Best practices for mixed-use buildings: Sustainability, energy efficiency

Taking on a mixed-use structure—such as one that includes retail and residential portions—can be an engineering challenge. With all the different engineered systems involved, it can be like working on and integrating several different projects at once. Energy efficiency, sustainability, and green buildings are discussed.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 29, 2014


  • Anil Ahuja, PE, RCDD, LEED BD+C, CxA, President, CCJM Engineers Ltd. Chicago
  • Jason R. Gerke, PE, CxA, LEED AP BD+C, Mechanical and Plumbing Team Leader, GRAEF, Milwaukee
  • Keith Lane, PE, RCDD, NTS, RTPM, LC, LEED AP BD+C, President/CEO, Lane Coburn & Associates, Bothell, Wash. 
  • Brian A. McLaughlin, PE, Associate, Arup, Los Angeles

CSE: Many aspects of sustainability (power, HVAC, maintenance, etc.) require building personnel to follow certain practices to be effective. What, if anything, can you as an engineer do to help increase chances of success in this area?

Gerke: The most important item to consider, after meeting the owner’s project requirements, is to make sure to keep things simple. There is an acronym called KISS (“Keep it simple, stupid”), which many people have heard of. A small effort in the design phase of making sure the filters are similar sizes or types for a hundred units is a very basic strategy, but can save many hours in labor and reduce replacement stocking requirements over the entire life of the systems. Other concepts include setting up the unit configurations in a similar fashion throughout the building so that when maintenance personnel are familiar with one unit, they are automatically familiar with most of the equipment. Also, working with the electrical engineer on the project to circuit equipment in similar ways and to similar locations will reduce time spent identifying where and how equipment is served from power panels when shutdowns need to occur.

Ahuja: Increase the amount of training hours required; provide as much backup documentation to the staff as possible; and ensure proper commissioning of systems, maintaining records, and regular maintenance of systems.