Understanding how a building works is complicated. When architects design a building they have in mind a very schematic idea of how things should function and flow, but reality is that there are many human behaviors that could alter how things should work. Today we had John Katrakis, the engineer in charge of choosing the building’s mechanical systems, come in and speak to us about how the LEED certified Homan Building, part of the Rosa Parks Apartments, works. He talked in depth about how some the building features help the overall function of the building and how that makes it sustainable.

 

Designing LEED buildings means a much bigger investment up front, but does meeting these standards mean an investment towards saving money and being sustainable over the long run? Maintaining a building is just as important as designing a building. If the building is not being maintained, the components that help the building be more efficient could be running with no purpose. The corridor make up unit is an example. The purpose of the corridor make up unit is to have the air pressure in the hallway at a higher pressure than that of a unit, which theoretically should keep all odors from flowing under the door and migrating to other units. At the Rosa park apartments this seems to be an issue because often times there are tenants that complain about smells that come from the hallway. When I asked John how often he checks if the systems are operating properly and making sure that the air in the corridor is at a higher pressure; he said, that test had not been conducted and the pressure is not checked at all. This is something that should be checked upon because if the system is just running with no purpose, it’s simply running up the bill with no positive outcomes. This comes to show that having all the top of the line mechanical systems could be counterproductive when we think about energy consumption. John’s presentation really makes you wonder if building LEED is always the best way to go, both economically and environmentally.