the 1990s while we owned a contracting company (Arrowhead Environmental Control) included taking full responsibility for the design, construction, and performance of our projects. That identical philosophy was the foundation for the 2001 formation of Elara. 20 years later Don and I along with partners Jay Parikh, Caitlin Levitsky, Brian Malone, Matt Swanson, Dustin Langille, and Bhupendra Tailor remain committed to that foundation. We teach it in different ways each day to our employees. 20 years from our beginning and again each partner with a unique skill, set but with one singular goal; provide a quality consulting experience. I know we are poised for another successful 20+ years.


Jay Parikh – Partner, Principal

After ten exciting years at Abbott Labs, I joined Elara as a Partner in July 2006 to fulfill a long-awaited dream of ownership. Elara started out as a small, close-knit family of 10 and has now expanded to nearly 50 employees because of its culture and platform of opportunities. The past 15 years have been an incalculable journey that has enhanced my professional development as a successful business partner and contributed to the growth of Elara. We have secured numerous ASHRAE awards, submitted articles for various publications, and conducted speaking engagements. We have helped clients secure energy rebates totaling over $6.5M over the last 10 years and continually work to reduce buildings’ environmental carbon footprint through innovative, cutting-edge designs.

Our culture, commitment, and dedication make the pillars of our foundation stronger, allowing us to groom and offer partnership to our young aspiring employees for the growth of this company. We may have started out in a small satellite rental office, but now Elara’s growth has allowed us to cater to clients throughout the country. We work to pave the path for our successors in hopes to lead Elara to an elite position in the engineering world.


Caitlin Levitsky – Partner, Associate Principal

Brian Malone – Partner, Associate Principal

Matt Swanson – Partner, Associate Principal

Dustin Langille – Partner, Associate Principal

Bhupendra Tailor – Partner, Associate Principal

For all of us, we have individually and collectively strived to ensure our firm’s passion for saving energy, advocating for our clients, creating cutting edge designs, and cultivating a fun learning environment for all our employees.  As stewards for what has been achieved over last 20 years, we hope to see Elara continue to build and expand on these foundations as we grow in the future, adopt and advance new technologies, and implement new ways to empower our employees at all levels. Elara is continuously evolving and adapting to new challenges and we are excited to see how we can continue to contribute to our industry and our local and global communities through our work.

The Principals and Associate Principals of Elara Engineering wish to express our gratitude and appreciation to the many clients, vendors, suppliers, and former employees that have been part of our amazing and successful 20 years.  We are excited, energized, and ever passionate about what we do, and we eagerly look forward to our next 20 years.


Elara’s Cem Diniz to Speak at Webinar/Panel Discussion: Working Smarter – Improving Building Performance

With fuel costs and environmental concerns both on the rise, condominium boards and managers are looking for ways to cut energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint. Elara Engineering invites you to join a webinar/panel discussion for ways to assess and improve your community’s energy efficiency and its bottom line. Topics to include:

  • Assessing overall energy use
  • Lowering costs by reducing emissions and waste
  • How to qualify for attractive incentive programs at the local, state, and federal level
  • The market value of upgrading your building’s energy profile.

Registration for the 45-minute webinar/panel discussion to be held this Thursday, May 27th from 2:45p to 3:30pm CST can be found at:


Elara’s RCx Efforts Improve Comfort, Save Energy, and Avoid Costly Capital Projects at Public Library

Elara Engineering recently completed an energy evaluation of a retro-commissioning project at 95th Street Naperville Public Library aimed at improving mechanical system functionality. The 73,000 square foot Public Library was experiencing consistent, large scale comfort issues resulting from a mechanical system that was operating incorrectly. At the time of Elara’s initial involvement, the Library was considering replacement of major equipment and the building controls system in an effort to correct comfort issues. Through retro-commissioning efforts and focused repairs Elara was able to assist the Library in responsibly restoring the existing mechanical system to operate as it was originally designed.

Although the mechanical system was designed to operate at unusually low chilled water temperatures, the chiller plant was operating at an elevated temperature of 42 degrees causing terminal equipment to operate at full speed without improving space comfort. As part of Elara’s retro-commissioning efforts, the mechanical piping system was tested for appropriate quantities of glycol and adjusted. Additionally, faulty controls were identified and repaired. With the appropriate chilled water temperature restored, Elara turned its retro-commissioning focus on restoring air handling units and fan powered boxes to the original intended design operation and integrated additional energy savings measures.

Since retro-commissioning efforts were concluded, Naperville Public Library has recorded a normalized electrical energy savings of 11% and natural gas energy savings of 29% reflected in more than $20,000 in avoided utility costs annually. Additional substantial costs were avoided through reuse of the existing equipment and controls and extending their useful life. Reports of improved comfort throughout the library have reportedly been noted by guests, improving the occupant library experience.

More information about this project can be found here .


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, Kelsey Dale 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 x147 or


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. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 1, 2021.


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. The deadline to update and verify your building’s data is June 30, 2021.


Elara’s Experts – Today’s Spotlight: Cem Diniz

What Does Cem Do? 

Mr. Diniz serves two key roles within Elara Engineering.  As Energy Team Manager, Cem leads a team of three to five engineers responsible for the execution of conceptual designs, energy audits, energy modeling, and incentive program management of Elara projects.  As Commissioning Team Manager, Cem directs the completion of commissioning projects for a wide variety of building types and infrastructure systems to facilitate improved environmental and economical outcomes. Cem is also a member of Elara’s Business Development Team serving as the sales lead for Energy and Commissioning Projects.


His Areas of Expertise. 

  • Project Management
  • Technical Knowledge
  • Industry Experience
  • Construction Knowledge
  • Master Planning
  • Cost Estimating
  • Controls & Commissioning
  • Troubleshooting
  • Collaboration
  • Experience in Diverse Markets


Throughout his career, Mr. Diniz has been driven by his unyielding passion to ensure that opportunities for efficient, sustainable designs are identified early in the design process; that opportunities for cost reimbursement are successfully pursued; and that installed designs operate as expected to achieve the planned energy and cost savings while enhancing the environment.


Key Project Contributions.

  • Q Center Campus COVID-19 Air Quality Assessment
  • Fifteen Fifty on The Park New Construction Project
  • Loyola University Quinlan Life Sciences Heat Recovery Project
  • Loyola University Health Sciences Campus Heating Plant Decentralization Project
  • Riverbend Electric to Gas Heating Conversion Project
  • Confidential Pharmaceutical Cogeneration Plant Assessment, and Thermal Energy Storage System Conceptual Design (Puerto Rico)
  • Confidential Chicago Historic Commercial Property Adaptive Reuse to Multi-Family


Key Industry Contributions.

Cem is an active participant in industry associations such as ASHRAE and the U.S. Green Building Council.  He is a sought-after speaker and presenter for associations and client events, having recently delivered the following presentation at a Joint Education event, Improving Building Performance Through Energy Efficient Capital Improvement Projects.


What People Are Saying About Cem.

“From the day he joined us, Cem has expressed a high level of passion for Elara’s core values  and has consistently promoted those values through his own advancement and dedication to the development of others.  It is through this passion that Cem leads our Energy and Commissioning Teams; maximizing energy opportunities for our customers and delivering projects that  consistently  attain project goals and adhere to Elara’s core values. Cem is a leader within our firm and his positive impact reaches beyond Elara to our clients and the local community.” – Matt Swanson, Associate Principal


Life Before Elara. 

Hailing from Ankara, Turkey, Cem is well travelled and highly educated.  After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Bil kent University in Ankara, Turkey, Cem headed to the United States where he earned his Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management with a concentration in Energy Management and Sustainability from Oklahoma State University. Rounding out his academic career, he recently earned his MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Prior to Elara, Mr. Diniz was an Energy Engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) in Stillwater, OK.


Life Outside Elara.

Cem`s passion for energy efficiency and sustainability is derived from his family who operates a renewable energy investment company in Turkey. In his spare time, Cem enjoys traveling and participating in winter sports, like snowboarding.

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


Elara Wins 5 ASHRAE Excellence-in-Engineering Awards

On January 4, 2021, Elara Engineering was recognized by the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE with five 2020 Excellence-in-Engineering Awards.  Cumulatively, Elara has earned a total number of 29 ASHRAE awards, several of which also represent projects that have secured awards at ASHRAE’s regional and international levels.

Taken together, the five awards exemplify Elara’s passion and ongoing commitment to the sustainable design of energy efficient building infrastructure systems.  The five awards also showcase the breadth and depth of our team’s experience and expertise to deliver practical solutions and designs for a wide variety of project types (new construction, retrofits), building types (high-rise residential, hospitality, higher education), and innovative applications of existing and new technologies.

We congratulate our dedicated and talented project teams on their achievement and recognition by their peers in the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE. We also extend our thanks to the owners, managers, and staff of these award-winning buildings for their vision and commitment to sustainable, energy efficiency projects.

The Elm at Clark (1122 N. Clark) Makeup Air Unit Replacement

  • $82,539 in utility incentives
  • New chiller plant, condensing boiler plant and MAU for operational flexibility, comfort, performance, reliability, and efficiency
  • New BAS system and dual temperature changeover
  • Project implementation prioritization plan reduced overall project cost
  • Full project details can be found here.




3383 North Broadway Urban Geothermal New Construction

  • New construction 8-story mixed-use building with 134 residential units, an indoor heated parking, retail spaces, and shared amenity areas
  • Geothermal heating and cooling, solar PV, exhaust air heat recovery, shower drain heat recovery, sidewalk snowmelt and demand control strategies
  • Actual EUI: 21 kbtu/ft²
  • Full project details can be found here.



Hilton Washington, DC Hotel High Pressure Boiler Plant Conversion/Upgrade

  • $56,000 in utility incentives
  • Energy opportunities identified by Elara Energy Audit and Engineering Analysis
  • Boiler conversion from medium to low pressure, burner upgrades, and DA tank modifications in lieu of replacement due to space constraints
  • Required collaboration with local authorities to gain required project approvals
  • Significant energy savings and reduced operating costs due to elimination of stationary engineers required for high-pressure steam plants
  • Full project details can be found here.


Loyola University Chicago Francis Hall MEPFP New Construction

  • New Construction 8-Story, 133,400 sq. ft. residence hall
  • LEED Silver
  • Heat recovery VRF units and DOAS system with CO2 controls, energy recovery exhaust air, high-efficiency boilers, and variable speed VRF compressors
  • Natural ventilation design includes a motorized façade that opens to outdoors
  • Ultra-low flow toilets, low-flow showers, and separate irrigation/non-potable water loop
  • LED lighting/automatic light controls, automatic plug load control, and continuous power monitoring
  • Full project details can be found here.


The Legacy at Millennium Park Electric to Gas Makeup Air Heating Conversion

  • 73-story, existing mixed-use building
  • Elara ventilation study identified opportunity to convert makeup air system from electric to natural gas heating
  • New hot water heating and re-heat coils sized to maximize efficiency, with negligible fan energy penalty and minimum boiler efficiencies of 94%
  • Parallel ECM pumps reduced pump energy usage
  • Phased implementation to minimize interruption
  • $330,000 in annual energy cost savings
  • Full project details can be found here.


Additional Recognitions

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Academic and Residential Complex New Construction

  • Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Award for Best On-Campus Student Housing Community from the National Association of Home Builders
  • 2020 Architizer A+ Awards: Popular Choice Award for Higher Education and Research Facilities from Architizer
  • Full project details can be found here.

Fields Lofts Renovation and Adaptive Use (Chicago, IL)

  • 2020 Metamorphosis Award, First Place Winner in the Multi-Family Residential Category by Retrofit Magazine, a national journal covering renovations and adaptive use projects
  • The link to the official announcement and article can be found here.

29 North Wacker (Sun Life Assurance Building; Chicago, IL)

  • Featured in Building Energy Exchange Report High-Rise/Low Carbon – Office Deep Retrofit Profiles
  • The link to a PDF of the report can be found here.

Elara Designs Infrastructure to support Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Existing Buildings

As the number of electric cars increases, owners and managers of existing residential and commercial buildings continue to rely on Elara Engineering to provide electrical designs to support the addition of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to accommodate the needs of their occupants and visitors.

Unlike new construction where EV charging stations can be incorporated into a building’s original design, adding charging stations to an existing building presents unique considerations and challenges.  Because of this, Elara recommends an initial planning phase to assist stakeholders in identifying a cost-effective, practical, and potentially phased approach to add EV charging stations to their existing buildings.

Electricity Cost Allocation
An early determination for any EV charging station project is the identification of who will pay for the provided electricity.  For condominiums, charging stations would likely be installed by individual owners with the building providing the needed infrastructure and each owner paying for their electricity through either individual metering or predetermined dues/reimbursements.

Determining if Sufficient Power is Available
There are typically two main sources of power for new EV charging stations in multi-family or multi-tenant commercial buildings. The first source  is from a common area electrical service that provides power for common area lighting, plug loads, and HVAC. This service usually has a single meter and existing utility bills will indicate current peak power usage over the course of the year. From this we can determine how much additional power is available for future charging stations.

If there is minimal or insufficient common area power available for the desired number of charging stations, we then look at the  second source of power, residential/tenant electrical service(s).  Residential/Tenant electrical service typically employs numerous individual meters which are paid for by the individual unit owners/tenants. Because of this, determining available capacity requires a 30 day load study which entails connecting a temporary meter or meters to the residential/tenant service(s). Working with an electrical contractor Elara can help identify the number and appropriate locations for these temporary meters and will evaluate the data to determine how much power is available. This phased and transparent approach provides the most value for buildings and minimizes costs.

Garage Ownership
Buildings may own their garage or have another owner managing the garage’s functions.  Some may even be partially public garages.  Ownership and the allocation of the cost to design, install, and manage new EV charging stations needs to be determined prior to the project moving forward.

Adding Charging Stations Singly versus A Phased Approach
Adding EV charging stations one at a time may eventually exceed the capacity of the building’s electrical infrastructure; thereby eliminating available power for those that later desire charging stations.  It is recommended that a phased approach be developed to capitalize on cost efficiencies and to allow building owners the opportunity to budget and move at a planned pace.

Equipment Selection
There are many types of EV charging stations offered at various voltages and charging rates that have different direct impacts on a building’s infrastructure.  Therefore, Elara typically develops equipment specifications acceptable to owners that can be used on an ongoing, planned basis.

With numerous studies, designs, and installations completed within the City of Chicago, Elara’s dedicated team has the proven experience to help building owners/managers navigate the path to add electrical vehicle charging stations.  For more information or assistance, please contact


Prepare your Building for Extreme Cold Weather

As many of you are aware the Chicagoland area is forecasted to experience severe cold temperatures over the next 7 days with lows occurring at or below zero.  The forecast projects temperatures that may 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:

  • 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 toilet and kitchen exhaust systems
    • Override unoccupied and overnight setbacks
    • 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
    • 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)
    • 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


COVID-19: A New Driver for Improved IAQ/Ventilation in K-12 Schools

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is likely that this historic event will act as an ongoing catalyst for parents, teachers, and administrators of K-12 schools to advocate for better Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and improved HVAC systems to reduce the transmission of COVID and other viral aerosols within student learning environments.

Although longer-term HVAC system upgrades and retrofits may ultimately be necessary to address parent, faculty, and administrator IAQ concerns, the following opportunities exist now to improve ventilation and IAQ within K-12 schools:

  • Recommission existing HVAC equipment to correct operating deficiencies and to ensure systems are operating as designed.
  • Conduct or update master plans to prioritize future ventilation upgrades.
  • Incorporate ventilation upgrades into existing projects (e.g., add/upgrade filtration, increase outside air).
  • Upgrade or modify HVAC controls to increase ventilation, including frequent flushing.
  • Expedite replacement and upgrade of aged HVAC equipment.

Elara Expertise
Having been involved in K-12 schools since our firm’s inception in 2001, Elara’s dedicated K-12 design team has extensive knowledge and expertise to assist administrators and facility personnel to identify and pursue practical short-term and longer-term HVAC solutions to address COVID-19 IAQ and ventilation concerns.

Potential Federal Funding Available
To assist with the additional costs that K-12 schools incur to improve ventilation/IAQ, funding is available through the Federal government’s Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (Expanded CARES Act).  Under this program, billions of dollars are available to public schools (based on size and need) for ventilation improvements to help support in-school learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government may expand the program in the coming months.

Ventilation in Buildings (under Community, Work, and Schools)

Creating Healthy Indoor Air Quality in Schools
Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools

Core Recommendations (PDF) for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure

How Ventilation and Air Filtration Play Key Roles in Preventing COVID-19 Spread Indoors


2020 – A Different Year, but with Continued Success for Elara Engineering

We are pleased to announce that 2020 was another successful year for Elara Engineering as we quickly modified the way we do our work to keep our employees, clients, and vendors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing to build from our increase in staff, project locations in more states, greater involvement in K-12 schools, and philanthropic involvement from our dedicated employees, we eagerly look forward to providing our clients in 2021 with constructible, energy efficient designs that help the environment, save money, and increase asset value.


Happy Holidays from Elara Engineering!


Happy Holidays from Elara Engineering!

In a year where much of our operations were conducted virtually, we have continued to persevere, grow and adapt. As we enter 2021, although we remain physically apart, we are very much together and working to serve our customers.

We hope to be able to see you again soon and in the meantime, we wish you and yours a socially distanced, sanitized and masked Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!



Proactive Planning for Summer and Fall 2021 MEP Projects

Although winter may just be knocking on the door in the midwest, believe it or not, now is the time to start planning for successful summer 2021 MEP construction projects. In many cases, projects involving a building’s heating system have a limited construction window when equipment is not required to operate, namely during summer months when outdoor air temperatures are above 65°F. Similarly, many buildings have changes in occupancy during summer months which may make summer an opportune time to implement construction projects that would otherwise be disruptive to building occupants and normal operation. Common examples of these type of buildings are K-12 schools and higher education facilities.

To accommodate a summer MEP construction project, ample upfront time is needed to properly plan for modification and/or replacement of a building’s heating systems.  When considering any MEP system, several alternatives often exist, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. A detailed review of applicable alternatives based on current conditions is needed to evaluate these alternatives for a specific property and application and could have significant impact on implementation, operating costs and lead times including equipment pre-purchase.

Building Owners should consider Elara to evaluate alternatives and prepare design documentation well in advance of the anticipated project construction and completion period. Several weeks, and in some cases months, are necessary to detail existing conditions, evaluate alternatives, perform calculations, pre-order equipment (if required) and prepare detailed engineering drawings that can be competitively bid to contractors.

If your building’s heating systems are aged, in poor condition or are requiring frequent repairs, consider planning now for modification or replacement in time for next year’s heating season.  Similarly, ventilation projects for Fall 2021 should also be planned in the coming months as equipment lead times are often several months from the time of order.

To proactively pursue a summer 2021 construction project, please contact us at 708-236-0300 or within the next few months to ensure a timely and well planned construction project in 2021.


Elara Associate Principal Dustin Langille on Discussion Panel: How the COVID19 Pandemic is Changing the Way Schools are Managed and Designed

On October 1, 2020, Associate Principal Dustin Langille participated in a panel discussion with Robin Randall, Principal at Legat Architects, and Clarence Carson, Chief of Facilities at Chicago Public Schools, on the challenges faced by school districts as they grapple with reopening. The panel discussed operational and design changes needed to keep students, teachers, and staff safe during the current pandemic and beyond.  Using the Chicago Public School System as a framework for discussion, questions and issues that were covered included:

  • If/When students are allowed to return to school, how does one balance safety with effecting learning?
  • With students currently learning remotely, have schools been making upgrades or renovations?
  • How has the pandemic fundamentally changed the way schools are managed and designed?
  • The challenges around finding broad solutions for districts with new buildings and those with ones that are 100 years and older.

To view the panel discussion, please go to: Please note that a brief registration may be required to access the video.

Dustin is an Associate Principal and Mechanical Team Leader at Elara Engineering. In this role, he leads a team of mechanical engineers and support staff and serves as engineer-in-charge and primary contact for new construction, renovation and energy retrofit projects involving a wide variety of system types and complexities across various markets. Dustin is currently spearheading Elara’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic which includes guiding clients on the strategies they can employ to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission and coordinating indoor air quality (IAQ) design efforts. With increased focus on returning to school, Dustin’s efforts have largely been focused on working with K-12 and higher education clients.


Elara Principal Don McLauchlan Instructor and Advisor for College Courses

ENVS 273: Energy and the Environment

As part of a Loyola University Chicago Institute of Environmental Sustainability (LUC IES) course that uses campus buildings as a “hands-on” lab to instruct students, Elara Engineering Principal Don McLauchlan was asked to co-teach ENVS 273 with Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Dr. Ping Jing, PhD  about energy efficiency strategies for buildings.

Because Elara has either reviewed or designed the HVAC system for nearly every building on LUC’s Lakeshore Campus; of which 11 have attained LEED certification, Mr. McLauchlan could easily provide a significant number of “real-life” examples to the IES students.  For example, he was able to discuss the use of natural light and natural ventilation built into the campus’ IES, Cuneo Hall, and Information Commons buildings and the types of computerized building management systems that are used in these and other campus facilities.  Building on the engaged learning approach of the course, he led the students in performing an air leakage test.  From Don’s experience, expertise, passion, and career-long commitment to energy efficiency, students became more energy conscious and gained an understanding that from a financial perspective, there is no reason to not be energy efficient when it comes to building design and the operation of their HVAC systems.

Mr. McLauchlan’s teaching role has been highlighted in a LUC IES Annual Report article (Page 14-15. LUC IES Annual Report) He is also an active member of the LUC IES Advisory Board.

ENVS 350b: Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP): Biogas

Working closely with students to develop a feasibility study to research and analyze the potential to convert campus food waste to biogas – a renewable energy source, Mr. McLauchlan was an Advisor to one of the six student teams established to address a specific challenge that arises from converting campus food waste to campus energy.  Some of challenges addressed included conversion rates and converting biogas to electricity, the logistics of transporting campus food waste, and compliance with LUC and City of Chicago regulations.  The biogas to electricity research team that Don supported had to address a fairly technical topic.  However, despite this, his student group was ultimately able to gain an understanding of the pros and cons regarding electricity generation and anaerobic digester equipment options to convert biomass (e.g., paper towels, food scraps, landscape waste, etc.) to the biogas needed to generate electricity or for space heating. This information was then incorporated in the feasibility study developed by the entire class.


Elara’s Ongoing Coronavirus Response – Working Together; Apart

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses and personal activities worldwide, Elara Engineering continues to maintain an appropriate balance between responsible steps to protect the health of our employees and our community and the need to manage our business and serve our clients.

The operating infrastructure we established prior to COVID-19 continues to enable our ability to effectively work off-site through secured remote access to Elara’s servers, cloud-based email, office phone voicemail to email, corporate mobile phones, and virtual meeting and collaboration tools.  Of course, we continue to visit local jobs sites where permitted and where COVID-19 safety procedures have been established in accordance with local, state and national guidelines.

We look forward to the time when our operations no longer necessitate a remote workforce. However, until that time, we remain hard at work and committed to our clients’ ongoing success.  Working Together; Apart.


Elara Completes 2020 Internship Program; Remotely!

Even with changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Elara Engineering did not miss a beat as it recently concluded its highly sought-after 2020 Summer Internship Program which was conducted in a remote plus work environment.  With a creative mix of virtual learning sessions and presentations, meaningful online production work to move projects forward, and socially distanced, mask-required field work; four future engineers gained valuable insight, knowledge, and experience in numerous aspects of the MEP industry.  As in all of Elara’s previous summer internship programs, this year’s program was developed to ensure that interns become fully immersed in firm projects and engineering activities working alongside Elara’s multidisciplinary engineering design teams from June to August of this year.

During the 2020 summer, Elara’s interns performed field surveys to document existing site conditions, utilized Revit to support the preparation of engineering drawings, executed basic engineering calculations, and worked directly with Elara’s engineers to meet numerous project deadlines.  The Summer Internship Program also included a series of weekly presentations conducted by Elara Principals and managers as part of the Internship Training Program developed to introduce interns to the industry, learn about the company’s history and service offerings, gain insight into the MEPFPIT systems design process and potential career paths, and discuss numerous innovative projects completed by the firm.  Some specific presentation topics included HVAC 101, Elara Business Approach and Company History, Airside Systems, Team Introductions and project presentations by several Elara engineering teams, and a Panel discussion conducted by previous interns who now work at Elara as full time employees.

“Interning at Elara provided me a unique experience characterized by learning, opportunity, and autonomy.  It was great being welcomed by a team that values interdependence, allowing me to immediately become a contributing member to a multi-million-dollar project from my first day onward. The hands-on work that I engaged through 3D modeling and onsite, along with engaging presentations given by different teams of employees, exposed me to an industry that brings to life classroom theory.”

~Robert V., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Electrical Engineering

“This summer, I learned so much about Revit and MEFPIT systems. Despite, working remotely Elara managed to get me onsite for one of their projects a few times. Being onsite was eye-opening in the sense that it gave me a firsthand view on how what I construct in Revit becomes reality. Everyone, from beginning to end was been extremely supportive and great teachers to make sure I got a true understanding of whatever I was accomplishing that day.”

~Teagan J., Purdue University, Mechanical Engineering

During my summer at Elara I had the opportunity to work on the District 207 project. Elara did a fantastic job of communicating and keeping the intern program alive during these unprecedented times. This summer, the intern team and engineers taught me the ins-and-outs of electrical power distribution and lighting systems, as well as plumbing and drainage systems. Whether it was completing a Revit modeling task, taking notes in an intern presentation or team meeting, or going on site visits, I always had an engaging assignment to complete.”

~Miles V., Olivet Nazarene University, Architectural Engineering

“While interning at Elara over the summer, I was not assigned insignificant tasks and was able to work with the Electrical Team on multiple aspects of multiple projects. These tasks ranged from Revit, AutoCAD, placing light fixtures and fire alarm devices, circuiting, load calculations, and photometric calculations. I learned new aspects of engineering that can be applied to my desired job in the future and picking classes that could help me specialize in the area that I enjoy.”

~Manav T., Illinois Institute of Technology, Electrical Engineering

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


Elara Completes 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, while respecting the building’s Chicago landmark status.

Originally constructed in 1925, the 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 the conversion of the Tribune Tower, four additional floors will be 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 will encompass several unique spaces, including a series of terraces at the tower’s crown that will give residents a one-of-a-kind experience beneath iconic, gothic buttresses.

Creative Solutions
As the project’s MEPFP engineer responsiblefor the design and installation 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 enabled the design to exceed the City of Chicago’s sustainability ordinance.  For example,

  • Elara identified the opportunity and confirmed reuse of the building’s existing emergency generator, ComEd vault, and existing chilled water plant that utilizes a river water condensing system.
  • 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) implemented throughout the building.
  • New direct digital control (DDC) designed to serve all major mechanical systems.
  • Car charging infrastructure designed to support entire garage.
  • To maximize indoor air quality, dedicated outdoor air systems use superior MERV-13 filtration, humidified air is provided throughout the property, residential ventilation is provided directly to each condominium unit to minimize the mixing of air, and self-regulating exhaust systems have been designed and installed.

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


Water Seepage Solutions for Buildings Impacted by Elevated Lake Levels

Rising Water; Increased Seepage
Lake Michigan is reaching near record high water levels in 2020 and is regularly featured on local news due to related challenges of rising water levels. The reality for buildings located near Lake Michigan is an elevated water table resulting in increased amounts of water infiltration, also known as seepage, into underground spaces that are situated at or below the water table. Water seepage can occur through foundation walls and slabs on grade via cracks or holes that have formed over time and, in particular, at cold concrete joints where two or more concrete pours meet each other. Increased water seepage can result in problematic additional moisture within buildings and pooling of water in building interiors.

Underground spaces located below the water table experience water pressure on the back side of the concrete slab. When the water table is elevated, increased water levels and associated pressure will result in increased seepage where seepage previously existed as well as introduce seepage in weakened areas where seepage was previously not occurring.

Seepage Solutions
To counteract the increased water seepage, a de-watering approach should be developed and implemented to minimize water infiltration and impact to the building. Common de-watering measures include the installation of a pumping system dedicated to removing water from the backside of the building foundations, drain tile to collect water to be pumped away from the building, vacuum pumps, injecting cracks and holes, sealing concrete slabs, etc. Pumping solutions typically include a back-up power source to ensure the system remains operational during a loss of power. A combination of these and other measures may be required to combat seepage depending on a specific building’s conditions. In many cases, an initial investigative trial may be necessary to gather data before implementing a permanent de-watering solution.

Elara Engineering has designed de-watering systems applicable to below-grade spaces in existing buildings, including historic buildings, experiencing water seepage. We recommend, as a first step, an initial study to develop a de-watering solution that is applicable to a specific building and site which may include input from a structural engineer and experienced contractors as well as the building owner. A thorough understanding of the building’s specific conditions and requirements in addition to a well thought out design is vital to ensure maximum effectiveness of the de-watering measure(s) implemented.

For more information, please contact us at 708-236-0300 or


Elara Engineering Names Two New Associate Principals

Elara Engineering, Inc., is pleased to announce that Mr. Dustin Langille, BEMP, HBDP, LEED AP and Mr. Bhupendra Tailor, PE have been named as Associate Principals of the firm. The Associate Principal role in Elara reflects the commitment, passion, and technical and managerial abilities of these individuals specifically and the organization’s continued growth and need for additional leadership.

Mr. Tailor and Mr. Langille have been key contributors to Elara’s ongoing mission to provide big picture thinking, practical approaches, and sustainable designs to our valued clients and each delivers a different set of technical skills and abilities: Mr. Langille with
expertise in project management, indoor air quality and energy modeling for renewable energy systems, including geothermal, photovoltaic, and solar thermal design and Mr. Tailor with advanced expertise in electrical engineering, including medium voltage system, photovoltaic, and wind energy design. Both are driven by client satisfaction and an uncompromising commitment to understanding client needs, responsive and effective client communications, and detailed and accurate deliverables.
Learn more about each new Associate Principal here.

“Bhupendra and Dustin have both contributed to Elara’s success over the last decade and have consistently demonstrated the values required of future partners, consistently acting passionately in the best interest of our clients. Don [McLauchlan], Jay [Parikh], Brian [Malone], Caitlin [Levitsky], Matt [Swanson], and I are excited to have them as part of our leadership team. Please join me in congratulating Dustin and Bhupendra on their new roles and positions within Elara Engineering.”

~ Steve Maze, Elara President


MEPFP Retrofit Projects Improve Operational Flexibility and System Performance, Reliability, and Efficiency

In addition to a Dual Temperature System Study, Boiler & Chiller Plant
Schematic Design Report, and DHW Plant Replacement Report, Elara Engineering has completed the following MEPFP infrastructure retrofit projects for an occupied 39-story high-rise condominium building:

  • New Generator,
  • MUA Replacement,
  • FACP Upgrade,
  • Chiller Replacement,
  • Boiler Plant Replacement, and
  • Expansion Joint Replacement
  • New DDC System

Constructed in 1989, The Elm at Clark (1122 North Clark Street; Chicago, IL) includes a 6-level parking garage, sundeck, outdoor pool, and hospitality room within 396,000 square feet.

In addition to securing $82,539 from utility energy efficiency incentive programs to offset equipment installation costs and creating a project implementation prioritization plan that reduced overall project costs, Elara’s innovative engineering design team successfully provided the following to increase operational flexibility, improve occupant comfort, and enhance system performance, reliability, and efficiency:

  • New chiller plant, condensing boiler plant, and open protocol expandable building automation system
  • Enhanced dual temperature changeover control that significantly reduces changeover time between heating and cooling modes (from days to hours) aimed at improving occupant comfort while maintaining protection of new equipment.
  • New MUA incorporating a summer dehumidification mode.
  • New non-proprietary central fire alarm control panel (FACP) and devices with for less cost than replacing the existing proprietary FACP alone.
  • New expansion joints to proactively replace existing joints that were beginning to fail.

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


Proactive Strategies to Restore Domestic Water in Buildings


Considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, buildings of various types have found themselves completely or partially inactive for extended periods of time. Given this condition, building owners, operators and managers should take precautions when restoring building occupancy   as it relates to domestic water systems.

Responsible plumbing design and various plumbing codes dictate the avoidance of ‘dead-end’ piping in domestic water distribution systems to avoid stagnant water. Stagnant domestic water creates the potential for growth of pathogens and other potentially harmful conditions. Buildings that have been unoccupied for any significant period of time can create a condition in which portions of the domestic water piping distribution system may contain stagnant water.

Common measures that can be taken to assist in delivering fresh water to the points of use throughout a facility are provided below:

  • Check with your local public health department for reopening requirements that may apply to domestic water in your facility type.
  • Survey the domestic water piping system and equipment to identify any leaks that may have developed during the period of extended inactivity. This is of particular importance for facilities with vintage galvanized piping.
  • Independently flush the domestic cold water equipment and piping system. All domestic water equipment and points of use should be flushed thoroughly and may require a review of the domestic water piping distribution system in the facility. Flushing should progress from the water service entry point towards the last point of use to ensure that all piping is adequately flushed with fresh water. . All strainers in the system should be repeatedly cleaned during flushing.
  • Drain and clean water storage tanks along with other potentially sensitive equipment throughout the domestic water system such as decorative fountains. Follow manufacturer recommendations and utilize cleaning products appropriate for domestic water equipment. Adequately flush the water storage tanks and other equipment after cleaning with fresh water. Refer to manufacturer recommendations for additional measures for specific equipment or points of use.
  • Independently flush the domestic hot water equipment and piping system utilizing a similar approach to the cold water.
  • Check the functionality of all domestic water equipment and components (i.e. pumps, heaters, storage tanks, water treatment, etc.). Change all filters utilized in the domestic water system. Exercise valves throughout the system and pro-actively replace valves that do not seat fully closed.
  • Perform water quality testing for areas of concern to identify if contaminants have developed during the period of inactivity. The confirmation of contaminants in the domestic water systems may require cleaning of the domestic water piping and the consultation of an industrial hygienist, engineer and contractor.
  • Maintain domestic hot water storage tanks at safe temperatures without creating a potential scalding hazard for building occupants.
  • Refill p-traps in floor drains, open site drains, etc.
  • Document all measures taken to create a facility standard for future reference.
  • Refer to resources such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in Buildings with Low or No Use” for more information.

Generally speaking, domestic water quality measures may not only be limited to significant periods of low or no usage. Normal facility operations can still include areas of stagnant water which should be managed as part of a regular maintenance plan. A water management plan for the facility should be created and updated on a regular basis.

Additional resources related to this topic include ASHRAE Standard 188, the CDC’s Water Management Plan Guidance, the American Industrial Hygiene Association Guideline, and the EPA’s WaterSense at Work.

For more information, please contact us at 708-236-0300 or



Strategies to Reduce Viral Transmission in Buildings

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, building owners and managers have increased their interest in HVAC strategies and products aimed at reducing the airborne transmission of viruses. While current research is limited on the specific characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and its transmission, there is sufficient research on methods to help control  the transmission  of other infectious diseases.

For example, there are several strategies and products in the market today that are intended to reduce or remove pathogens from breathable air within buildings or systems. Many of these are supported by extensive research and practical experience while others employ new technologies with less substantiated data. Common strategies and products used today include:

  • Increasing ventilation (outdoor air) rates
  • Increasing air filtration effectiveness (MERV-13 or better)
  • Installing ultraviolet (UV-C) lights
    • In central air handling equipment
    • At upper room fixtures in the space
  • Implementing Bi-Polar ionization
  • Installing local exhaust and/or ventilation supply
  • Adding local filtration

These strategies can be implemented in new equipment/facilities or they can be retrofit in existing equipment/facilities.  Strategies may also be combined to amplify their effect or to address varying needs. The right solution for your facility will depend on many factors and there is currently no one-size-fits-all solution. A comprehensive plan should be developed that is suited for a building’s specific goals at individual space levels.

The implementation of HVAC strategies aimed at reducing the airborne transmission of viruses  within buildings should incorporate the following steps:

  1. Review Options: Working collaboratively with a professional engineer or industrial hygienist; identify, evaluate, and document potential virus mitigation strategies specific to the facility and its goals. These may include permanent or temporary measures which can be deployed now or in the future and may be part of a building re-opening plan under the current pandemic.
  2. Implement: Once options have been assembled and specific strategies selected, the professional engineer or industrial hygienist should prepare detailed specifications, assist in obtaining contractor pricing and review implementation by the successful contractor.
  3. Monitor and Adjust: It is important that after the implementation of any strategy, its resulting effectiveness and ongoing performance be monitored. This may include periodic testing of particulates or continuous monitoring through the building automation system and can vary widely based on the goals and strategies identified. Where actual performance is found to fall short of the desired thresholds, additional strategies can be implemented or controls adjusted to enhance performance. This monitoring and adjustment phase should be discussed and planned for as part of the initial options review.

Additional information regarding this topic is available through a recently released  position document prepared by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineering (ASHRAE) which provides an overview of infectious disease transmission and previous ASHRAE research. The document can be found here.

For more information, please contact us at 708-236-0300 or


Associate Principals Matt Swanson and Caitlin Levitsky Co-Author: “Planning for MEP Infrastructure Projects in High-Rise Buildings”

Elara Engineering Associate Principal Matt Swanson, LEED AP, CEM and Associate Principal Caitlin Levitsky, LEED AP BD+C recently co-authored the above titled article placed as a featured story in the Spring 2020 issue of Chicagoland Buildings & Environments.

The heart of any building is its major mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems that allow the building to successfully operate and provide comfort to its occupants. However, when one or more MEP systems require repair or replacement, significant cost and inconvenience to building owners and occupants can occur. Mr. Swanson’s and Ms. Levitsky’s article provides a practical, proactive approach to plan and implement a large-scale MEP repair or replacement project in a high-rise building to minimize costs and disruptions.

Because of the many alternatives that exist for MEP system replacements, the potential for significant disruption and inconvenience to building occupants, and the associated high capital cost incurred to undertake these projects in high-rise buildings, the article recommends a variety of key elements to ensure that a project delivers the intended result and best value.

A reprint of Mr. Swanson’s and Ms. Levitsky’s article can be found here.