Dagher Engineering of New York City was recognized with an Engineering Excellence Diamond Award, for  a revolutionary net-zero carbon and net-zero energy design for the Housatonic River Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  The award was presented at the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York reception held at the Waldorf Astoria


With a mission to educate the public about the role rivers play in people’s lives and how their actions impact rivers and watersheds, the Housatonic River Museum sought to locate its building on a site adjacent to the river.  “Our goal was to take maximum advantage of educational opportunities afforded by the location, while simultaneously minimizing impact on the river and its environment,” says Jenny Hersch, the museum’s founder.  To support and surpass that goal, Dagher Engineering provided the museum with a design that resulted in both a net-zero energy and net-zero carbon building. 


One of the major challenges facing the engineering firm was the small size of the site.   While many net-zero buildings today have ample land area to install large numbers of solar panels to provide their energy needs, the Housatonic River Museum was limited to a 12,000 square-foot building with a small lot. Additionally, the museum, which is to be located on the banks of the river, did not want to install solar panels in the floodplains. 


Instead, Dagher Engineering incorporated highly efficient MEP systems into the envelope and structure of the building, collaborating closely with architect, NYC-based FX Fowle.  Dagher Engineering worked closely with the entire design team on all aspects of the building, including:  the building envelope; the orientation of the building to the site; placement of the windows on the façade; the green roof; photovoltaics; and solar thermal water heating. 


Compared with a conventional system, the proposed MEP systems are economical and cost-effective, having an estimated payback period of 8 years.  The museum’s expectations were exceeded in terms of the final proposed cost of $2.3 million, including the installation of the photovoltaics and the lighting schemes. This cost was only slightly more than the $2 million originally budgeted for the MEP systems.


“Through careful planning and the integration of architectural and engineering systems, this project demonstrates that a net-zero building can be achieved using common technologies at a reasonable price,” says Elias Dagher, firm  founder.  “Because the capital costs are comparable to conventional systems, and the payback period is relatively short, this study could have wide ranging implications for net-zero buildings throughout the United States, making net-zero more attainable than previously thought.”


Founded in 2000, Dagher Engineering, PLLC provides mechanical, electrical, and plumbing-fire-protection design and consulting services to developers, building owners and managers, architects, and contractors in the United States and internationally.