These are not just walls, they are utility envelopes

Ok, I am an architect, not an engineer-so bear with me. I still get asked questions about what powers, ventilates, cools , warms, flushes, drains, ones home or building. So, what follows relates to practical explanations, and client brain-dump.  I go simple and pass on some rules of thumb, related observations and pointers:

Power: you’re basic 2000-4000 sf average sized home typically should be equipped with a 200 amp electrical service, primarily for expansion possibilities. 100 amp is often adequate, but 200 amp is generally needed down the road. Strongly consider a generator. Many pieces of critical equipment need emergency power. A 25 kw tends to be adequate for most homes. Get  a generator with an automatic transfer switch. This devices turns on your generator when the utility power goes off, i.e. storms. Consider what devices need to be powered as well as you available fuel sources. Use available smart home devices and wiring for home automation, energy savings and flexibility.  Use LED and florescent lighting to save on energy costs. When you do work on old walls-replace all old cloth covered wiring and knob and tube electrical connections with new code-standard wiring and fittings.-I’ve worked on 3 house re-builds due to fires from these sources.

Plumbing: Use plumbing fixtures that are flow restricted, so you do not waste water. One of the fairly recent residential devices are water powered sump pumps. These run on  street pressure water and help eject the water from the lowest levels of your home and do not require electrical power. Consider point of use water heaters-though more expensive to install, save on fuel costs and will not run out of hot water -i.e when 2 people are showering and the washing machine is cycling. Gas leaks are more common than one would think-make sure you ask for  independent testing of the joints and fittings. Carefully consider if you want to switch to all plastic piping. The sound of waste water flowing horizontally in the plastic pipes is noisier than cast iron that was previously used. Consider where leaks can occur- install rupture pans and floor drains accordingly-ie. washing machines

HVAC: Take care to select a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system that matches your needs plus a little extra since it is difficult to change.  Primary examples: Boiler/radiators and individual wall/window AC units-easily the most common on older homes. Central HVAC- uses ducts to carry heated or cooled air from air handlers to each room, the heating and cooling can be done in many ways. Hydroair systems use water as the medium to heat and cool the air and is typically a more even means of conditioning spaces that furnace/ac.   Ductwork needs to be carefully coordinated with walls and ceilings – since it often occupies the greatest are in a wall , it can have big influence on the Sheetrock forms that follow. Also make sure to insulate that ductwork at uninsulated areas so it maintains the temperature of the air in the ductwork and which prevents the hvac equipment from working harder and using more fuel. In this area, most homes use about one ton of cooling per 450 sf and heating use of 35 btu’s of heat per sqft


Mini-split systems have an air handler mounted on the wall or ceiling and the cooling (heat rejection) is done outside. many have heating coils in the air handler.

We’re big fans of radiant heat which heats the floors or walls with internal hot water tubes or electrical blankets that provide an even heat -really nice when you step out of the shower on a cold January morning onto a warm tiled floor.


We know plenty of good HVAC subcontractors and engineers who would be delighted to speak to you. Please give us call to connect you-914 980 5532