Dagher Engineering was selected for a 2010 ENERGY STAR Small Business Award for both its internal and external energy-efficiency programs. The firm was founded in 2000 with the philosophy that properly designed, installed, and maintained building systems promote economy and energy efficiency while maximizing occupant comfort and minimizing environmental impact.
Dagher occupies 9,200 square feet of leased space in a 30-story office building in downtown Manhattan. From this location, the firm provides building infrastructure and utility projects such as HVAC, electric, fire protection, and plumbing — supporting and commissioning services for a full range of building types for both public and private sector clients. The focus of the company's expertise is in the design and implementation of building modifications, upgrades, and retrofits of boilers, chillers, air handlers, cooling towers, emergency generators, power plants, fire alarm and fire suppression systems, and site utilities.
According to company founder Elias Dagher, ENERGY STAR was a component of the firm's thinking from the beginning of the office design and building process. "For the design of our space, we referred frequently to the ENERGY STAR program while specifying equipment. In total, 93% of the eligible equipment installed was ENERGY STAR qualified, and this has been central to keeping our energy usage at such a low level," Dagher says.
Joseph Salvo, design engineer, has high praise for Portfolio Manager. "Portfolio Manager has been a remarkable tool for easily benchmarking buildings," he says. "This resource assists us in the commissioning process for newly constructed buildings, as well as in the introduction of efficiency measures for existing buildings. A dense population center like New York sees a tremendous number of renovation and retrofit projects. We first benchmarked our space, which is leased but operated as an independent space with its own mechanical, electric and plumbing (MEP) systems. We saw a great deal of promise in the number of statistics available, but because we were in a larger building, we could not earn an ENERGY STAR label."
Salvo encouraged the owner to benchmark the entire building. The building was originally constructed in 1931 and Dagher Engineering worked with both the building owner and fellow tenants to complete numerous renovation and commissioning projects over the last decade. "These projects led to significantly improved energy efficiency and occupant comforts," Salvo adds. The building earned the ENERGY STAR label in 2009.
"We also advocate the use of Portfolio Manager as a tool for verifying the performance of LEED buildings after construction is completed," Salvo continues. "Benchmarking after one year of occupancy gives insight into whether the building is meeting goals set in design, and the prospect of an ENERGY STAR label gives building owners and managers an additional incentive to keep the building at its best."
In designing their own space, Dagher Engineering was determined to demonstrate that innovative techniques could be incorporated within the design and construction of the space without affecting the cost or schedule. The design team focused on three major points: energy efficiency, use of sustainable materials, and occupant comfort and well-being.
Confronted with the ENERGY STAR statistics that commercial and industrial buildings in the U.S. account for nearly 50 percent of all energy consumed, the Dagher design team wanted to devise a model that would be followed for other build-out projects. Energy-efficiency components included:
Sustainable materials were the next challenge the Dagher design team faced. "The rising demand for building materials is contributing to the depletion of old-growth forest, and industrial processes result in the discharge of record CO2 levels into the atmosphere," Dagher states. "This is causing drastic climate changes that are negatively altering our environment. To minimize the impact on the environment, we used rapidly renewable materials and recycled contents, such as bamboo and linoleum flooring, and recycled denim insulation. Where recycled materials could not be used, low or zero VOC-emitting materials were applied."
Air quality components included:
These and other sustainable building practices used during the build out of the Dagher Engineering offices led to LEED Gold certification. "During the build-out process, we became aware of a degree of separation between construction professionals and the principles of green building techniques," Dagher states. "Our experience is an example of contractors having difficulty with the implementation of sustainable designs. We had to quickly develop a program to educate the work force using both materials and live presentations."
As a result, Dagher became part of a team that received a grant from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide contractor training in green construction using the Green Pro Building Skills Program. This program focuses on different building system engineering disciplines and assists contractors in learning how to comply with energy efficiency guidelines in the field.
Dagher Engineering includes information on energy savings in every proposal, brochure, and presentation given by the company. The firm distributes press releases about significant accomplishments in energy reduction and appeared on the Brian Lehrer Show on National Public Radio last year to discuss passive cooling measures. The group is also responsible for developing a number of American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education Services programs that focus on energy efficiency through optimization of the building envelope, orientation relative to the site and the systems within buildings.
Dagher Engineering has been recognized for their innovations and creativity in energy efficiency with a number of awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies.
Dagher Engineering estimates that they are saving more than $6,000 annually in energy costs for the operation of their office space. The savings of more than 42,500 kWh per year represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to over three times the CO2 emissions from the annual electricity use of an average home.