‘We have to change some behaviors; the earth is our life-support system.’
By Martha Conway
New York enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 – one of the most aggressive climate laws globally – requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and by at least 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.
Some of those goals are 85-percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, 100-percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, 70-percent renewable energy by 2030 and 22 million tons of carbon reduction through energy efficiency and electrification.
C&S Companies make it their mission to help companies meet or exceed these ambitious goals.
Office Principal and Sustainability Leader Tim Hughes said C&S Companies is a multi-disciplinary engineering, architecture and construction firm having more than 450 employees representing all engineering and architectural disciplines and having expertise in all commercial markets.
“Anything that gets built, we can design,” Hughes said.
The green team
Hughes said when green and sustainable design and construction peeked their heads into the building trades, C&S was on the cutting edge and green thinking resonated with him.
“I knew it wasn’t a fad, it just made sense” he said.
Hughes said C&S strives to reduce negative impacts in internal operations and client projects across all markets. Employees formed a ‘green team’ to make changes internally. They overhauled systems in their own properties and sought landlord cooperation in the rest. The overall effort resulted in examination and reduction of their own footprint, demonstrating they can help clients go green, too.
C&S started purchasing recycled materials and reducing or eliminating use of potentially hazardous materials and single-use items.
“What we landfill is important, and we need to overcome our consume-and-dispose mindset and be resource-efficient with water, energy and materials,” Hughes said. “A lot of materials contain toxins, carcinogens and other things that affect human health and the endocrine system.”
C&S installed heat recovery systems, sensors and LED light fixtures. The main complex in Syracuse is LEED-certified in operation and maintenance. They began the transition to a non-carbon alternative energy source; solar offsets 25- to 30 percent of their energy costs, and they will see payback in about four years. Electric vehicle charging stations were installed and air travel impacts are offset via the Good Traveler carbon offset program.
“To encourage clients to build more intelligently, C&S models environmentally responsible design and construction,” Hughes said. “That includes materials, energy and transportation. To keep climate change in check, we must reduce carbon. We have to change behaviors; the earth is our life-support system.”
Hughes said the objective is to look past short-term goals and build a better building up front to save over the entire lifecycle of the project.
C&S gets all engineering disciplines involved, providing a comprehensive, integrative, whole systems perspective in the planning and design process to identify synergies, interdependencies and avoid potential unintended consequences and create solutions that balance all project and societal goals.
“Eighty percent of existing buildings will be here in 2050, so they have to be addressed,” Hughes said, explaining retrofitting existing spaces is challenging. “Regardless of how you feel about global climate change, the evidence is here: we’re depleting our resources and degrading the ecological systems that provide for our quality of life.”
Managing Engineer Ben Tashjian said energy efficiency is achieved through a number of services. An energy audit is performed on existing buildings, focusing on controls upgrades, mechanical equipment replacement with energy-efficient equipment, envelope upgrades and LED lighting conversion.
“C&S is a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority-approved FlexTech consultant,” Tashjian said. “The FlexTech program provides matching funds – or better, sometimes as much as 75 percent of some projects – for a variety of energy-efficiency studies and schematic design services for existing buildings.” These savings apply to many sectors including higher education, healthcare, and municipalities.
He said FlexTech allows clients to get more for their money and can offer more in-depth analysis. Energy modeling creates a more 3D view of buildings, simulating energy-consuming items and allowing engineers to remove items to calculate savings for each component.
“We want to help people stop, think and make smarter choices for energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions,” Tashjian said, explaining that C&S can help entire communities capture data and meet governmental standards for efficiency demanded by the CLCPA. “The only way to do that is no fossil fuels.”
“Analysis helps the client and the team by having input from all possible disciplines,” Tashjian said. “With this approach, we wind up with a much better project for our client.”
He said C&S can help clients secure funds to meet their sustainability goals.
“Airports, by nature, are composed of large facilities, buildings and infrastructure that support the traveling public and aircraft operations,” said Senior Consultant Kailey Eldredge. “That doesn’t mean they need to be an energy drain or massive source of emissions; there’s much that can be done when it comes to planning, designing and building to really help airports achieve sustainability goals and reduce impacts to the environment. They are assets to the public and contributors to social sustainability.”
C&S introduces operational efficiency to the triple bottom line definition of sustainability – because airports are unique in their operational needs and their focus on the safety of the public.
“COVID-19 had a massive impact on airports and airlines,” Eldredge said. “In a way, it’s really opened airports’ eyes to their role in public health.”
C&S also helps airports implement rating systems and certifications to meet their planning, design, and construction goals.
“We make a great effort to promote stakeholder engagement in every project we do, whether it’s a runway extension or airport master plan,” Eldredge said, echoing her colleagues on the importance of an integrative, whole systems view and multidisciplinary involvement from the start. “It’s something we’ve continued to do successfully, even during COVID.”
“We make sure we’re providing the highest and best value to every client,” Eldredge said. “Sustainability shouldn’t be a burden. We want to establish balance between benefits and cost-efficiency.”
“The earlier you conduct engagement focused on your organization’s goals and where you can make sustainable decisions, the easier it is to implement strategies. The further along in a process, the more costly it is to make changes that benefit a project and the organization as a whole.”
“Not just the big projects, and not just the ones that are pursuing LEED or fancy certifications, but every project, every decision you’re making is going to benefit you in the long run.”
Principal Engineer Carey Merritt said industrial clients’ main focus is conserving energy, usually done though modifying processes that capture waste energy or replacing energy-using equipment with more efficient equipment.
“Replacing boilers and ventilation systems with energy-efficient units or adding smart controls that minimize run times during off-peak times are examples of how we have helped clients in the past,” Merritt said. “In addition, we look for sustainable building practices like passive solar, low-E windows and doors, tighter building envelopes and smart BMS system when we have the opportunity to design new or get involved with substantial renovations.”
Occasionally, we design in the renewable energy sector, he said.
“We recently finished a complete overhaul of an early 1900s small hydroelectric plant on the Owasco river in Auburn.”
“We use our energy managers, LEED architects and controls engineers to help project teams build sustainable methods into the design process. Oftentimes, we will perform energy-use analysis up front, which can be used to drive building-related decisions.”
“We also leverage our construction and operations team members to bring practicality into our work.”
Senior Principal John Trendowski said the first key to a carbon management program is to determine the source of carbon owned and operated by the facility (Scope 1), the electricity usage (Scope 2) and all other sources of greenhouse gases not controlled by the owner (Scope 3).
“Once the carbon sources are identified, we research how the sources can be reduced – if not eliminated – in a reasonable timeframe and cost.”
He echoed Tashjian that C&S can help identify funding opportunities through federal, state, and local governments or third-party companies.
The carbon management program should provide a realistic schedule of projects to reduce greenhouse gases over a certain period and identify potential obstacles that could affect a project. As a facility reduces the combustion of petroleum-based fuels, it also reduces criteria pollutants and potentially hazardous air pollutants.
C&S services parallel the components of a carbon management program:
- Greenhouse gas inventories to determine existing baseline conditions
- Sustainability plans detailing goals and steps to reduce greenhouse gases
- Integration of carbon-reduction strategies into potential projects and evaluation of alternatives
- Mitigation project design, including plans, specifications, bid services and construction management
- Funding source identification, including preparing grant applications and securing funding to offset the capital costs of projects
- Assist clients in obtaining management approval, incorporate sustainability into all facets of the organization and train staff, as necessary
“The bare truth is, humanity is tasked with resolving these issues within the timeline identified by the science if we want to avert the worst of the predicted consequences,” Trendowski said. “C&S continues to rapidly evolve their knowledge and approach to help those responsible for building and operating infrastructure to achieve their missions while addressing these broader impacts within their economic constraints.”
For more information, contact C&S Companies at 877.CS.SOLVE (toll-free), firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pages/CS-Companies, twitter.com/C_SCompanies or linkedin.com/company/c&s-engineers-inc-. For more information on NYSERDA’s FlexTech Program, visit cscos.com/2020/09/nyserda_incentive/.