World of difference
Conducting business overseas can be a challenge of global proportions. Figure in language barriers, culture clashes, lack of adequate infrastructure, and climate differences, and a project that would be difficult even in your home country becomes downright daunting. Here, engineers with experience on international projects offer worldly advice.
- Paul Bearn, PE, electrical services engineer, KlingStubbins, Philadelphia
- Robert Bolin, PE, LEED Fellow, ASHRAE HBDP, senior vice president, national director, high performance solutions, Syska Hennessy Group Inc., Chicago
- Mehdi Jalayerian, PE, LEED AP BD+C, executive vice president, global practice, Environmental Systems Design Inc., Chicago
- Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP, principal, Arup, Los Angeles
CSE: Please describe a recent international project you’ve worked on—share problems you’ve encountered, how you’ve solved them, and aspects of the project you’re especially proud of.
Paul Bearn: We’ve been involved in various projects in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The greatest technical challenges have been in understanding local construction practices, product availability, and code requirements. The initial solution to all three problems is additional technical research; experience makes these all less of a burden over time. The language barrier can be challenging, although it’s really not the obstacle one might expect as the rest of the world is accustomed to doing business in English. Cultural differences and expectations can lead to confusion more often than language does; internal discussions of the issues encountered coupled with Internet research on cultural differences can be quite helpful here, and such problems similarly diminish over time with experience.
Mehdi Jalayerian: We have found success working internationally when we have strong partnerships to develop solutions for challenges anywhere in the world. An example includes the Abu Dhabi financial center where our partnerships, both domestic and international, have worked together with our client and contractors to design and assist with construction oversight and commissioning of a major mixed-use development. By having strong relationships prior to encountering project challenges, we were able to develop solutions quickly to maintain the development’s momentum.
Erin McConahey: [We did a] recent confidential design project in the Middle East. Primary problems were related to lack of information on site utilities as the landmass was being created simultaneous to the design process. Additionally, getting paid in a timely manner was an issue. These remain problems. The design aspects of the work are quite involved technically and with regard to multidisciplinary integration and coordination, so the team is quite proud of the work.
CSE: How did your firm decide to branch out and seek international work?
Jalayerian: Our firm has been working internationally for more than 30 years. Initially, we pursued international work as a consultant for firms we have had long-standing relationships with. Through teaming with local partners, we utilized our strength in providing sustainable and practical MEP designs for projects. During the boom of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we opened an office and made a commitment to growing our business throughout the Middle East. We now have people living in the UAE as well as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and have begun hiring locally and integrating ex-pats with local talent. The decision to place roots in the Middle East came after several years of experience with various state-of-the-arts projects. We see growth in the region for the high level of consulting-engineering our firm provides.
Bearn: As we’ve increased our international experience and exposure, we find not only that repeat customers and new foreign clients are growing the market for us, but that our global U.S. clients are also now inviting us to participate in international projects whereas previously they might have considered us only for projects at home—so it’s quite likely this trend will continue through and beyond the current U.S. economic recovery.
CSE: In which countries are you seeing the most success, and why?
Jalayerian: We are currently focused on the Middle East and India. When reviewing emerging or growing economies, we believe there is going to be long-term growth in the Middle East, India, and Asia. Coupled with long-term economic growth, we have gained institutional knowledge of how to immerse our effort within the business cultures of the Middle East and India and provide value-added services. We believe we are seeing success due to our commitment to these regions and our understanding of the value proposition our clients seek in these locations.
McConahey: Generally speaking in terms of economic outlook of the local industries, East Asia is doing quite well at the moment, followed somewhat by stability in the Australasia region. Europe and the United Kingdom are suffering, and in the Americas, growth is very market-driven and secondarily locality-driven.
Bearn: The unprecedented economic growth in China has led to several successful data center, pharmaceutical, and commercial projects for us; the Latin America and the Middle East economies are similarly growing while also still undergoing rapid development, and we’ve experienced similar successes there. In other regions, such as Russia, business relationships and niche technical experience have led to repeat business.
CSE: Have you increased or decreased the number of international projects your firm takes on?
Bearn: Over the last five or 10 years the growth rate was quite dramatic. Going forward, it appears the level may stabilize somewhat, neither growing nor contracting as an overall percentage.
Jalayerian: For the past 20 years, we have seen steady growth in the number of international projects that require high-performance designs. Our long history of providing practical, efficient, and sustainable MEP designs has helped to grow our share of international projects.
CSE: What are some of the most notable differences between international projects and domestic projects?
Robert Bolin: This depends on market sector. Certain international hospital projects embrace the notion of operable windows in part of the building much more readily than in the U.S. This is usually culturally driven, what they have historically incorporated, and the local codes will often allow this whereas it can be much more challenging to incorporate in the U.S. We also have found in the more recent international projects a willingness to incorporate innovative solutions and strategies that often are cut from U.S. projects. So there has been an opportunity to test new and alternative approaches and technologies in some international projects (by no means all), that then find their way back into U.S. projects after they have been successfully implemented elsewhere.
McConahey: Familiarity with codes, local practices, available materials, and cultural expectations. Our best work occurs when the U.S. office is supporting an architectural team, and our remote office is within the construction area anticipated and already has relationships with the local authorities, officials, and construction partners.
Jalayerian: We have found many of these opportunities are at a scale unfathomable in the U.S. In the U.S., privately owned institutions plan new or major projects based on micro-economic conditions. An example is a hospital or a university may develop a master plan for a campus and implement the plan over 10 to 15 years. Internationally, our clients are planning, designing, and constructing major healthcare cities and university towns that incorporate all of the components in a single development. Due to speed of development, the delivery process for international projects requires a practical and quick response approach for a successful development.
CSE: What types of projects are you most likely to work on outside the U.S.—for example, do you tend to see more retrofits than new construction, or more of any one type of project?
Bearn: Our international projects have been almost exclusively new construction. However, the market sectors involved range widely, including offices, hotels, residential, manufacturing, laboratories, universities, government facilities, and data centers, with no clear single dominant project type.
Jalayerian: For our firm, it is mostly new construction for large-scale complex projects where full design team integration is crucial to proposing innovative design solutions. Examples include the net-zero design for the Masdar World Headquarters in Abu Dhabi, UAE (100,000 sm); Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (the world’s tallest); and the Abu Dhabi Financial Center in Abu Dhabi, UAE (large-scale, mixed-use development on Sowah Island). Each of these developments required design team integration from the start as well as strong partnerships with local firms with the ability to produce tender documents through a thorough understanding of the design intent.
McConahey: We would almost always do new construction. Occasionally, we will do due-diligence studies for American clients interested in evaluating capital investment opportunities in a foreign country.
Bolin: We generally see much more new construction than renovation in our international projects, and they are either typically larger projects where the client desires an international engineer as part of the team, or in a particular market sector where our firm has significant expertise and experience—data centers, healthcare, aviation, mixed-use, super tall towers.
CSE: Outside of occasional language barriers, do you ever encounter “culture clashes” on international projects?
McConahey: As a woman, when I was younger, I ran into the occasional person who is less likely to acknowledge my direct contributions. This happens less frequently now that I am a principal within the firm. My experience is that when I directly show that I have expert knowledge, the concerns regarding my gender disappear in the technical realm, and we establish understandings related to cultural norms regarding proximity, dress, and interaction patterns.
Jalayerian: For the most part, people throughout the world have a better understanding of English than many Americans have of other languages. Culturally, there is an understanding that there are differences leading to opportunities for all parties to be successful through collaboration. As true in the U.S., diversity leads to expanding knowledge, innovation, and success when approached in a respectful manner. This does not necessarily mean there aren’t bumps in the road, but when there is an underlying respect and the entire team is focused on contributing to the overall success of the project, cultural clashes diminish.
Bearn: Cultural differences become apparent quickly. One is quickly warned that to drink water during Ramadan would be insulting—even during an all-day presentation. And stories regarding the presentation of business cards in China and Japan are now cliché here but still hold true. Fortunately, we foreigners are usually afforded a bit more leeway with such slips of social etiquette than natives might be, usually amounting to a few awkward moments. Moreover, there’s typically a great deal of interest on both sides to learn more about each other’s culture and language; exploring the differences can be a great way to build relationships and put everyone at ease. There can be areas of greater concern though—for example, differences in what’s implied by a “contract.” The same cultural affinity for business which might fascinate an American tourist when haggling for souvenirs can distress an American project manager as he discovers that a contract signing is only a formality, signifying the start of renegotiations.
CSE: Do you ever encounter challenges or problems due to lack of access to infrastructure (potable water, electrical utilities, poor road conditions, etc.)?
Jalayerian: Many of the projects we are working on include new infrastructure because they are large-scale developments in newly developed land that requires new utilities. These types of new developments provide greater opportunities for overall energy-efficiency strategies that include central (district) cooling/heating/power generation plants as well as self-contained potable water supply and sewage treatment systems. We work closely with project planners and civil engineers to integrate these infrastructure facilities into the developments.
Bearn: While such conditions certainly exist and persist in many regions of the world, there is generally little evidence of this in the areas we’ve been involved in, but others’ experiences may vary greatly. That said, a sense of adventure and a bit of common sense always come in handy when exploring, both at home and abroad.
CSE: What are some common problems you encounter when working on automation or control systems in various countries?
Jalayerian: Generally, we see more advanced and fully integrated building automation/control systems considerations given for the international projects as compared to the North American market. This is due to large-scale developments being planned internationally, which allows for long-term solutions that can facilitate ease of expansion.
McConahey: This has generally not been an issue for us. There are some local preferences with regard to documentation, but the U.S. usually has higher expectations of documentation than elsewhere.
CSE: How can automated features and remote system control benefit your international clients?
McConahey: In the same way as for all clients—by controlling and monitoring the devices within the building to achieve environmental stability and energy efficiency.
CSE: Please describe a situation on an international project where regional codes and standards presented a challenge, and how you worked to overcome that challenge.
Bearn: The electrical systems can be strikingly different, even when working in countries which reference U.S. building codes. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, both U.S. and European codes coexist; it can be unclear exactly which code is applicable and it’s often a contractual requirement to adhere to both sets of codes despite conflicts between them. A quite different problem is faced in China, where the Guo Biao codes are written in a style less like the strict requirements of the U.S. and more like a design guideline, which can lead to difficulty in interpreting and understanding them.
Jalayerian: Each country’s building codes are developed based on local knowledge and practices for construction and life safety. Often times the local codes and standards cannot be effectively applied to modern projects envisioned for such locations. Although the lack of applicability of local codes presents a challenge to building design professionals, it presents the opportunity to help the local community of building authorities, utility companies, fire “brigades,” contractors, and owner-operators to become familiar first-hand with solutions which are typically outside the scope of local codes and experience. An example is the location of electrical transformers within a building and especially for high-rise structures. In the U.S., common practice includes transformers located at grade as well as above-grade levels to allow economy of installation by locating transformers as close as possible to the load centers while improving overall performance and reliability. European standards somewhat limit the location of transformers to mostly on-grade; Chinese standards have now recognized the advantage of cost saving and reliability and mostly require it as a base solution; Middle Eastern jurisdictions did not allow this approach but are evolving toward such concepts and in recent years have adapted building code revisions to specifically allow this important design flexibility.
CSE: What surprises, if any, have you encountered in the area of codes and standards on your international projects?
Bolin: The variation of the codes and standards from international location to location can quickly become overwhelming. In rapidly emerging international locations, the speed of development has also given rise to very rapidly changing codes and standards, so what is applicable to one project can quickly change for the next.
McConahey: There is no consistency in the source of the adopted codes; for instance, electrical codes may be heavily influenced by British standards, fire codes may be influenced by American International Codes and the National Fire Protection Assoc. (NFPA), and plumbing codes may be influenced by the Uniform Codes. Additionally, often the codes are written prescriptively for small size buildings.
Bearn: The differences are most evident in the codes concerned with immediate life safety. For example, in the U.S., the emergency power system codes focus a great deal of attention on the segregation of various electrical backup systems and transfer equipment based on their level of criticality; to my knowledge, there is no such requirement anywhere else in the world. In contrast, several other regions of the world have strict requirements for civil defense shelters not unlike the bomb shelters constructed during the Cold War era in U.S. buildings but almost unheard of here today.
CSE: Consulting-Specifying Engineer poll respondents have indicated that codes and standards are their No. 1 challenge when engineering projects outside the United States. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Jalayerian: I agree that the primary challenge of a building design in a given jurisdiction or country is the application of codes and standards. Engineering designs for any project must take into account the local codes and standards of practice, and particularly in the area of life safety. The selected/installed building systems must consider the applications/configurations that are in-line with the local practices and do not impose unnecessary complication for the local municipality and civil defense.
Bearn: I’d certainly agree with that, especially when entering a market for the first time. Foreign codes are organized quite differently from U.S. codes, making it difficult to determine which codes are applicable and which codes must be purchased. Quite a few foreign codes and ordinances are officially available only in their native language; third-party translations are sometimes available but they are not inexpensive and the quality of the translation varies. Of course, just as with U.S. codes, familiarity and experience with the codes diminishes these problems over time.
McConahey: I agree. It is quite essential to have someone on the ground who understands the nuances and knows the official. Authorities have great personal power in determining an interpretation, especially on nonstandard projects.
Bolin: Yes, I would tend to agree. I am anxious for the day when the International Building Code (IBC) is truly recognized as just that so that there is more consistency around the globe, recognizing that there will always be some local and regional differences.
CSE: What’s the one factor most commonly overlooked in electrical systems on projects outside of the U.S.?
Bearn: Backup power systems need to be reviewed in detail early on in the project’s conceptual phase. Such systems can have a substantial physical requirement for building footprint, fuel storage, and air intake, and can have a high cost associated with them. In addition, the code and product listing requirements vary greatly from country to country. Local expectations vary too: in the Middle East, it is common knowledge that domestic water pumps are “always” provided with generator power, even if there is no written requirement to do so; this may surprise uninitiated Western designers.
Jalayerian: Differences in wiring devices and methods are the most obvious items that can be overlooked in electrical systems design. What are not obvious are the differing conceptual approaches of some counties regarding electrical demand factors. Many countries have a different concept of demand factors at main transformers, and even receptacle socket outlet quantities and their relation to overall building electrical demand factors. The approach outside of the U.S. is typically more conscious of conserving materials and of designing less capacity than would be common in a domestic design.
McConahey: Local codes and practices; generally a project refers to a specific countrywide code like the British Standards (BS), or European standards (EN), etc., but little is stated or written of what local authorities may expect and/or require. Sometimes multiple codes are stipulated which may conflict with other codes. An example is buildings outside the U.S. that are designed for life safety according to NFPA but are using BS, or EN for electrical codes. This poses a conflict because NFPA refers to the National Electric Code, which has different requirements.
CSE: How has the demand for efficient lighting and use of daylighting affected your work on international projects?
Bearn: Less than one might expect. There’s a renewed interest in lighting efficiency throughout the world, and the palette of available solutions is rather finite, so foreign and lighting designs are often more alike than unlike. There are some minor regional differences, however. In Europe, for example, LED lighting and DALI controls are more prevalent than in the U.S.; the lighting power density budget in China is slightly more stringent than it is here.
CSE: Please describe an international project on which you worked that had an especially unique or challenging electrical system.
Jalayerian: Designing a major high-rise in a developing country presented a real challenge, as that nation’s code and practice explicitly limits installing transformers on upper floors. The situation is generally aggravated by the local engineer-of-record’s refusal to champion the improved design with the local authorities. The approach we have recommended to overcome these variations in practices and to obtain a common understanding is to escort senior ministry officials to another foreign country where such installations have been implemented and are in operation for many years to get familiar with how we had addressed such an installation already on an existing high-rise building.
Bearn: In addition to the language and code issues discussed above, an additional level of effort is required in understanding the local installation practices. For example, cable tray is used much more frequently for power distribution in other countries than it is in the U.S., even in light commercial applications. Significant construction cost savings can be realized using tray, but the design effort is significantly higher. The overall product marketplace can be quite different too: on a recent project in Saudi Arabia, we were asked to use a European emergency lighting system consisting of intelligent dc battery panels with integral ac/dc transfer switches serving fluorescent ballasts; the ballasts use one single pair of wires for ac power, dc power, and digital communications with the emergency lighting panels. It’s a great system, but it’s not yet approved for use in the U.S. Similarly, seemingly small details such as convenience receptacle configurations can absorb a surprising amount of time on international projects, such as on a hotel project where the owner is catering to an international clientele or a laboratory which purchases its equipment from the global marketplace and hosts international scientists. “Universal” multistandard outlets are available which can greatly simplify this problem, but only where their use has been approved by the local listing or standards authority.
CSE: What international codes and standards do you follow in the countries in which you do business?
Jalayerian: Many countries follow IBC and NFPA, or the local codes that are based on these accepted international codes and standards, with modifications addressing regional conditions and practices. Sometimes these requirements are supplemented with British standards.
McConahey: The application of "international" codes and standards varies significantly depending upon drivers such as owner design guidelines, insurer requirements, and sophistication of the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). On past projects in East Asia, the IBC was used extensively, but local AHJ requirements were also required to be incorporated into the strategic fire and life safety design approaches. For a current project in the Eastern Mediterranean, NFPA 5000 is being used as the driver for design and there is, as of yet, little direct input from the local AHJ.
CSE: What changes in fire protection systems have you seen in international projects recently? What do you see changing in the near future?
Jalayerian: As jurisdictions have adapted provisions of the IBC and applied more international practice standards, products and systems have similarly changed to reflect more universally accepted applications.
McConahey: While I do not have direct experience with the systems on a project, it is my understanding that the use of water mist fire protection systems in place of traditional fire sprinkler systems is becoming more common. This approach is interesting in that the impacts of water damage could be significantly reduced for buildings or facilities where operational downtime must be minimized. Looking to the future, the prevalence of using elevators as a life safety system to facilitate more efficient evacuation for high-rise building is expected to grow.
CSE: What fire/life safety factors might engineers overlook on international projects?
McConahey: I think that the No. 1 most important issue for fire and life safety consultants working internationally is to verify the applicable local building/fire authority requirements as soon as possible. Many international jurisdictions have practices and procedures that can be much more restrictive than are commonly enforced in the U.S.
Jalayerian: While following international standards in name, the authorities in some countries appear to be less open to the exceptions within these codes. It’s important to be knowledgeable of the unwritten requirements and local amendments that provide further definition for their application to local practice. Additionally, engineers shouldn’t overlook the availability of qualified maintenance; this may lead to designs depending less on sophisticated engineering support.
CSE: Describe a recent high-rise project on which you worked. What were the challenges of working on this type of building in a foreign country?
Jalayerian: Any time we design a tower which far exceeds a country’s previous experience and the explicit prescriptive scope of its code, either in scope and/or complexity, it’s a challenge helping the local building authorities to get comfortable with engineered performance-based solutions. At times this requires bringing representatives of that country’s authorities/ministries to a different country to get familiar with how we’ve addressed similar challenges already on an existing tower. Sometimes facilitating discussion on-site between the authorities of the two counties is helpful.
McConahey: The challenges on international high-rise project relate back to understanding the regulatory framework. What may be a common practice in the U.S. may be groundbreaking territory in a foreign country. Design considerations for issues such as smoke control, refuge floors, and the use of elevators vary greatly and must be understood by the entire design team as early as possible in the project.
CSE: What experience have you had with sustainability concerns on international projects?
Bearn: Sustainability is a global concern; the focus on sustainability is not at all unlike that at home.
Bolin: Not surprisingly, there is no “one size fits all” in terms of defining sustainability requirements or aspirations for any projects, whether in the U.S. or internationally. What we do find consistent, however, is that most clients on large projects want their buildings to address improved energy, water, and material efficiency in some way, but want capital and lifecycle economics to justify it.
Jalayerian: Sustainability and building energy efficiency is an integral part of our practice for all of our designs and within any jurisdiction. Certainly where there has been a strong desire by the building owner for the highest level of energy efficiency, we have worked to enhance our design to achieve higher standards of practice. An example is our integrated MEP design for the net-zero energy Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi, which incorporates high-performance building systems solutions. The project design includes low energy consumption and produces 3% more energy that it consumes. Furthermore, we have provided integrated MEP design for a high-rise building in Seoul, South Korea, which achieves the highest energy efficiency grade given to a building in South Korea by the local independent construction institutes.
CSE: How often do you work on international Green Building Council or Green Globes projects? Which program is more accepted internationally?
Bearn: Our international portfolio of LEED projects is significant and growing; the flexibility of Green Globes may make this a stronger contender in the future.
McConahey: We have primarily seen the use of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED standard over any international code; we have also seen countries write their own green building code.
Bolin: We find that LEED and the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) remain the market leaders in terms of environmental certification programs around the world. But various international markets have moved aggressively to either license LEED and update to reflect local and regional priorities (like Canada), or have developed their own rating systems specific to their own needs [like Estidama in Abu Dhabi, Green Star in Australia, the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE) in Japan, the Green Building Certification Systems (GBCS) in Korea, 3-Star in China, etc]. Regardless of the certification program, we do see the vast majority of our international projects seeking some type of environmental certification.
Jalayerian: We see Green Building Council as well as Green Globe used by many international jurisdictions to establish a benchmark for local practices. Many international jurisdictions are writing and adapting their own method to grade sustainability and energy efficiency of buildings. Some jurisdictions, such as Abu Dhabi, are adapting green design requirements as an integral part of building codes and approval process.
CSE: In your experience, which climate region is the most difficult to design for? What unique HVAC tools have you used in these regions?
McConahey: I find hot/humid climates particularly challenging from a dehumidification and energy use point of view. Dedicated outside air systems with total heat recovery are necessary in these areas. That said, I think it is difficult because it is quite different from my experience in the dry Southwestern U.S. I just think that it is necessary to understand the climate very well and to listen to local people who understand unique seasonal differences that might not appear explicitly in online weather tapes.
Bolin: Hot and humid climates pose the greatest challenges, in my experience. Moisture entrainment into buildings and outdoor ventilation air temperature and moisture content both need to be carefully controlled to ensure appropriate indoor air quality. This becomes increasingly important as hydronic cooling systems such as radiant ceilings and slabs and chilled beams become more mainstream for providing comfort cooling to buildings. We are using building performance modeling tools for energy, solar/daylight, and airflow management simulation on most projects now, regardless of region.
Jalayerian: Building designs in the hot climatic conditions such as Middle East are the most challenging as they require higher interaction and coordination with the entire design team to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency. The HVAC systems selection and design are established based on the building’s architectural enclosure and its orientation. Solar analysis tools as well as computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analysis software can greatly assist the engineers and architects to integrate system solutions that holistically view the performance of the building environment.
CSE: What are the most important factors to consider when working on HVAC systems on international projects?
Jalayerian: The most important factor to consider is to select/recommend HVAC system components that are easily available in the region where the project is located. It is also important to make recommendations for HVAC system configurations that can be operated and maintained with the local staff without the requirement for sophisticated training.
Bolin: Understanding the local climate and how it will impact the design of the building envelope and HVAC system is important for all projects, regardless of geography. But it is especially important for international projects where accurate weather data profiles may or may not be readily available. Additionally, understanding the customs and engineering capabilities of international clients and international design partners is critical—it is all well and good to develop an innovative design approach during early design stages, but when the project is turned over to local partners for final construction drawings, installation, and operation, they need to be fully informed and capable in delivering and operating the building systems according to design intent.
CSE: Several countries and regions have more efficient HVAC systems. Describe a recent project and the technologies you used.
Bolin: HVAC system efficiencies need not be more or less efficient, necessarily, based on region or country. In today’s global economy, systems in the U.S. or Europe have been (and continue to be) readily adaptable to other regions, whether Asia, Africa, South America, or the Middle East. Care just needs to be given to the specifics of the local environment for the design. For a recent project in Korea, the client was intent on using a raised-floor system for the office floors of a tall building, initially only for power and tele/data distribution. We provided an early phase integrated building performance modeling approach, using a combination of daylight, energy, and CFD modeling to quickly evaluate several alternative configurations of conventional overhead air distribution with underfloor air distribution using several alternative solutions at the building perimeter to offset peak gains and losses. The energy modeling data was used as part of a capital and lifecycle cost analysis, and the CFD modeling was used to evaluate occupant thermal comfort expectations. Ultimately, the most cost-effective and thermally acceptable solution included underfloor air distribution throughout, with perimeter passive chilled beams for peak solar gain cooling and baseboard hydronic convectors for perimeter heating. The team is currently closely evaluating building pressure relationships to ensure moisture migration through envelope elements is carefully controlled.
CSE: What are some of the most notable changes you’ve seen in lighting projects on international structures?
McConahey: Over the last few years there has been a real growth in the use of LEED, and related codes, as the benchmark for which to design lighting systems. This has meant there are major performance-related issues that have a real impact on regional visual and design expectations. For instance, this has really impacted decorative lighting in Europe, and lighting controls and media architecture in Asia—both regions need to be really clever on the design and execution. Another regional change is the increase in looking at daylighting as a major design driver. Daylighting in some hot climate regions is a notably sensitive issue. Apart from the obvious solar gain issues, there are some cultural issues of letting in daylight into a space.
CSE: How do available technologies and demand for such products vary from region to region?
McConahey: The application of various technologies is as much a matter of taste as it is economics. Eye-catching media architecture projects are tough to keep in a project here in the states. The overt nature of the technology is seen sometimes in the states as being too much of a statement, often with costs coming in as secondary issues, if the financial models are correct. Where in Asia, these cutting-edge media architecture technologies are seen as fashionable and energetic ways to create icons. Simultaneously, advances in white light LED are really being pushed by the U.S. and European markets. A big driver is the long-term maintenance costs of replacing lamps. The smaller aperture for a cleaner appearance really helps as well.
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