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An active organization working every day to make
a sustainable difference for our clients.

March 10, 2015
DWELL on Design Graphic for VCA Green

VCA Green Selected to Present at Dwell on Design Conference

VCA Green will be presenting topics at the annual Dwell on Design Conference on May 29. The presentations are geared toward Developers and Architects interested in navigating new Green regulations and will provide practical solutions which have been recently used in new developments.

VCA is teaming with AIA Los Angeles to provide their combined experiences on the following topics:

    • Title-24 Residential Envelope – Design, Field Compliance, and Third Party HERS Testing


    • Non-residential California Energy Code Building Commissioning: What is It and How to Comply 

Attendees of these classes will be eligible for AIA and LEED Continuing Education Units.

For more information, please contact us. Detailed class descriptions are available here.

More About Dwell on Design Los Angeles

Curated by the editors of Dwell magazine, the conference returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center May 29-31, 2015. With three full days of dynamic exhibitions, unparalleled educational opportunities, cutting-edge technologies, 90 onstage programs, 250+ speakers, and more than 2,000 innovative modern furnishings and products, Dwell on Design Los Angeles is America’s largest design event.

Moe Fakih

Director of Sustainability

(714) 363-4700

October 3, 2014

jamboree housing photo-493x408

Doria II by Jamboree Housing Corporation wins award for most sustainable home.

VCA Green & Jamboree Housing Win USGBC-OC 2014 Eco Award

In its annual Eco Award ceremony, the US Green Building Council – Orange County Chapter awarded Jamboree Housing’s project, Doria II Apartments, the 2014 Eco Award for Most Sustainable Home.

VCA Green was responsible for providing the LEED® Homes Rating, CALGreen compliance, energy performance review, and HERS verification.

Project Name: Doria II
Certification Level: LEED Homes Gold
City: Irvine
Owner: Jamboree Housing Corporation
Type: Affordable, Multi-family
Number of Buildings: 5
Number of Units: 74

Doria II is a three story multi-family affordable housing project located in Irvine, CA. With stylized architecture that matches surrounding buildings, the project demonstrates that affordable housing does not have to compromise style for affordability. Comfort and quality of construction exceeds conventionally built buildings within the same class. This results in a quality product people can feel proud to call home.

Location Related Credits
Occupants are able to walk less than a quarter mile, across the street to Woodbury Town Center, which contains dozens of shops and services. There is a pedestrian path leading from the apartments directly to Irvine Blvd, which makes accessing the shopping center easier. Multiple parks and an elementary school are also located within walking distance.

Large homes or larger apartment units take up more land and consume more resources during construction and while operating. LEED® Homes offers a density bonus for building efficiently sized units. The project maximized its density bonus points for having properly sized apartment units and Doria II received a bonus point for building to 35.7 units per acre – rated as very high density

Plants on site are drought tolerant and they are fed by an efficient drip and bubbler system utilizing recycled municipal grey water. The irrigation also incorporated a smart weather based controller to provide watering only during dry times, thus eliminating the chance of over watering. The system is sub-metered, which helps ownership detect unseen leaks if there are unusual spikes in consumption.

Indoor Water Use
Fixtures meet CALGreen requirements except shower heads that exceed CALGreen efficiency by approximately 15%.

The project exceeded California Energy Code, Title-24 by 17.5%. This was achieved by utilizing high efficacy lighting fixtures throughout the project and by engaging in quality insulation installation resulting in better insulated units, which reduce heating and cooling equipment run times. As a result of better insulation, residents are expected to save approximately 30% on their heating/cooling bills which translates to about $400 to $600 a year in savings. This is a significant savings for low or fixed income households.

Dishwashers and Refrigerators are Energy Star Rated saving approximately $60 a year compared to standard models.

A great commitment to the environment and saving energy is shown by a solar voltaic system installed over car ports contributing approximately 3% of energy to the site’s common areas.

Air-conditioning ducts are well sealed and have less than a 6% leakage rate based on HERS certified testing. This means that a majority of air that enters the space is not lost into the soffit or attic areas. This helps reduce long term wear and tear on equipment and helps reduce tenant operating costs.

Hard flooring is utilized in living, room, dining room and kitchen areas. Flooring is comprised of approximately 20% recycled content and traps less dirt and dust compared to carpeting, which helps improve indoor air quality.

Paints, sealants and caulks contain low amounts or volatile organic compounds (VOC) which reduce the amount of harmful off gassing. Insulation is rated by GreenGuard thus containing no or very low amounts of VOC off gassing.

Roofs, floors and walls use composite OSB wood material comprised of reused wood chips and are bound together for sheer strength.

80% of building waste was recycled or diverted from landfills.

Indoor Air Quality
Enhanced ventilation practices are implemented as bathroom fans continuously remove stale interior air, replacing it with fresh air from the exterior. Bath fans are Energy Star rated.

Exterior walls were well sealed with low VOC caulk and well insulated per HERS Quality Insulation Installation (QII) requirements. This means apartment units at Doria II are built to reduce unwanted air infiltration and have superior insulation, which improves comfort.

High quality MERV 8 filters are installed to remove particulates from interior air. In combination with the continuously operating bath fan, the indoor air quality is of better quality, which may help reduce sick building syndrome, mitigate asthma and help people feel better.

Tenants received a DVD and literature advising how to reduce operating costs and how to be more ecofriendly. Operations and sales staff were trained on the green building features so they may better communicate such features to current and prospective tenants.

Design Team
Architect – KTGY
Mechanical Engineer – TAD Engineering
Electrical Engineer – LDB, Inc.
Civil Engineer – Fuscoe Engineering
Landscape Architect – MJS Design Group
General Contractor – Wermer’s Multifamily
LEED – VCA Green

For more information or to discuss your LEED®, CALGreen compliance, energy performance review, and/or HERS verification project, contact:

Moe Fakih

Director of Sustainability

(714) 363-4700

March 25, 2014

The Top 10 Questions Asked by Developers and Architects
About CALGreen 2013 and the Energy Code

Charles “Russ” Russell and Moe Fakih of VCA Green have been traveling (and continue to travel) throughout California to provide insight on the updated California Green Building Standards and California’s Energy Code. The presentations prompt many questions from both developers and architects.

Of those questions, the “Top 10” questions were selected and answered to provide a quick overview.

If you or your organization would like to schedule a presentation on CALGreen, the Energy Code or you would like more information about our services and our sensible approach to green building, please contact Moe Fakih at

Question 1

Is “solar ready” based on a percentage of square feet? In order to be “solar ready,” do you have to provide square footage as well as conduit?

In order for a building to be “solar ready” and comply with the new Energy Code, it must provide a dedicated “solar zone” which is based on the building type and associated square footage requirements (see below). Also included are exceptions, as well as an alternative compliance method to designing solar ready zones.

Single family, low-rise multi-family, hotel/motel occupancies and high-rise multi-family, and all other non-residential buildings.

  • No dimensions < 5′ and are not < 80 sf each for roof area < 10,000 sf
  • No dimensions < 5′ and are not < 160 sf each for roof area > 10,000 sf
  • Single Family total area no less than 250 sf
  • Single Family ≥ 3 stories & 2,000 sf roof, solar area no < 150 sf.
  • Multi-family no less than 15% of surface area

Some Exceptions:

  • Existing solar on building DC power rated no less than 1 watt/sq. ft. of roof area
  • Permanently installed solar water heating system
  • Physical conditions that do not allow for reasonable solar access
  • Northern roof exposures
  • Project is surrounded by physical features that prohibit solar installation such as high rise towers, protected tress, etc.

Compliance Option for Residential (must meet all requirements below)

  • Occupant controlled smart thermostat as a tradeoff against solar ready zone
  • 100% high efficacy lighting
  • Vacancy sensors all restrooms
  • Switched receptacle in rooms with no permanent lighting

In addition, the solar ready zone must incorporate “stubbed” empty electrical conduit which is near the zone and accessible, should the owner decide to install solar at a later date. Lastly, all solar ready zones shall be clear of any obstructions which will cause shading. Any shading obstruction should be located 2 times the distance, between the highest point of obstruction and closest edge of solar zone.

Question 2

Who generates the commissioning report?

A Commissioning Agent will generate the Commissioning Report at the conclusion of the project as a notification to the owner that the identified elements of the commissioning plan have been accomplished.

Question 3

What is the difference between a simple HVAC system and complex HVAC system?

Simple HVAC systems are packaged units which usually serve a single zone with a single thermostat. On the other hand, complex HVAC Systems are larger systems (chiller and boiler) which control multiple zones with multiple thermostats or controls.

Question 4
What is the new code’s guideline for valuation?

Currently, there is no code or industry standard for project valuation. Each jurisdiction establishes its individual valuation range. One tool that is used by many cities is the International Code Council (ICC) building valuation table that is provided by the ICC every 6 months. Some cities will use the valuation numbers straight from the table, others will use a local multiplier to reflect local industry costs, and finally some cities will establish their own valuation table. Lastly, some building departments will use the valuation provided by the contractor. The ICC’s Building Valuation information can be found at the following link.

Question 5
Where do manufacturers get their BUG ratings from? Is it self-certified?

BUG Ratings, or Backlight-Uplight-Glare, is a rating system for outdoor luminaires. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) defines and provides the thresholds for manufacturers to comply. There are software packages that can generate BUG ratings.

Question 6
In an additions/repairs/tenant improvements, do you have to “fix” (add insulation to) the walls in the whole building or just the area being worked on?

If the addition/alteration/tenant improvement is greater than 1,000 square feet and/or has a valuation greater than $150,000 only the affected component would require compliant insulation levels.

Question 7
When modeling for daylight, in a typical retail building, will light dimming have to be modeled as well?

The daylight zones will be identified in plans. The light fixtures within the daylight zone must be controlled by a photocell. The fixtures must be either continuous or step down dimming and/or identified as such in the fixture schedule.

Question 8
In nonresidential applications, do both the $200,000 and 1,000 sq. ft. thresholds need to be met, or are they separate?

An existing nonresidential building will trigger compliance with applicable CalGreen sections if;

  1. If the addition to the existing building is greater than 1,000sq.ft. or
  2. if the valuation of the alteration is greater than $200,000

Note: compliance with CALGreen is limited to the scope of the permit.

If an alteration or addition is greater than 1,000 sf or the valuation is greater than $200,000. Meaning, if either of these thresholds are met, the project will trigger CALGreen compliance.

Chapter 3 §301.3 states:

The provisions of individual sections of Chapter 5 apply to newly constructed buildings, building additions of 1,000 square feet or greater,and/or building alterations with a permit valuation of $200,000 or above (for occupancies within the authority of California Building Standards Commission). Code sections relevant to additions and alterations shall only apply to the portions of the building being added or altered within the scope of the permitted work.

Question 9
Under the 2013 Energy Code, will residential buildings over three stories also be 30% more efficient than the 2010 code?

Yes, residential buildings which are four (4) stories and above are considered “high-rise residential,” and therefore must comply with the Energy Code’s Nonresidential Standards.

Question 10
During the last few days of your commissioning service you observe that some particular component is not functioning according to it’s design. What action do you take and how does this affect the commission report?

The commissioning agent will notify the construction team and ownership that there is an issue during and/or after a field observation visit. The construction team will work with ownership to investigate the issue further and address it as required. The construction team will “close” the issue and provide comments on corrective action.  The commissioning report can be completed and the section for the malfunctioning component can be set aside until the owner has given direction for the remedy and it has been completed.

Actionable Green Building Compliance
These were the commonly-asked questions at our presentations over the last six months. If you have a specific question, please feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to help you. The new code and requirements can be confusing at times. At VCA Green, we work diligently to help our clients meet the requirements while making the best business decisions for actionable green building execution. We look forward to hearing from you.

Charles “Russ” Russell

Vice President
(714) 363-4700

Moe Fakih
Director of Sustainability
(714) 363-4700

February 4, 2014

VCA Green Director of Sustainability Moe Fakih
Named NGBS Multi-Family Verifier

VCA Green’s Director of Sustainability Moe Fakih has earned the designation as National Green Building Standard (NGBS) multi-family verifier.

With this designation for Mr. Fakih, VCA Green now offers its developer and architect clients an additional option to LEED and HERS for green building certification.

The NGBS was developed in 2008 by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) working with the International Code Council to create a national, consensus-based residential green building program. Updated in 2012, the NGBS provides practices for the design, construction, and certification of green multi-family residential buildings, including:

  • high- and low-rise apartment buildings,
  • high- and low-rise condominiums,
  • residential units in mixed-used buildings.

Verifications are available for both new and existing buildings.

NGBS is an additional rating system option some builders choose to provide market differentiation. All rating systems have pros and cons, but with a full commitment to efficiency and smart material use early in design and through construction, a project team can witness benefits no matter which rating system is used.  Having the ability to provide NGBS verification services allows VCA Green to respond better to client needs.

For more information about NGBS verifications and choosing the right green building certification for your project, contact Moe Fakih at (714) 363-4700 or

University House Photo Crop

July 25, 2013

VCA Helps Student Housing Project Achieve GreenPoint Rated Certification,
Saving Energy and Water Costs and Enhancing Marketability

With the help of VCA Green, University House Fullerton was recently awarded Build it Green’s GreenPoint Rated certification. University House, a 350 unit mixed-use student housing project capable of housing 1,200 students attending California State University, Fullerton. The project achieved 100 Points under the GreenPoint Rated Multifamily program, twice the minimum threshold.

The green building features are a component of the marketing strategy to attract students to the housing project. One key feature is energy savings for residents. The project is designed to be 17% more efficient than the baseline Title-24 project of similar size. Additional energy savings were realized through ENERGY STAR refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers. ENERGY STAR ceiling fans in all bedrooms and living rooms were installed to offer a comfort and cost-effective option in lieu of using air conditioning.

University House developers also reduced water use and water costs by installing environmentally friendly landscaping. The project received credit for all except one of the available landscape points. The strategies implemented include using California native and Mediterranean species and grouping plants of similar watering needs. Only a minimal amount of water-hungry turf was planted, and only bubblers and low-spray sprinklers are used for irrigation.
University House received points for several green building measures that were part of basic design considerations for student housing. The project achieved both of the Green Points available for providing bicycle racks and included parking for an additional 20% more bicycles beyond that.

Innovation points were received for furnishing bedrooms with durable steel-framed desks and beds. Metal-framed furnishings are made to last longer than their traditional wood-framed counterparts. When they break or become worn out, the supplier refurbishes the furniture as well. Students can refill reusable bottles at a water purification system which counts and displays the number of water bottles which were saved as a result.

The leasing office is now open. University House Fullerton provides a comfortable and attractive living space for students who enjoy an environmentally conscious space.

The architect of record is Architects Orange.

University House Points Awarded for Web

May 24, 2013

AIA-OC Learning Unit Workshop Presented by VCA Green – June 5, 2013

CALGreen: Commissioning & Energy Modeling – Getting Ready for 2014

In 2014, the CALGreen building code will be ramped up to include exceeding the energy model minimum by 25%. The AIA-OC Learning Unit Workshop, presented by VCA Green, will provide answers to the following questions:

  • How can architects prepare for the new code changes?
  • How can they better work with project teams?
  • How can they drive value by enhancing services to clients?

Workshop Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn the new requirements for the 2014 building code and how design will be impacted.
  2. Explain what building commissioning is and when  the design team is required to address commissioning.
  3. Scrutinize energy modeling with the new code and identify opportunities project teams have to design to code and efficiency.
  4. Identify ways architects can enhance deliverables with the new code requirements.

The Presenters:

Charles “Russ” Russell, Vice President, VCA Green

Moe Fakih, LEED AP (Green Rater, O+M), GPR, BPI, Director of Sustainability, VCA Green

Date: June 5, 2013

5:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m

Learning Units: 
1.0 HSW Unit

2458 Dupont Drive

$20 members
$40 non members

Contact: or call 714.363.4700

or Register Here.

Oceano cropped

April 11, 2013

VCA Green Helps TDI Achieve LEED Silver

VCA Green recently completed services which helped TDI receive LEED® Silver Certification for Oceano at Warner Center, a 244-unit apartment complex in Woodland Hills, Calif. The project was certified Silver under the LEED for Homes California Midrise program.

During construction, the VCA team provided LEED related construction training and verified during construction that each unit was well sealed and properly insulated. Typically, quality insulation and energy conservation efforts for LEED certified homes help to reduce operating costs by up to 35%. Blower door testing confirmed that minimal conditioned air would leak from residential units, reducing the amount of heating or cooling needed to keep the space comfortable.

The project includes an irrigation system that greatly reduces the amount of potable water needed for landscaping. The high-efficiency irrigation system features drip irrigation, hydrozoning (grouping plants by watering needs), timers for each watering zone and a moisture-sensing controller. 70% of the plants are considered drought-tolerant, and grass, which requires substantially more water than most landscaping, was not planted. Although not contributing to LEED points, a cistern was also installed to reuse rainwater for irrigation needs.

Oceano at Warner Center was honored by the California Apartment Association with its prestigious award for Best New Construction in Los Angeles. The US Green Building Council awarded Oceano its LEED plaque earlier this year.

The architect of record is Architects Orange.

Oceano – LEED Points Awarded vs. Possible

Oceano Awarded vs Possible

Doug Frost structural engineering

Sept. 24, 2012

Former RBF Consulting CFO Doug Frost Joins VCA Green

VCA Green, a leading provider of green building consulting and commissioning based in Orange, Calif., announced the addition of Mr. Doug Frost as Chief Financial Officer to the firm’s growing staff.

Mr. Frost comes to VCA after 28 years at RBF Consulting, one of the nation’s leading planning, design and construction firms. He joined RBF in 1984 as the corporate controller, was promoted to vice president of finance in one year and to chief financial officer two years later. He served in that capacity for more than 20 years up to the date of the sale of the firm to Michael Baker, Jr. Corporation in 2011. During his tenure at RBF, Mr. Frost was directly involved in and helped manage the growth of the small local firm he joined in 1984 to see it become one of the most successful regional firms in the nation.

In his new role at VCA, Mr. Frost will be responsible for all financial controls and human resources, joining the senior management team asit guides the growth of the firm.

VCA Green is a distinguished provider of green building services, including LEED®, GreenPoint Rated, commissioning, HERS, energy modeling, and CalGreen compliance. with a special emphasis in multi-family and mixed-used construction.

“We are very excited to have Mr. Frost join our growing team,” says VCA President Tom VanDorpe. “Demand for our services continues to increase, and Doug’s experience in managing growth will provide a key strategic component as we expand to meet the needs of our clients while maintaining the quality service that has been a hallmark of VCA for more than 30 years.”

June 27, 2012

VCA Green Announces Director of Sustainability

VCA Green is pleased to announce Moe Fakih, MPA, LEED AP, CGBP, BPI as Director of Sustainability. In this role, Mr. Fakih will lead the firm’s green consulting and commissioning efforts for architects, developers and building owners. The green building services of VCA Green include LEED project management and consulting, GreenPoint Rated project management and consulting, Energy Star certification and consulting, commissioning and retro commissioning, HERS (Home Energy Rating System), and CALGreen compliance and consulting.

“We are extremely excited to have Moe join our team,” says VCA Green principal Tom VanDorpe. “He shares our commitment to meeting sustainability goals for clients while pursuing long-term cost savings for their projects through best practices and budget efficiency.”

Prior to joining VCA Green, Mr. Fakih was principal at AEF Consulting, a Southern California sustainability consulting-construction firm. He serves as Vice Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council Orange County Chapter and holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree from San Diego State University.

New Light Pollution CALGreen Section 5.106.8

June 18, 2012

On July 1, 2012 the newest Title 24 supplements go into effect. For building officials and plan checkers, there are several additional enforcement issues to implemented. The Building Standard Commission (BSC) is reintroducing light pollution into Part 11. As part of the plan review process, it will be necessary to verify if the proposed new project site lighting conforms to the new code standards. This article provides information and a basic guide to help with the plan review process.

How to comply and how to enforce

In the last few months, many of you have received the next code supplemental pages for all parts of Title 24 that go into effect July 1, 2012. In CALGreen, Part 11, there is a newly reinstated section that addresses the issue of light pollution.

On January 1, 2012 local governments began enforcing CALGreen. Section 5.106.8, Light Pollution, required newly constructed projects to comply with keeping all light generated on site from leaving the site by using reflectors, shields, screen walls, or any other method which complied the code’s intent. This section provided some unique challenges for certain types of applications and occupancies.

As a result of these challenges, a petition was submitted to the Building Standard Commission (BSC) regarding concerns with security for different types of installations. On April 19, 2011 the BSC repealed the language in Chapter 5 and Appendix A5. The BSC then created a stakeholder group to develop new light pollution requirements. During the intervening months, new light pollution requirements were created and placed in Appendix A5.
The BSC is now moving the new light pollution standards from Appendix A5 to the mandatory section of Chapter 5.

How will local agencies enforce the new requirements?
How will new projects comply with the new requirement?

The BSC non-residential guide states “the intent of this code provision is to ensure that newly constructed projects reduce the amount of light and glare from both interior and exterior light sources leaving the site.”

For local agencies, the method of enforcement has several variables that include staffing levels, the ability of the building department to implement the code section, and the internal policies and procedures of the building department regarding this topic. Larger building departments will review the submittal for conformance, while other cities may delegate the light pollution review to the planning department, or the city may defer to an outside consultant with guidance from the building department.

The initial code language was based on the Illumination Engineer Society of North America (IESNA) cutoff classification system with four classifications (full cutoff, cutoff, semicutoff, and noncutoff).

IESNA Standard TM-15-11 is a new light classification system that provides information to lighting professionals regarding light distribution based on lighting angels.

This new system was developed because of concerns with nuisance lighting in many cities and to deliver a clear system that will provide an evaluation of light distribution based on thorough and comprehensive data. This standard a Lighting Classification System (LCS) analyzes lighting distribution angles in three basic different angels, behind the light (Back), above the light (Uplight), and in front of the light (Glare). This standard uses manufacture photometric test data that allows designers to evaluate and compare the distribution of light from a given fixture to permit selecting the fixture that will comply the code requirements.

The new standard for light pollution is based on the IESNA Standard
TM-15-11 and compliance with the new CALGreen light pollution requirements;

  • Minimum light requirements in the California Energy Code for Lighting Zones 1-4
  • Backlight, Uplight, and Glare (BUG) ratings as defined in IESNA TM-15-11
  • Allowable BUG ratings not exceeding those shown in TABLE 5.106.8
  • Compliant with a local ordinance or this code section, whichever is more stringent.

Under the supplement, building officials or city plan checkers will be reviewing submitted documents for the following:

  • Declaration of the proper light zone classification,
  • Review of the Light Fixture Table that should show:
  • Review photometric plan and compare with the fixture table,
  • Review light manufacturer data sheets supplied with submittal documents that show BUG ratings,
  • Review for any exception as defined in California Energy Code Sec. 147 and emergency lighting.

During the plan review process there maybe some question regarding the BUG rating declaration, or if the fixture manufacture has not developed the BUG rating, it will be necessary to review IESNA TM-15-11 Addendum “A.”
This document provides four different tables that allow you to convert the light angle test data into the BUG ratings. The addendum can be used by the plan checker or design professional to evaluate if a fixture is appropriate for a given installation.

As a design professional who is beginning to develop a project lighting plan, make sure you understand what the code is requesting for compliance and the methods used to evaluate for compliance. Select your fixture manufacturer, obtain fixture data sheets that show the BUG ratings, develop your photometric plan, and create a light fixture table that guides the plan checker through a logical compliance analysis.

I highly recommend reviewing the IESNA TM -15-11 Standard, Addendum “A” of TM-15-11, BSC Guide to Non-Residential Green Building Standards, and 2010 CALGreen with July 1, 2012 supplements. After you review the documents, if you still have questions, drop me an email and I will assist you to the best of my ability. – Charles “Russ” Russell