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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

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Elara Establishes Commercial/Multi-Family Practice Leader Role

I am pleased to announce that Elara Engineering has established the role of Practice Leader to further advance our client focus and our ongoing pursuit of excellence. As we roll out these new, high-level positions for already established leaders within our firm, I am excited that I have been designated the Practice Leader for Elara’s Commercial/Multi-Family market.

With technical expertise and deep project experience within the Commercial/Multi-Family market, I look forward to directly assisting you and all of our Commercial/Multi-Family clients as you strive to meet the needs of your current and future built environment with innovative, practical, and sustainable MEPFP solutions that advance your institution’s mission, goals, and objectives.

Benefits Provided by an Elara Practice Leader

Although the term Practice Leader likely has different meanings to different people, for Elara Engineering it encompasses the following key elements and benefits.

  • Thought Leadership / Active Industry Participant.
  • Industry expert that is well versed in various aspects of a specific market
  • Drives innovation and practical approaches for sustainable solutions that are particularly applicable to clients and stakeholders within a particular market sector.
  • Creates valuable connections among clients, vendors, and other stakeholders.
  • Client Partner / Trusted Advisor.
  • Provide effective, specific, unbiased, highly valuable insights, ideas, advice, suggestions, and input based on a client’s mission.
  • High-Level Organizational Contact / Client Advocate.
  • A high-level key contact within our firm that is an additional communication route to address project or enterprise-level issues, concerns, or suggestions and elicit change, if needed.

As the Practice Leader for your market, I look forward to periodically providing insights via email and social media, meeting you at industry events, and reaching out to you directly to continue to listen and learn and to provide unbiased and beneficial information, ideas, and perspective that will help you achieve your unique goals and objectives to advance your mission.

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Elara Establishes Laboratory/Healthcare Practice Leader Role

I am pleased to announce that Elara Engineering has established the role of Practice Leader to further advance our client focus and our ongoing pursuit of excellence. As we roll out these new, high-level positions for already established leaders within our firm, I am excited that I have been designated the Practice Leader for Elara’s Laboratory/Healthcare market.

With technical expertise and deep project experience within the Laboratory/Healthcare market, I look forward to directly assisting you and all of our Laboratory/Healthcare clients as you strive to meet the needs of your current and future built environment with innovative, practical, and sustainable MEPFP solutions that advance your institution’s mission, goals, and objectives.

Benefits Provided by an Elara Practice Leader

Although the term Practice Leader likely has different meanings to different people, for Elara Engineering it encompasses the following key elements and benefits.

  • Thought Leadership / Active Industry Participant.
    • Industry expert that is well versed in various aspects of a specific market.
    • Drives innovation and practical approaches for sustainable solutions that are particularly applicable to clients and stakeholders within a particular market sector.
    • Creates valuable connections among clients, vendors, and other stakeholders.
  • Client Partner / Trusted Advisor.
    • Provide effective, specific, unbiased, highly valuable insights, ideas, advice, suggestions, and input based on a client’s mission.
  • High-Level Organizational Contact / Client Advocate.
    • A high-level key contact within our firm that is an additional communication route to address project or enterprise-level issues, concerns, or suggestions and elicit change, if needed.

As the Practice Leader for your market, I look forward to periodically providing insights via email and social media, meeting you at industry events, and reaching out to you directly to continue to listen and learn and to provide unbiased and beneficial information, ideas, and perspective that will help you achieve your unique goals and objectives to advance your mission.

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Elara Establishes Higher Education Practice Leader Role

I am pleased to announce that Elara Engineering has established the role of Practice Leader to further advance our client focus and our ongoing pursuit of excellence. As we roll out these new, high-level positions for already established leaders within our firm, I am excited to announce that I have been designated the Practice Leader for Elara’s Higher Education market.

With technical expertise and deep project experience within the Higher Education market, I look forward to directly assisting you and all of our Higher Education clients as you strive to meet the administrative, faculty, student, and visitor needs of your current and future built environment with innovative, practical, and sustainable MEPFP solutions that advance your institution’s mission, goals, and objectives.

Benefits Provided by an Elara Practice Leader

Although the term Practice Leader likely has different meanings to different people, for Elara Engineering it encompasses the following key elements and benefits.

  • Thought Leadership / Active Industry Participant.
    • Industry expert that is well versed in various aspects of a specific market
    • Drives innovation and practical approaches for sustainable solutions that are particularly applicable to clients and stakeholders within a particular market sector.
    • Creates valuable connections among clients, vendors, and other stakeholders.
  • Client Partner / Trusted Advisor.
    • Provide effective, specific, unbiased, highly valuable insights, ideas, advice, suggestions, and input based on a client’s mission.
  • High-Level Organizational Contact / Client Advocate.
    • A high-level key contact within our firm that is an additional communication route to address project or enterprise-level issues, concerns, or suggestions and elicit change, if needed.

As the Practice Leader for your market, I look forward to periodically providing insights via email and social media, meeting you at industry events, and reaching out to you directly. My goal is to continue to listen, learn, and to provide information, ideas, and perspectives that will help you achieve your goals and advance your mission.

 

 

Dustin Langille Resume

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Energy Benchmarking 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 Energy 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, 2022.
City of Evanston Energy 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, 2022.
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Elara Project Wins ASHRAE International Award!

After receiving recognition at the local and regional level, an Elara Engineering new construction project – 3833 North Broadway Urban Geothermal Multi-Family – has received ASHRAE’s highest honor; a first place International-Level Award.

This project represents Elara’s fourth International-Level ASHRAE award and we congratulate our team of dedicated experts: Don McLauchlan, Dustin Langille, Bhupendra Tailor, Nick Capretta, and Mark Rockwood, for their contributions to this internationally recognized project.  We also thank the owner, managers, and staff of 3833 North Broadway for their commitment to this highly sustainable, energy efficient project and for the trust and confidence they had in Elara Engineering to bring it to completion.

3833 North Broadway Urban Geothermal – New Construction

  • MEPFP design of 8-story, 228,960 square foot apartment building with 134 residential units, indoor heated parking, retail spaces (20,777 sf), fitness center, community area, outdoor running track
  • Geothermal heating and cooling, solar PV, exhaust air heat recovery, shower drain heat recovery, sidewalk snowmelt and demand control strategies
  • Actual EUI: 22 kbtu/ft²

Key Innovations

  • 60-well geothermal field located underneath the building structure on a limited urban site.
  • Detailed energy modeling along with a parametric analysis allowed for careful sizing of the geothermal field to minimize project costs.
    • Detailed modeling reduced the field size by an estimated 40% over standard designs for geothermal systems in Chicago
  • The simplicity of the design allowed the building owner to assume portions of the project management duties and to utilize several contractors that had worked on previous smaller projects with them. This resulted in project costs well below similar projects in Chicago.
  • The building’s low actual EUI of 22 kbtu/ft² saves $159,555/year over the baseline model EUI of 44 kbtu/ft².
    • The geothermal cost of approximately $500,000 is offset in just three years compared to the baseline building (1.5 years when compared to a typical Chicago new construction building), not including any avoided costs such as large central chiller/boiler plants.
  • Energy savings result in an approximate annual reduction of 1,115 metric tons of C02; the equivalent of removing 242 passenger cars or 134 homes from the energy grid.

With careful planning and a simple design, Elara shows that – with this project – buildings can be constructed with sustainable and energy efficient features such as geothermal at competitive costs.  Additional project details can be found here.

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A New Year- An Opportunity to Update or Obtain a Reserve Study

What is a Reserve Study?                                         

A Reserve Study is a formal review of a building’s major common elements, including Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection (MEPFP) systems, at the time the study is performed.  Typically, a Reserve Study is performed by one or more professionals and consists of site visits and the preparation of a written report. The report includes a master spreadsheet allocating budget costs for system and component repairs and replacements that are anticipated within a 20-year planning horizon.

 

The Benefits of a Reserve Study

  • Supports a condominium association’s requirement to maintain an appropriate level of capital within their financial reserves.
  • Provides a decision-making framework to prioritize and plan for major repairs and capital projects.
  • Documents the potential need for common fees, assessments, and loans if necessary.
  • Protects condominium unit owners from unexpected large assessments or debt service on loans for capital improvement projects.

A Reserve Study is not only important for current condominium owners, but for future buyers, lenders who may be called upon for loans, and insurers looking to establish long term relationships with well-run and adequately funded community associations.

 

Reserve Study Elements

 

 

 

 

Data Acquisition

  • A review of (1) existing building drawings; (2) the previous Reserve Study and/or allocation spreadsheet (if a previous study was completed); and (3) available system documentation.
  • Staff interviews.

Field Reviews

  • An on-site review of the building’s common element systems to generate/confirm an inventory of major components and equipment with nameplate data (e.g., manufacturer, basic specifications, etc.) that can be used to request additional information, as needed; and to visually ascertain and assess the physical condition of each piece of identified equipment or major component.

Data Analysis & Recommendation

  • Upon evaluation of available information and taking into consideration age, condition, and remaining useful service life; recommendations are developed for the timing of repair or replacement for capital projects of $5,000 or greater that should be budgeted to maintain the property for 20 years.

Report

  • A provided written report will include an executive summary, project methodology, a physical analysis section, a financial analysis section (with master spreadsheet), and recommendations.

 

Added Valued from Elara Engineering

Enhanced MEPFP Solutions

In addition to the above-described elements relative to MEPFP systems, Elara’s experienced engineering team also includes – as part of its Reserve Studies — the preliminary identification of MEPFP system alternatives that offer ancillary building benefits such as increased energy efficiency, enhanced occupant comfort, beneficial technology upgrades, and significant utility cost savings, as applicable.

It should be noted that alternative systems evaluated as part of any reserve study and their associated costs are intended to be used as a budgeting tool for future planning. Independent studies (often termed “Schematic Design”) are frequently recommended when it is time to undertake the capital project in order to further detail and update cost estimates and determine the project basis of design.

 

Real-World Cost Estimates = Better Planning

As described above, cost estimates for a Reserve Study are derived from recent equipment cost information provided by vendors. However, to provide a more complete picture of the total potential costs involved, Elara’s cost estimates are further extrapolated to include consideration for current market trends based on similar, recent experience. Elara’s proprietary cost estimating tool is based on real-time data of various construction-related activities from our design and construction experience in lieu of theoretical construction estimating methods. In this manner, building stakeholders gain a much more complete view of the true costs that may be incurred over a 20-year planning period.

Experienced Engineers

Elara’s reserve studies are performed by professional engineers to ensure that building stakeholders receive the full depth and breadth of Elara’s experience identifying and designing MEPFP upgrades in similar buildings.

 

For additional information about Reserve Studies or to inquire about Elara’s Reserve Study services specifically, please contact Kelsey Dale at kdale@elaraeng.com.

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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 few days with lows occurring at or below zero with the projected overnight low on Tuesday being -8degF. 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:
  • 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, kitchen and similar 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
  • 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
For more information or to address specific concerns or questions, please contact us at info@elaraeng.com.
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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 info@elaraeng.com.

 

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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 info@elaraeng.com.

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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.

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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.

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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 employment@elaraeng.com.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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: https://www.chicago.yrexpos.com/webinarworkingsmarter.

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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 or on our website at www.elaraeng.com.

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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, 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 kdale@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. 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.

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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.

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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.
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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 info@elaraeng.com.

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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

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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.

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

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

ASHRAE
Core Recommendations (PDF) for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure

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


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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.

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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!

 

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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 info@elaraeng.com within the next few months to ensure a timely and well planned construction project in 2021.

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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: https://www.bisnow.com/webinar/chicago/chicago-deep-dish-the-impact-of-public-schools-on-cre-5432. 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.