Building codes change nearly every few years — add to that the recent influx of new energy code standards and there is a never-ending stream of changes that building owners, developers, architects and general contractors must address. Fortunately, there are experts who know building codes inside and out and stay abreast of these changes. VCA Green has stepped in to help building professionals navigate building codes, and particularly energy and green building codes, through a variety of green consulting, training and commissioning services.
Based in Orange, California, VCA Green, a division of VCA Code Group Inc., employs consultants and LEED Accredited Professionals (AP) with backgrounds in architecture, construction and building maintenance. Adding to this diverse mix of skill sets is collaboration with a staff that has more than 30 years of experience in code development, administration and plan review services.
A green guide for builders and building professionals
VCA Green was founded to help building owners navigate complex codes, such as the California Energy Code and CALGreen, to find the best solutions to meet their goals. VCA Green also provides additional services such as: funding requirements for building efficiency, building energy audits, energy modeling, LEED, building commissioning, GreenPoint Rated, HERS (Home Energy Rating System) and other third-party verification services when the code requirement is triggered or if there’s a corporate social responsibility mandate.
“Our primary organization, VCA Consultants, includes a structural engineering group that started over 35 years ago,” says Moe Fakih, director of sustainability for VCA Green. “We’ve been in the code consulting business for more than 35 years, but in the last 10 years or so we’ve been involved in an area we are passionate about – green building.”
“In our many years in this business, we found that municipalities and building professionals needed assistance getting through the building code process and we saw the opportunity to help the industry with our experience and proficiency. This spurred our division VCA Code Group Inc.,” says Fakih. “We started VCA Green to focus more specifically on green codes in 2010. We get to do the ‘fun’ side of building code and plan review.”
Fakih, who is a LEED AP and a Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) accredited by the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA), leads VCA Green’s consulting and commissioning efforts. He is an expert on CalGreen and green building design and construction topics. He is currently active in a leadership role in the Orange County Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Fakih possesses a master’s degree in public administration focusing on sustainable urban development. He worked in Orange County where he processed millions of dollars’ worth of entitlements through the Planning Commission process. He also owned and operated a LEED consulting company engaging in energy efficient, LEED remodel projects and certified the first LEED Gold hotel in the world for Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance: the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco.
With the exceptional knowledge of Fakih and VCA Green’s team, the company has positioned itself as not only building code experts, but also as thought leaders in regard to the overlap of traditional building code and LEED rating and other third-party systems. “We’re breaking the misconception that building to today’s standards for efficiency and sustainably is too expensive,” says Fakih. “We help the building market realize that the cost difference is minimal and that capitalization on opportunities for increased return on investment is achievable. With the right approach, green makes good business sense.”
Commissioning and retro-commissioning
VCA Green is currently working with the Los Angeles Lakers at the team’s new soon-to-be LEED-Gold headquarters. “The Lakers’ ownership is very conscious of green building and they have embraced LEED,” says Fakih. Quality assurance through commissioning is being used as a process to verify complex system functions as designed to meet the operational needs of the Lakers.
VCA Green is also working on Net Zero projects in its home state. “California is pushing for Zero Net Energy in all new residential buildings by 2020,” says Fakih. As a result, the state increases the energy performance targets of buildings every three years through the Energy Code Title 24, Part 11.
“We’re looking at a 30 to 35 percent increase in residential efficiency and a five to eight percent increase in commercial efficiency starting Jan. 1, 2017,” adds Fakih.
As code regulations tighten up, VCA Green’s team brings expertise to any number of building systems, from HVAC to electrical and lighting, building automation and controls, photovoltaic systems, the building envelope and more. VCA Green’s commissioning process provides a quality assurance process to ensure that design and performance criteria of the installed systems function as intended. As a result, contractors deliver buildings which operate at peak performance, leading to lower energy and maintenance costs and healthier environments for occupants.
“Early involvement in construction promises smoother project completion and reduces rework. We also offer retro-commissioning where we deliver energy and financial savings to existing buildings undergoing restorative-remodel types of construction or tenant improvements,” says Fakih.
While the majority of VCA Green’s work remains in California, the company has landed projects in Ohio, Washington and Nevada and hopes to continue to grow its name and brand recognition at the annual Greenbuild Conference & Expo this year.
“For us, Greenbuild isn’t just about marketing ourselves, it’s also about surrounding ourselves with like minds in the building community and allowing us to get a pulse on our field and current industry trends/topics,” says Fakih. “I think Los Angeles is a very progressive city with regard to sustainability and it’s a great fit for Greenbuild.”
Greenbuild is a chance to further VCA Green’s knowledge as a leader, bringing ever-changing innovations and opportunities to its clients.
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