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Robert Cruess asks November’s “Question of the Month” in New England Real Estate Journal

TFMoran/MSC Engineers Chairman, Robert Cruess, PE  asked November’s “Question of the Month” in the Shopping Centers section of  New England Real Estate Journal.

Robert’s question:  What is the future of green design?

To read the pdf version click on NEREJ Question of the Month Nov 2015

Or, you can read the text below for the full story….

What is the future of green design? Sensible and cost-effective aspects that improve the environment.

Robert Cruess “Greenwashing” – (my definition) is the attempt to portray your project as being environmentally sensitive/ responsible, when in fact, it is more hype than substance.

Greenwashing is a term that I am hearing less often from the people in the building industries, namely: developers, contractors, architects, civil/site engineers, HVAC engineers, landscape architects, etc. So, without plumbing the depths of greenwashing, I would like to focus primarily on the positive aspects of design techniques that do, in fact, have less impact on the environment than older design methods.

It all begins with the developer/ end user. These are the people that want something built, be it a public facility , like a new school, or a private facility, such as an office building, retail facility, hotel, or…just a single family home. Getting something built involves economic decisions and the “user” invariably must balance an “ideal” with the reality of economics. And somewhere in this decision making process, the ideal “green design” meets the reality of available funds.

I would say that almost all the developers that we deal with, want to be environmentally responsible, and they want to accomplish that end “economically.” There are, of course, users that have no economic restraints and are willing to post a blank check in order to accomplish real, or perceived, environmental goals, however, the majority of users, want to be environmentally responsible, but want to do it within their budget. Now there is the challenge!

Enter the design team. The designers include the architects and their various subs such as HVAC and structural (engineers), the civil/ site engineers (and their various subs such as wetland scientists, surveyors, etc.) and landscape architects who are sometimes a sub to either the architect or the site engineer.

Discussions with several architects reveal that the pressure for green design is increasingly focused on the building envelope and the newest and most energy-efficient envelopes. A recent walk through the ABX show in Boston demonstrated the importance, and thought, that is being devoted to the building envelope. The architects are also being requested to provide newer, more efficient heating systems, such as air source heat pumps, high efficiency propane and natural gas burners, and in some instances “net zero” structures (meaning there must be some form of on-site energy production to offset the energy that the structure takes from the grid). Internally, there is an obvious desire to manage electric usage, primarily by utilizing high efficiency lighting and switching that shuts lights off in unoccupied rooms.

There are, of course, numerous other items that the architect can use in their green palette, from energy efficient windows to actual material selection. However, in my discussions with several architects, they are seeing a lessening in demand for LEED Certified buildings, which is not to say that there is a decreasing demand for energy efficient and socially responsible buildings. There is also the observation that many LEED principles are being incorporated in planning, zoning and building codes, so many of the green design principles are being institutionalized.

The civil/site engineers have several ways to design more environmentally friendly sites. Drainage design is one of the more obvious ways to lessen the environmental impact of a site. Drainage design has moved from collection and direct discharge, to detention and treatment before discharge, to the current practice of infiltrating most, if not all, of the surface runoff from a new site.

There are several infiltration techniques which include: porous pavement, rain gardens, tree wells, porous pavers, underground infiltration chambers, etc. Of course, all of the aforementioned have a cost for the developer, however, infiltration of storm water is becoming a mandated practice, and therefore, just a cost of doing business. Once again, we are seeing the institutionalization of “green” design.

Landscape architects also have been able to produce more thoughtful designs, particularly working with the civil/site engineers on the design of rain gardens, tree wells, vegetated swales, etc. Landscape architects are eliminating invasive plantings, and encouraging plants that can survive without constant irrigation.

TINSTAAFL, which of course, is an acronym for “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” even when trying to protect and/or improve the environment. For example, if you enable an existing industrial building to meet new energy codes, then you had better run a structural check on the roof, because more snow will stay on the roof and it will be there for a longer period of time because the energy saving insulation no longer allows heat to escape and melt some of the snow load.

As another example, porous pavement, and porous pavers, must be vacuumed on some established schedule, or the pores may fill with sand and the infiltration capability will be lost.

All of the green design techniques just need to have that little bit of extra thought, particularly with regard to unintended consequences.

Green design is being institutionalized: Planning boards, zoning boards, and building codes are adopting the principles of green design practices, and for the most part, they are adopting the sensible and cost-effective aspects of the practices that do, in fact, improve the environment.

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TFMoran Staff Gather for Our annual “Harvest Lunch”

TFMoran held its annual company gathering, known as the “Harvest Lunch”, on the day before Thanksgiving in the Great Hall at the Bedford Village Inn.  Due to our incredible growth in the past year, 2015 was the first time in several years that the celebration was held somewhere besides TFMoran’s office in Bedford.  The MSC division staff journeyed from Portsmouth to join the Bedford staff for the full company gathering of more than 55 people! Thank you to the Bedford Village Inn for the amazing food and fantastic venue.

After lunch, TFMoran President Bob Duval shared his thoughts on both the past year and what to expect in 2016.  Dylan Cruess, COO, also addressed the staff, as did Corey Colwell, the MSC division manager talking about our New Hampshire seacoast projects.

TFMoran was very happy to be able to give out annual bonuses to all the staff at the Harvest Lunch.  It was a great beginning to the Thanksgiving holiday break, as folks headed home to spend time with their families.

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Asim Azam joins TFM’s Civil Engineering Department

TFM is pleased to announce that Asim Azam, EIT has joined the Civil Engineering department in the Bedford office, serving as a Project Engineer.

Asim has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University in 2014. His internships in design work in Boston, included developing SWPPP plans, site inspections, general civil engineering and permitting assignments; and in construction management preparing estimates, submittals, and other construction-related tasks.

For the past year Asim has worked for a land development company in Ayer, MA on civil/site design, stormwater design, and environmental permitting of residential and commercial projects, as well as project coordination with clients and local officials.

TFM welcomes Asim to our team!

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NH Municipal Conference & Expo – TFM was there!

TFMoran talked with municipal officials at this year’s New Hampshire Municipal Association 74th Annual Conference. The two day Conference is held in downtown Manchester at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday, November 19th and Friday, November 20th. TFMoran staff was on hand at Booth #403 to talk about various recent and ongoing municipal projects from road design and construction overview (like the one in Amherst) to new fire and rescue facilities (like the one in Milton). Our booth display featured the Dunbar Free Library addition in Grantham, which is currently under construction.

This is New Hampshire’s premier conference for municipal officials and will feature over 40 educational sessions and an opportunity to meet with exhibitors to learn about their latest products and services. The 2014 event drew more than 500 New Hampshire local government officials and over 100 exhibitors and sponsors!

This year’s conference theme was Navigating the Waters of Municipal Government. Captain Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 was the keynote speaker.