3 Construction Strategies to Optimize Profits for Your Multifamily Project

Multifamily housing is in tremendous demand. Condos and upscale urban renovations and newly constructed apartments have become some of the most profitable real estate segments, yet developers and property owners may struggle to meet investment targets.

What’s driving the demand for multifamily projects?

Historically, housing-starts were the result of increased population, but at less than 1% population growth, we’ve seen the lowest population increases since the 1930’s. The mobility comes in two areas: 1) increases in income among high-earners and 2) decrease in average house size (Forbes). These two factors are good indicators for developers to consider the types of properties, locations and relative square feet. However, as labor, equipment, and materials costs continue to rise, new strategies are required to keep costs within a safe range and preserve profits.

One of the best ways to optimize the value of your property is to place a heavy emphasis on strategic mechanical, engineering, and plumbing (MEP) design tactics. If you would like to learn more about the MEP world and why it plays such a critical role in multifamily housing, keep reading. This article takes a closer look at three key MEP strategies to be aware of.

Optimize Square Footage

As the multifamily real estate market grows increasingly competitive, developers must find ways to extract the most value from a property. In other words, skyrocketing land values are forcing developers to make the most of limited parcels. A principal goal of today's MEP systems is to optimize the amount of rentable/salable square footage you own.

One of the most advantageous MEP strategies involves the use of so-called horizontal distribution systems. Such systems cut down on the excessive MEP impact of older HVAC models, which used cumbersome ducts to distribute conditioned air. A horizontal distribution system, by contrast, shifts distribution to the ceilings thanks to the use of heat pumps, variable refrigerant flow, and other cutting-edge HVAC technologies.

Where horizontal systems simply aren't feasible, developers can still optimize square footage by using stacked vertical systems. These systems share walls with adjacent multifamily units, thus reducing the space requirements for both buildings. Opposing soffits within the ventilation units allow a single vertical stack to offer distribution, ventilation, and exhaust functions to both units.

Another key strategy to optimize square footage involves reducing the building's floor-to-floor heights. For multistory buildings, even a relatively small reduction between 6 and 12 inches can create enough room for an additional floor at the top of the building. In this way, developers can boost rentable/salable footage without having to increase the building's height.

Use CFD Models When Designing Parking Garage Configurations

Underground parking garages are a common feature of multifamily real estate - and can add significant appeal to a property. However, parking garages can also represent a significant source of expense, since they require costly excavation efforts. Furthermore, parking garages require dedicated ventilation systems to supply them with an adequate amount of fresh air.

To keep costs as low as possible, developers must take a proactive approach during the design phase. Don't go into the project with a specific type of ventilation system in mind. Instead, consult various contractors about the current price differences between ducted systems and transfer fans. Maintaining flexibility regarding your material selections — for instance, stainless steel piping versus copper piping — can also help keep costs down.

An even more dramatically advantageous strategy involves using computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, to model your future garage's exhaust and supply air needs. CFD is a form of software analysis that takes into account the design parameters of your building. The software uses this information to model air circulation, allowing you to find the most cost-effective ventilation system.

For one thing, CFD can accurately analyze whether a traditional duct system or a system of transfer fans will yield more efficient results. In the latter case, the CFD can also determine the most effective placement of transfer fans. As a result, you can keep the number of fans to an absolute minimum. Not only will this reduce your initial outlay, but it will also cut down on the amount of horsepower, thus lowering energy consumption.

Developers should also give consideration to the use of parking stackers. As their name implies, these mechanical platform devices allow multiple cars to stack on top of one another. This system allows you reduce the overall excavation depth by using space more wisely.

Embrace Modular Construction

Another quickly growing facet of MEP design involves the use of modular construction. Modular construction involves the pre-fabrication of living units at an off-site manufacturing facility. Modules are fully-finished components of buildings, complete with interior walls, electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures. These units are then installed in ready-to-go form at the jobsite. This strategy cuts down on assembly and construction time, and may lead to significant savings.

That said, developers must understand some of the constraints posed by modular design. For one thing, modular constructions often make it easier to see double walls, dividing lines, and other visual clues of the prefabricated structure.

Developers should also realize that modular construction may involve a more complicated permitting process. This added complexity usually means that you will need to add an experienced third-party professional to your construction and design team. Only somebody well versed in the challenges of modular design can ensure that your project remains both economically viable and fully up-to-code.

MEP strategies offer developers a multitude of ways to optimize a multifamily building project. For more information about how MEP strategy can improve the efficiency your next building project, please contact the industry experts at REX Engineering Group.


energy auditor performing energy audit engineering

How to Hire an Energy Auditor

Whether you want to cut energy costs or simply identify the biggest energy drains within your building or property, an energy audit can provide you with vital information that will allow you to become more energy-efficient. By hiring the right energy auditor, you will get an actionable report that can provide both short and long-term results: the perfect combination for improving your building's energy usage.

What Will an Energy Auditor Do?

At REX, energy auditors are engineers: highly-trained individuals who are ready to come in and help determine how your building uses energy and how it can use energy more efficiently. An engineer specializing in energy audits will:

Inspect your property and determine where and how you are using energy. The engineer will look at occupancy rates and efficiency throughout your facility. They don't just want to find energy drains; they want to see how the facility as a whole uses energy.

Present best practices that fit the needs of your business. A good energy auditor doesn't simply issue generic recommendations. Instead, they'll discuss the specifics of your building and your business, then offer best practice recommendations that will genuinely work for you.

Compile reports to discuss potential costs and savings. Implementing energy-saving plans may cost your business money up front, and a good energy auditor knows that you need to balance those costs with the potential savings. Not only will they discuss the potential cost of energy-saving changes with you up front, they'll present you with a solid picture of what savings you can expect, both short-term and long-term.

MEP and structural engineersFinding the Best Energy Auditor for Your Building

When you hire an energy auditor, you want the best: someone who will bring genuine value to your business. As you prepare to hire an auditor, take these key steps:

Contact the Engineering Firm

You may want to prepare a request for quotation to help you better understand the potential costs of an energy audit for your building. Before choosing an energy auditor, ask key questions like:

  • How much experience do you have in the industry? How long have you been working as an energy auditor?
  • Have you worked with businesses like mine in the past?
  • Can I talk with past customers to learn more about your business?
  • What will you charge for an energy audit of my business?
  • What services are included in your audit?
  • What certifications do you have? Each energy auditor may have different certifications. You want an energy auditor with professional certifications, like Professional Engineer, ASHRAE Building Energy Assessment Professional, AEE Existing/Certified Building Commissioning Professionals, or AEE Certified Energy Manager.
  • Who will actually oversee the audit? When you look at resumes and other information, you want to be sure that you're looking at the people who will work directly with your building, not just the people working behind the scenes.

Asking the right questions can help you build a better understanding of the energy auditors available in your area--including which one will be a better fit for your property.

How To Evaluate An Engineering Firm

By asking the right questions, you can narrow down the firms you're considering and get a better idea of who you want to partner with. Take a look at the auditors who have offered you the best answers to your initial contact, then look for these key factors.

What characteristics does the auditor display? You want an auditor who is helpful, action oriented, and familiar with the latest technologies. You do not, however, want an auditor who will immediately jump in and start trying to sell you products that you don't need or pushing you in a specific direction regardless of whether it will work for your business. You will probably prefer working with an auditor who will handle project implementation as well as performing the audit, but you don't want them to push those services on you, either.

What characteristics do their references describe? If you were comfortable in your discussions with the auditor and felt that they displayed the characteristics you were looking for, talk with their references. How do their references describe them? Do past clients believe that they have the characteristics and resources you need? Be sure to ask about how long it took to complete projects, how easy it was to communicate with the auditor, and whether the auditor retained the professional persona you experienced in your initial communications throughout their interactions.

What do others say about them? Take a look at online reviews, especially if you're unable to contact references directly. Online reviews can give you a solid look at how the engineer you're considering will handle your energy audit. Make sure you don't just look at the average stars; instead, take the time to read through what both satisfied and dissatisfied clients have to say to help give you a better picture of what the firm you've chosen can accomplish.

Energy Audit Services at REX Engineering

REX Engineering provides energy auditing services for a variety of markets. Our energy consulting team assist owners and architects through sustainable design to achieve energy conservation goals. Our objective is to design operationally-efficient facilities, with the least environmental impact, to achieve financial, sustainability, and LEED performance goals.

Our professional energy consulting team integrates a professional team of MEP consultants and licensed – LEED accredited engineers. Our energy auditors have extensive experience helping decision makers with insights about how to reach energy saving goals and plan capital investments before construction even begins. 


mep services

When Do You Need an MEP Engineer?

Whether you're working on a new construction project or renovating an old building, an MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineer can help you optimize the performance of your building and minimize its operating costs.

There are many benefits to hiring an MEP engineer, as they are more than just HVAC, electricity, or plumbing technicians. MEP engineers specialize in at least one or all of these fields and a team of skilled engineers can integrate their areas of expertise to deliver even more services. Partnering with a solid engineering team is essential when designing a building with high-performance systems or unique requirements. 

WHEN TO HIRE AN MEP ENGINEER

Standard services provided by MEP engineers include: HVAC installation and maintenance, plumbing design including storm water management, lighting design, emergency power systems, industrial  exhaust systems, etc. However, MEP engineering services extend beyond the traditional boundaries of mechanical, electric, and plumbing engineering. Many different types projects require the input of an MEP engineer including:

  • Smart Lighting Systems - Electrical engineers can develop smart lighting systems that provide your building with ample lighting in a way that saves on energy costs and is environmentally friendly. They can develop an easy user interface to control lighting that suits your building's needs. A professional electrical engineer will also ensure that the lighting system works well with other systems and ensure that the building's owner and maintenance staff can easily maintain all equipment.
  • Energy Conservation - MEP engineers can implement a number of energy management solutions by automating many of the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems in your project. This will allow you to track all data from a single central command, which allows faster error detection and simplifies the maintenance process. Other energy management solutions an MEP engineer can provide to make your building more sustainable include using environmentally friendly products and incorporating renewable energy sources.
  • Longevity - It's important to construct and design a building that is durable and longer-lasting. Using the latest technologies, MEP engineers can help you build the most cost-effective electrical, mechanical, or plumbing systems for your construction and renovation projects. Furthermore, with sustainability in mind, they will use high-quality materials that can withstand time, normal wear and tear, and weathering. This minimizes the need for renovations and maximizes the building's lifecycle for years to come.
  • Indoor Air Quality - MEP engineers are useful for ensuring a building, whether it's a business or school, has good air quality. A building with poor air quality can negatively impact health, performance and productivity, and overall comfort. An MEP engineer can combat these problems by optimizing HVAC systems and controlling moisture and mold.
  • Water Conservation - MEP consultants can develop mechanical and plumbing system designs that will help decrease your building's water consumption, which in turn, will help reduce your water bill. MEP engineers can incorporate low-flow fixtures in bathrooms, insulate piping, use alternative sources of water, and structure landscape to minimize water use.
  • Building Automation - MEP engineers can design automation systems that help you control and monitor your building's performance and save on energy costs. Systems that can be automated include fire alarms, HVAC systems, lighting, and security. The proper optimization of these systems ensures the comfort and safety of occupants.

When it comes to constructing a fully optimized and efficient building, an MEP engineer can bring the expertise you need. At REX Engineering Group, we have helped design a variety of structures including hotels, schools, office buildings, retail stores, and healthcare facilities. Our highly experienced, talented group of engineers are dedicated to helping your building achieve the optimal balance of construction cost and energy efficiency.


MEP in Construction

What is the role of MEP in Construction?

Consulting with MEP engineers from the beginning of a project's life cycle allows those specialists to guide the project through the design, administration, and post-occupancy survey aspects of the construction process. MEP engineers are responsible for overseeing and/or executing essential processes. Mechanical engineering services can include HVAC machinery and ducts, pumps and plant designs, radiant heating and cooling, and more. Electrical engineers will focus on power distribution, lighting design, generators, emergency systems, and general power management and efficiency. Plumbing engineers specialize in designing effective fluid systems: potable water, sewage, waste water, collection tanks, stormwater management, etc.

Often construction projects will require integrated MEP services where the three fields overlap in their design and implementation. An increasingly popular service that incorporates all aspects of MEP engineering is building automation. These centralized hardware and software networks control HVAC, security, fire alarms, indoor and outdoor lighting as well as many other operations critical for building performance. That's why it's critical to integrate MEP engineers in the initial stages of a construction project. This helps reduce delays, confusion, revisions, and redrafting.

When a single firm handles all three components, the project is streamlined. Partnering with an integrated MEP engineering firm provides your project with the cultivated expertise that can help reduce your overhead while making the most efficient use of your resources. Rather than dealing with time-consuming responsibilities managing all three components, you tap an expert to coordinate all three in a synchronized process.

MEP Engineers Provide Value At Every Stage Of Construction

From schematic design to administration to the post-occupancy survey, MEP engineers play an important role in construction projects. Your MEP engineer will help you maximize your capital investments by offering a comprehensive suite of services including building evaluation, system diagnostics, feasibility studies, and lease consultation services.

They will collaborate with architects, building owners, and other contractors as early as the initial planning and survey stages. After evaluating the site for potential damage and risks, a preliminary design will be developed and refined in tandem with the architect’s plans. MEP engineers can also coordinate with pre-construction and project management teams to ensure the most efficient execution of all services. Your engineer will conduct a Constructability Review to ensure all drawings and specifications are accurate, safe, and in line with the building owner’s vision.

The MEP Quality Plan drawn up will serve as a working framework throughout the actual construction process. It will include project goals, policies, insurance details, quality procedures, management structures, personnel responsibilities and objectives, quality system review processes, instructions on documentation control, health and safety information, and final testing and handover information. Before construction begins MEP engineers can also be involved in product/technology selection, estimating, and bidding.

An organized MEP engineer will manage the following construction documents:

  • Detailed drawings and diagrams of all floor plans, elevations,and sections.
  • Technical specifications on the systems to be installed.
  • List of materials and products required.
  • Overview of the execution methods for the materials, products, and systems.

As the building undergoes construction or renovation, an MEP engineer will often assist in construction administration, ensuring the project is remaining on schedule and under budget, and providing progress reports.

The Future Of MEP Engineering

The onset of green construction practices and the evolution of digital engineering technology has created new possibilities for MEP engineers. As more construction projects turn their focus to sustainability, construction processes and architectural trends are evolving with this in mind. Traditional engineering fields such as civil, chemical, electrical and mechanical have expanded to include specialized subsets like environmental, aerospace, computer systems design, and geotechnical engineering.

Seasoned MEP engineers can now optimize systems and procedures in a way that leads to environmentally-conscious structures. They conserve water during the construction process. They optimize HVAC systems to remove harmful airborne pathogens.  They use cost-effective materials as a way to maximize building and equipment sustainability for a longer period of time after completion.

Selecting a Qualified MEP Engineering Firm

REX Engineering Group leverages years of expertise as a multi-disciplinary firm with decades of combined structural and mechanical engineering experience. With our recent merger in 2018, REX Engineering Group united the industry-leading mechanical engineering expertise of Innovative Engineering Group of California, and the diverse structural engineering legacy of Chicago and Detroit-based Ntrive to offer the multi-disciplinary engineering services and high performance our building partners require.

Our engineers combine innovative technology with solid, reliable practices. The result? Secure, aesthetic buildings that fit the vision of the building owner and stay within budget. 


urban sustainability population density

Urban Sustainability: Engineering Solutions To The Increase In Los Angeles Population Density

Los Angeles, California is currently dealing with a rapid increase in population density. The last Census Bureau findings determined that LA is the most densely populous urban area in the United States. It has nearly 7,000 people per square mile. This puts it well ahead of all other major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Population density refers to both the number of people living in each unit of areas well as the city's degree of compactness. This is measured by the ratio of people and buildings to available land. While high population density strains existing resources and creates multiple issues for a city, it also presents historic opportunities for engineers to engage in creative problem solving and innovation. If used as a model in other communities, these innovative measures will benefit not just the LA area, but urban areas throughout the world.

There are several key issues surrounding the increase in Los Angeles' population density, which engineers are combating by embracing new perspectives, technology, and green building techniques.

Housing

Increased population density is leading to housing shortages. One report states that Los Angeles has a gap of nearly 600,000 units needed to accommodate the needs of low-income renters.  Many areas in California aren't approving housing quickly enough to account for the increasing population. In the past, single-family homes were the traditional, standard model for housing. There is also a lack of land available to build single family homes for every family.

Forward-thinking engineers are prioritizing projects to focus on multifamily residential properties. These can house two or more families due to more efficient and intelligent design features, making better use of a space that may have been used for a smaller number in the past.

Smart home technology is also a developing trend that's increasing housing quality. Houses with automated systems that lessen the difficulty of routine household tasks such as cleaning and monitoring energy usage are increasing the livability of all kinds of houses. They're increasing the comfort and usefulness of these houses as well. Building more of these more efficient homes allows people to make better use of a smaller amount of space, helping to alleviate the strains of higher population density.

The development of multifamily, environmentally friendly housing featuring smart technology will help give more people affordable housing and lessen the carbon footprint of that new housing on the environment.

Infrastructure

As populations grow and cities expand to accommodate their new residents, it tests the ability of the city's existing infrastructure to function effectively. A sudden rise in population density may occur faster than cities can update their vital systems such as roadways, power grids, sewers, water, and waste management. When cities fail to adapt these systems it can cause the infrastructure to degrade quickly over a long term period of time. Once infrastructure begins to degrade, it becomes less effective and can have disastrous consequences if not improved or updated.

Sustaining urban infrastructure is one area where engineers need to get creative. One possible solution is building amenities in close proximity to each other. Less driving from one area to another to access these areas will mean less wear and tear on the highways and other roadways. It also leads to less pollution and carbon emissions.

The "Yes, In My Backyard" (or YIMBY) movement is backed by people who promote housing developments in their cities as opposed to the more restrictive "Not In My Backyard" (or NIMBY) movements of old.  YIMBY efforts are encouraging the development of more houses. While this can increase density, it also lessens the chances of urban sprawl or the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas. Creating less new infrastructure means less infrastructure the cities will have to maintain and improve.

Transportation

More people living in an urban means more people needing transportation. This leads to more cars on the roadways and higher carbon emissions. The latest scientific reports show that increased carbon emissions can have disastrous impacts on the environment. It can also lead to more automobile accidents. When engineers can find creative ways to have fewer cars on the road, it has a positive impact on both the environment and community.

Improving public transportation through a focus on "green engineering" is a critical component of any plan to address overarching population density impacts on transportation. That means promoting building infrastructure such as EV parking and bike storage; creating roads that are pedestrian and bike friendly will take some of those drivers off the roads. It means having structural engineers examining existing highways and determining how to add additional high occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling.

As electric vehicles become more popular and commonplace with the onset of "green engineering," engineers have opportunities to get even more creative in the placement and frequency of electric vehicle charging stations. As this sustainable technology becomes more prevalent, drivers will need more options to charge them.

Public Health

More people in a given area means more health concerns. From a wellness perspective, more dense populations can lead to a population that is less fit and less likely to stay active, as they are shuttled from their home to their office in a car while commuting through dense traffic for hours each day.

Engineers are looking into building spaces - both public and semi-private - where the community encourages its residents to stay fit and active. This could manifest itself as more sidewalks, trails, or general walking areas made available within the community. It could also mean incorporating more gyms in multi-family residences and shopping centers.

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Engineers incorporating green building practices in LA stand to help their urban communities dealing with population density issues as well as the environment. There are multiple potential benefits available with regard to housing shortages, impacts to critical infrastructure, transportation, and public health concerns.

These solutions are all interrelated as well. For example, more people using sidewalks to get to and from where they need to go means fewer cars on the road. That means fewer carbon emissions as well as improved physical fitness for the person walking.

Using the skill, ingenuity, and forethought of engineers to harness the power of green engineering can go a long way towards lessening the impact of Los Angeles's high population density. In time this can make the city cleaner, safer, and easier to live in for more of its citizens.  


structural engineering chicago

How Structural Engineering Affects Your Daily Life

What's one of the best ways to tell if a system is running smoothly and efficiently? Ironically, it's when you don't notice it running at all. The benefits of effective structural engineering are embedded in the safety and efficiency of our daily lives. Often unnoticed, this rapidly changing field of engineering is constantly evolving via the influence of everything from artificial intelligence to exotic materials.

Structural engineers (SEs) help governments, institutions, developers and architects analyze the natural and man-made factors that impact a structure’s integrity and longevity. SEs design the elements that hold up buildings, tunnels, bridges, and more. They focus on maximizing safety and stability within the constraints of the construction project and the physical environment.

Their work is essential – a licensed structural engineer is required for every construction project. As a result, SEs play a role in a variety of projects that touch on every aspect of our lives.

How Structural Engineering Affects Your Daily Life

Withstanding The Forces Of Nature

Every building — from your local supermarket to the towering skyscrapers in your favorite city — requires a structural engineer's input in the design and analysis stage. To do this, SEs use their expertise to overcome environmental obstacles.

Snowstorms

Structural engineers must take into account the amount of snowfall and ice a building will encounter and choose materials and construction techniques that will create the most supportive structure. As snow piles up on a rooftop, its weight exerts pressure on a building. Too much pressure from this type of load can cause the roof to cave in or the entire building to give out. To combat this, SEs calculate the snow load per square foot that a building will experience and design with this in mind. Each state sets its own minimum standards; for example in New Jersey, roofs must withstand snow loads of 21 pounds per square foot. This is the equivalent of a storm that occurs once every 50 years.

Several aspects of a building can detract from its safety in extremely cold weather such as the building’s orientation, the slope of the roof, different roof elevations. SEs will minimize the risks the building’s features pose while paying attention to features like roof drainage. In 2017, snowstorms caused $2.2 billion in property damage across the United States (source). Devastating statistics like this show how critical structural engineers are to maintaining normality. Effective structural engineers can save both lives and money by designing buildings to withstand ice and snowstorms.

High Winds

High winds can be destructive as they generate pressure against structures on a frequent basis. Skyscrapers can even be swayed from an especially strong gust! Hurricanes are one example of extremely of high winds, but structural engineers must also reinforce buildings against regular thunderstorms and windy days as these pose a constant threat to the long-term stability of a building. The intensity of this pressure is known as the wind load. Structural engineers use this load to design safer, more wind resistant buildings. The speed of potential winds, the height of the building, proximity to water, and proximity to other structures are key factors in the analysis. SEs also consult historical records and building codes to determine the level of support and strengthening required for a given project. Using predictive models, structural engineers can anticipate potential challenges and prevent life-threatening situations posed by high winds.

Earthquakes

In general, there is at least 1 earthquake per day with a magnitude between 4.0 and 4.9. And twice a month an earthquake occurs with a magnitude between 5.0 and 5.9. Strong earthquakes (6.0+) rose in frequency in 2016 across the United States. Earthquakes can cause visible, extreme damage when the magnitude is high enough but even smaller seismic shifts can cause damage to architectural finishes over time. Structural engineers design to minimize seismic risk and maximize seismic performance. In other words, they seek to create structures that perform well during and after an earthquake, over long periods of time. An SE may assess seismic risk by testing a scale model of the building on a table that shakes to simulate earthquakes. Structural analysis software is also used to model how a building will hold up during an earthquake; it can also provide more detail on the safety of specific internal structures (beams, columns, etc.).

Structural Engineers anticipate the various ways a building can fail as a result of an earthquake, and implement structures that have the necessary strength, stiffness, and ductility to withstand the most likely sources of failure. States famous for earthquakes aren’t the only areas focusing on this type of protection. Earthquake patterns are changing each year due to natural developments and human activities. Now more than ever structural engineers are needed to ensure buildings can withstand earthquakes of any magnitude.

Transportation — Safe Bridges & Tunnels

From the famous Brooklyn Bridge of NYC to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, bridges represent some of the most incredible feats of engineering that we encounter in our daily lives. The Golden Gate Bridge - along with its anchorages - weighs 894,500 tons. Its unique structure means that it can safely move up and down by 16 feet while remaining structurally sound.

Approximately 120,000 vehicles traverse the Golden Gate Bridge every single day. Across the world, millions of vehicles make use of bridges and tunnels that are fine-tuned to accommodate incredible traffic while withstanding even the most extreme weather conditions. SEs play a pivotal role in ensuring that bridges and tunnels can support these forces and provide safe transportation for all.

In addition to safety, two major benefits these well-engineered structures provide are freedom and flexibility. Efficient and safe transportation routes allow individuals to choose where they live, work, and socialize based on a variety of preferences. People have access to resources from a distance and don’t need to live within a certain mile radius to benefit from modernization. Travel between and within suburbs, cities, and states is not only possible, it’s effortless. Large trucks can carry resources long distances without creating damage due to heavy loads. Ships can pass through bridges designed to raise and lower with ease - meaning trade routes don’t interfere with day to day life. These conveniences are enjoyed daily but go unnoticed precisely because the systems are effectively engineered.

Environmental: Soil, Water & Sustainability

Before construction begins, a structural engineer analyzes the area to make sure it is suitable for the proposed building, tunnel or other structure. They'll make sure that the soil conditions are supportive and manage any unusual soil conditions. The result? Anything built on top of the land will remain level, stable, and have greater longevity.

Structural engineers work to ensure that groundwater sources aren't adversely impacted by structures. They also work with an eye towards sustainability in the future by analyzing materials’ efficiency, ability to be recycled, and environmental impact. For example, concrete is a strong, durable material that plays a major role in many construction projects due to its versatility. An SE focusing on sustainability could use recycled concrete to reduce the strain human activity places on the environment, contributing to a safer future.

Structural engineers continuously strive for innovative and effective ways to create structures that will last while supporting environmental best practices.

Surprising Roles for Structural Engineers

Anti-Terrorism

Structural engineers are trained in ensuring that buildings stand up to blast forces. The events of 9/11 have brought this aspect of engineering to the forefront of building design. Any building considered a potential target for terrorism – government facilities, monuments, military installations – must be resistant to progressive collapse and reinforced against blasts. SEs can also identify weak points in existing buildings and help strengthen the structures that present the greatest risks. When terrorists plan an attack, they assess the potential damage they can cause. Buildings without structural weak points require more effort and resources to destroy, so these targets are less attractive.

Humanitarian

In times of disaster or infrastructure collapse, structural engineers are at the forefront of analyzing the stability of the impacted buildings and structures. SEs often work with humanitarian organizations and the government to provide relief to developing or recently devastated areas. Their input helps coordinators make effective decisions to keep populations safe. If an area was struck by a natural disaster, an SE can also help with the rebuilding efforts, ensuring all renovations and new constructions will not just replace the destroyed building but instead improve on its structural elements so that it can withstand similar situations in the future.

Demolition

Structural engineers make sure that buildings are demolished safely and efficiently. Even though demolition is the “reverse” of construction, many of the same principles and safety concerns apply. The order in which a building is dismantled matters. If the wrong structural elements are removed or weakened at the wrong time it poses a safety risk. Structural engineers help to maintain an optimal demolition process by coordinating the process and techniques used.

Space Exploration

Structural engineers aren’t just necessary here on earth, their work helps us explore the entire universe. At NASA, engineers are responsible for ensuring the safety of shuttles, space stations, and astronaut crews. SEs are part of the process from the beginning, identifying risks and making suggestions to protect structures and the people in them. Their skills help NASA navigate outer space hazards.

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As a team of engineers who truly appreciates a job well done, we can't help but see beauty and ingenuity in the feats of engineering all around us. The next time you’re out and about, consider the role a structural engineer played in creating both the simple and amazing things you see around you.

 


LEED certification and green building

LEED Certification Overview & Benefits

Green construction projects emphasize a balance between high-performance and low environmental impact. Although there are many metrics and performance indicators which establish a project's various sustainable attributes, certifying that a project meets a specific standard is the establishes a project's level of "greenness." Architects, owners, engineers, developers, and contractors across the world are embracing materials, technologies, and design practices which reduce both the long-term human and environmental costs of a building. While new regulations and social pressure are a factor, many decision-makers are motivated by the strategic advantage of green construction - especially LEED certification - provides. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it is the most widely used green building rating system by engineers in the world.

The LEED Certification system provides a globally recognized framework for creating healthy, efficient, and sustainable buildings. There are different rating systems that address the unique concerns of different building types and markets. Certification status is awarded based on LEED prerequisites, LEED credits, and LEED points. Prerequisites set the minimum requirements that all buildings need to meet in order to achieve LEED certification. Fulfilling the requirements of prerequisites will not earn points, however, credits do contribute to points. Pursuing credits sets your building apart and delivers more benefits. The more points your building earns, the greater the reward. Rewards range from healthier spaces to buildings that save money and resources, and of course more prestige and recognition.

LEED Credits and Project Certification Levels

A project's LEED performance score determines the level of certification achieved. Credits may be earned in the following LEED categories:

  • Location and Transportation -  Buildings that are located near amenities such as restaurants and parks and encourage compact development and alternative transportation are highly valued.
  • Sustainable Sites - This category is concerned with the environment surrounding the building, including the natural ecosystem and the relationships between neighboring buildings. Integrating the site with local ecosystems and fostering biodiversity are key objectives.
  • Water Efficiency - Efficiency is defined as prioritizing conservation as well as the thoughtful consumption of water indoors, outdoors, and in specialized uses.
  • Energy and Atmosphere - A reduction in energy use, energy-efficient design strategies and incorporation of renewable and alternative energy sources are rewarded in all LEED systems.
  • Materials and Resources - This credit category focuses on the impact of extracting, processing, transporting, maintaining, and disposing of building materials. The goal is to promote a cleaner life cycle and increase performance. 
  • Innovation - LEED recognizes advances in building features and practices, rewarding new technologies and new applications of the latest environmental research.
  • Regional Priority - Each region has distinct priorities identified by the LEED International Roundtable and the USGBC that addresses local issues.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality- Environmental quality applies to indoor air, thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort. The health of building occupants is a major concern in this category.

LEED certification levels are awarded by points earned:

  • 40-49 is Certified
  • 50-59 is Silver
  • 60-79 is Gold
  • 80-100 is Platinum

 LEED Certification Benefits

Every construction project has a budget, and building owners are constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and maximize their investment. Following LEED certification guidelines presents many opportunities for owners to see short and long-term financial gains.

Once construction is complete and the building is in use, the utility-efficient systems will conserve energy and water, ensuring waste is at a minimum. With fewer resources consumed, the operating costs will be significantly reduced. Residential and commercial owners will both profit from the higher occupancy rates and higher rents characteristic of green buildings. Occupants and visitors of green buildings receive health benefits not found in non-environmentally friendly buildings. The latest World Green Building Trends report published by industry leader Dodge Data and Analytics shares the experience of a headquarters in El Salvador where there was a 68% reduction in respiratory problems and staff sick days were almost cut in half. These quality-of-life enhancements are seen consistently across the world.

LEED certification is another source of value as they assure the building’s quality. The rigorous assessments ensure that the building measures up to the expectations of building owners as well as the community around them. LEED certified projects have a higher point of sale value due to their efficiency, longevity, and socially conscious positioning.   

The Future Of Green Construction

Concern for the environment is rising, impacting all facets of the construction industry. World Green Building Trends reveals increased sensitivity to sustainability and greater emphasis on creating buildings that promote health. It analyzed results from 87 countries and found that within the next three years, eco-friendly construction methods will jump from 27% to 47% across all project types. In the US market, the green construction trend is expected to continue. Completely "green" projects are projected to increase significantly from 32% to 45%, especially with new commercial construction projects. Building owners were significantly invested in the future of environmentally friendly development; 57% reported that the majority of their projects will be green by 2021. The Dodge report clearly shows that green rating systems will play a significant role in the construction industry, rising in importance with each year. Understanding and employing LEED certification standards is essential for architects, engineers, building owners, and everyone else involved in building development. 


IEG and Ntrive Merge to form REX Engineering Group

IEG and Ntrive Merge to form REX Engineering Group

Naperville, IL, October 1, 2018: Innovative Engineering Group (IEG), an established Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, (MEP) firm, announces its merger with Ntrive, a structural engineering firm based in Naperville, IL. The merger and combined business operations will be effective October 1, 2018, and the integrated, multidisciplinary firm will become REX Engineering group.

IEG, based in Monterey Park, CA, was founded in 1995. The firm provides a full suite of MEP design and consulting services, including fire-safety, lighting design, and specialized practices in energy, healthcare, and data center solutions. Together with Naperville, IL-based Ntrive, founded in 2011, the REX Engineering Group will employ more than 70 team members. The combined firm will offer both MEP and Structural engineering services across its combined service areas.

According to IEG principal David Tea “From the very beginning, we felt that this merger was primarily about uniting a shared culture focused on improving client satisfaction.” “Our clients, team members, and projects will benefit from complementary engineering services, resources, and experience with an aligned approach.”

IEG founder, Jerry Lam states that “The merger brings internal growth and opportunities for our team members sharing the same passion and focus on producing outstanding results for our clients. With a national presence, we can bring significant and diverse expertise in clean energy, power engineering, sustainable building environment, and high-performance buildings to our business partners.”

REX Engineering Group is headquartered in Naperville, IL and managed by its principals: Andy Eck, David Tea, Gary Mayeda, Steve Uecke, and Jason Kuo.

About REX Engineering Group

REX Engineering Group provides smart, integrated, multidisciplinary MEP and structural engineering solutions to create efficient buildings and empower clients with effective use of their capital investments. The firm is licensed in 35 states and has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit metropolitan areas.