Engineering workable, successful office space: Codes and standards

Whether new or retrofit, office buildings can be a challenge for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), or fire protection engineer. A team of experienced professionals offers advice on building codes and standards.

10/23/2014


Julianne Laue, PE, LEED AP, BEMP Senior MEP Engineer, Center for Sustainable Energy Mortenson Construction MinneapolisTony McGuire, PE, FASHRAE Founder McGuire Engineers Inc. ChicagoTony McGuire, PE, FASHRAE Founder McGuire Engineers Inc. Chicago

Respondents

  • Julianne Laue, PE, LEED AP, BEMP, Senior MEP Engineer, Center for Sustainable Energy Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis
  • Tony McGuire, PE, FASHRAE, Founder, McGuire Engineers Inc., Chicago
  • Nathan Snydacker, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, ESD Global, Chicago

With the help of McGuire Engineers, Walsh Construction transformed a facility (a former car showroom and packaging plant) into a 93,300-sq-ft office structure. Courtesy: McGuire EngineersCSE: What codes, standards, or guidelines do you use as a guide as you work on these facilities?

McGuire: In our firm, one may often hear, “The worst building we can design, by law, is one that only meets the code!” We always meet or exceed code requirements in the jurisdiction. 

Snydacker: Our design work is typically based on International Building Code, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and ordinances specific to certain jurisdictions such as the Chicago Building Code or California Title 24.

CSE: Have Energy Star, ASHRAE, U.S. Green Building Council, etc., affected your work on office building projects? What are some positive/negative aspects of these guides?

Snydacker: These organizations have done a tremendous job not only in driving design standards and legislation to improve energy efficiency, but also in cultivating general public knowledge and interest. With each new iteration of energy code, come new design challenges and client education—but this is what is exciting and keeps our industry moving forward.

McGuire: Energy Star, ASHRAE, U.S. Green Building Council and other organizations have been providing a great amount of stimuli for improved energy use, reuse of material, less waste, and so on. We, the engineers of today, can work with these groups and their documents. However, my personal belief is that too much material is being prematurely put into standards and codes without adequate verification. My feeling is that the use of the word “standard” implies that regular, proven, and acceptable items are being required as a minimum. As a member of the original coordinating committee that oversaw the writing of ASHRAE Standard 19-75, I am appalled at what are being called standards today. To me, many should be called concepts or guidelines and not standards. 

CSE: Which code/standard proves to be most challenging in office buildings?

McGuire: We do not find any extreme challenges in meeting codes or standards. However, we do find some so-called standards to be annoying or inappropriate.

Snydacker: From a tenant fit-out or renovation project, lighting controls and power density as required by energy code is consistently a challenge. Deliberate and specialized lighting design becomes much more important to ensure adequate light levels are achieved while using less power. Automated controls, including daylight harvesting, are a tremendous step in code required systems but often come at a cost to our clients. Diligent communication is needed up front to ensure clients understand the associated costs, benefits, and functionality of the systems being designed and implemented.

 



Product of the Year
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
40 Under Forty: Get Recognized
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
MEP Giants Program
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
July 2018
Integrating electrical and HVAC systems, emerging trends in fire, life safety, ASHRAE 90.4
June 2018
Chilled-water system design, NFPA 99, Grounded power supply systems
May 2018
40 Under 40 winners, fire and life safety, performance-based designs, and more
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
click me