The Green Spotlight on BE NYC: Sam Weisenberg

October 9, 2013

Countdown to BE NYC! With only7days until the conference, GreenHomeNYC is shining the spotlight on the experts who will be making the BE NYC an exceptional industry event!   One of the professionals participating in the conference is Sam Weisenberg.    sweisenbergSam Weisenberg is a Heating Specialist at Bright Power.  Mr. Weisenberg troubleshoots, optimizes, and designs stream and hot water heating systems.  He is an Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) Certified Building Commissioning Professional.  Sam is also a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Certified Multifamily Building Analyst (MFBA).  In his free time, Mr. Weisenberg plays percussion, guitar, and steel guitar.  Sam enjoys cooking and volunteers doing bike repair.   Sam is a speaker within the Commercial/Institutional Track of BuildingEnergy NYC 2013.   What brought you to your current position? My mother and stepfather liked to move homes, so I grew up ripping our houses apart.  I worked through college doing electrical trades and a lot of woodworking.  Then I worked for a lighting designer and cabinet maker for a while.  After that, I joined Bright Power and have been enamored with heating systems ever since. What did you learn from all of your parents’ renovations? What’s behind the walls, which in our industry, is crucial to understand.   What’s your role at BE NYC? Our session consists of several presentations on steam system optimization in multifamily buildings.  I’m going to be framing the problem and then letting Dan Rieber and Jonathan Flothow talk about solutions.  The problem, simply stated (and this is nothing new), is that you walk past a building in the middle of winter, and a large percentage of the windows are open.  That indicates all sorts of things.  Building owners may not hear the complaints, but we hear a ton from tenants when we go into a building.  A lot of tenants think it’s absurd they open the windows—some are really happy about it.  My grandfather always used to throw the windows open all winter and, “Frische Luft!” he’d say.  But he also didn’t turn the heat on, so…   What are some problems you see onsite? We see the whole gamut of things from entire systems not working to boilers that have three inch holes in them that are spewing water out of them and the make-up water valve is just open.  We see massive failures witnessed in action.  We’ll tell supers and they are never surprised or alarmed.  Many times things are just routinely disregarded.  Those are the hardest issues to work with because from a building owner’s standpoint, this building has been working.  That is, unless they get tons of heating complaints and violations, which they don’t get because they overheat everything.   Why steam? Steam is pretty cool because it moves itself.  It’s hot, so it rises.  Most of the boiler rooms are in the basement, and everything that comes out of them rises (flue gases and steam).  A lot of these buildings were designed before pumped hot water systems became popular and gravity hot water systems weren’t going to work in a lot of these buildings of a certain size.  So, they used steam.  As long as you can get the air out of the way, the steam will go where it needs to go.   What’s your favorite part about your job? Going into buildings – every day is like a history lesson.  Especially with steam systems, trying to figure out who came before you and why they did what they did is fascinating and not always answerable.   What’s the biggest challenge of your job? Unknowns—especially when you’re dealing with pump sizing.  Sometimes you have to ask whether this piping arrangement actually needs to be here or if it’s just something someone put in to fix a problem, chasing the wrong path.  That can be intimidating at times.  Obviously, we work on a budget.  And to really assess problems, you need to test them.  Testing takes time.  That’s a challenge.   Another challenge is that a lot of people want answers during the summer for systems that only work in the winter.  Part of our business is doing energy audits, and part of that should be assessing the operation of a system to see how well it’s functioning.  The energy auditing business, however, doesn’t seem to care whether you conduct the audit in July or in December.  Some clients have issues (“our pipes are banging,” “this line doesn’t get heat,” etc.) and you just can’t answer those fully in the summer without roasting the tenants.   What’s unique about the building stock in New York? It doesn’t change.  A lot of it does, but we have more than 99% occupancy.  Steam to hydronic conversion is a very fashionable thing to talk about the past couple years, but basically that requires a gut rehab.  There are ways around that, but it’s difficult.  In other cities, they can move a building full of tenants down the block into an unoccupied building.  We don’t have that ability here like they do in Baltimore, Boston, or Chicago.  We have a lot of buildings all packed in tight, basically all holding each other up, so nothing gets renovated until you have massive breakdowns.  It’s a unique challenge for New York.   Is there a relationship between your interest in percussion and your profession? There have been a bunch of gigs that I’ve used rusted out parts from boiler rooms, like pigtails that come off the control manifold that you attach a pressure troll to.  I’ve definitely used those on gigs—they sound great.   What’s coming up for you, other than BE NYC? Well, Bright Power has a heating season party every year on October 1.  Once you get into heating season and you can start testing, that’s reason to celebrate.  If you’re curious about the way things work, then seeing them in action and paying attention is really exciting.    BENYC-featuredimage Interested in learning more from Sam Weisenberg? Look for him at the Multifamily Track at BE NYC.   CLICK HERE to register for BE NYC. For more information on workshop sessions, sponsoring and exhibiting at BENYC, CLICK HERE.   Interview conducted by Jordana Viuker.   To know more about GHNYC’s The Green Spotlight, CLICK HERE!