Silvertip Integrated Engineering Consultants was started in 2003 in Westminster, Colorado to provide creative engineering, design, troubleshooting, and analysis of mechanical systems for buildings.  We work as a prime-consultant, sub-consultant, with architects, or with electrical engineers, structural engineers, commissioning specialists, and other consultants to provide a single team, according to the needs of the project.  We provide mechanical systems design services for buildings including HVAC Engineering, Plumbing Design, Energy-Conservation consultation, and Fire Protection performance specifications.

Our Mission

Optimize building performance, comfort, sustainability, and energy-efficiency through thoughtful and cost-effective design, renovation, troubleshooting, consulting, and expert witness services

Silvertip Integrated Engineering Consultants provides personal Principal attention to all phases of each project.  Our clients receive the benefit of a Principal with 40-plus years of experience on every project.

We believe that conservative use of energy and resources is an advantage to our Clients and specialize in highlighting such opportunities on each project.

Project Approach

Our first step as the project mechanical engineer is to gain an understanding of the project goals, philosophy, and budget, and the interrelationships amongst these.  The mechanical systems should be an integral part of the solution to meet comfort, process, aesthetic, sustainability, and energy conservation goals.

The Owner may have an established Green Team to guide the design, construction, commissioning and operation processes. We recommend beginning the design process by meeting with the Owner’s Green Team and the building occupants and local community when appropriate.  A considerable effort has already been put forth in exploring and understanding green building and sustainable design concepts.  The design team would like to learn as much as possible from this dedicated group.  We would assist by helping to brainstorm more ideas for exploration and new twists on ideas already raised.  The proposed systems would be developed and fined-tuned based on this collaboration.

Systems modeling can provide comparative data for making system decisions.  Model-based design is an enhancement that allows feedback during the design of the impact of changes and variations.

Life-cycle analysis and energy analysis can provide a long-term view of the impact of systems choices.  The analysis can help make  choices more obvious as well as provide backup data for including energy-saving measures an higher quality equipment that can have lower operating and maintenance costs.  A life-cycle analysis can be expanded from the traditional to include life-cycle impacts on the community and the environment.

A mechanical design is best guided by a detailed understanding of the project heating and cooling loads, systems energy consumption, and the relationships amongst them.  One of our early design steps is to develop a detailed computerized load calculation that can be updated as the project progresses.

We believe that clear design documentation is the key to mutual understanding of the project requirements, especially by contractors, suppliers, commissioners, operators, maintenance personnel, managers, and occupants.  We begin with drawings that are thought through as the design progresses with quality designed in rather than checked in at the end.  We provide CSI-format specifications that serve to limit mis-understandings amongst the construction parties as well as to define a high level of quality.

We embrace commissioning, which has become a valuable asset to the design, construction, and operations phases of projects.  While some participants unfamiliar with successful commissioning may fear the process, those who’ve experienced the success are more concerned when commissioning is not included in the project.  The commissioning process often produces a very fast return on investment by catching most issues early before they become problems or inefficient and costly-to-operate systems.  Contractors are often the biggest beneficiary as the result of avoiding expensive tear-out and redo from even inadvertent misunderstandings.

Throughout the design process it is invaluable to foster team interaction and integration.  Each discipline can contribute to the others particularly by integrating the interface amongst systems.  A great example is daylighting.  If the daylighting doesn’t produce pleasant glare-free results, the mechanical system may end up being too small as the occupants bypass systems and turn on the lights anyway.  The team integration helps prevent the dark recesses that contribute to excessive lighting contrast.

There are sustainable design possibilities that do not raise the project budget and may actually cost less, particularly when integrated into the project.  There are also many opportunities for longer-term savings from an initial investment in the environment.  The design team will assist in balancing the long-term benefits with the project budget restraints.

There are many ways that mechanical systems can be treated to further the goals of sustainability and green building design:

More durable equipment with longer life expectancy will generally draw fewer resources from the environment than a system with a shorter life-span as well as contributing less to the solid waste problem.

Daylighting is really the first stage of cooling by virtue of a substantial reduction in cooling requirements.

Energy usage from fossil fuels has an environmental impact.  Systems with higher energy efficiency utilize fewer fuel resources over their life-span.  These savings can exceed many times over the added materials that may be used in the initial construction.  There is also a concurrent reduction in the production of “greenhouse gasses”.

Where the project allows, renewable energy systems such as solar thermal, solar cooling, and geothermal can be used as energy-sources in a primary or a supplemental role.

Items that are locally produced will use fewer energy resources for transportation and lessen the need for repair of roadways and pollution from tire dust.

Lower maintenance equipment requires fewer supplies during the product life.

Low water use plumbing fixtures lessen the reduction of natural water supplies while also reducing the wastewater stream.

Utilization of natural gas for heating at the building eliminates energy losses from electrical transmission lines.  The result is a reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide than would be released by a power plant.  As local power plants convert to more renewable energy input, and particularly as distributed solar PV is integrated into the grid, this equation will change.

Systems utilizing more outside air, such as evaporative cooling systems or ground-tempered outside air systems, can provide improvements in the indoor air quality and have a positive health impact on the occupants.  High efficiency air filtration can be utilized to remove some of particulate pollution in the indoor environment.  There is also the possibility of utilizing carbon filters and similar technologies to further reduce gaseous pollutants in the air.

Roof drainage can, theoretically, be collected for use in site watering to put the water back into the ground to compensate for the impervious building placed on the earth.  In Colorado, however, we have water laws that generally prevent use of this practice.  Fortunately rain barrels are now allowed – a small step in a good direction.

Renewable energy systems help further reduce the building energy usage and are generally necessary when the goal is a net-zero energy use building.  Solar domestic hot water heating can further reduce the energy used by the building with a very cost-effective return on investment.  Solar photovoltaics can be used for lighting, power, and more depending on the available investment.  Tax credits and grants are making photovoltaics very attractive.

The selection of materials with low “embodied energy” can impact the energy use of a building.  For example, avoiding the use of plastics and aluminum where possible, will reduce the embodied energy of building systems.

Bear Stories

This is a good of a place as any to explain why the name Silvertip Integrated Engineering Consultants.  The “Integrated Engineering Consultants” part is probably obvious from reading other pages on this site.  But why “Silvertip”?  A Silvertip is a grizzly bear in Montana vernacular.  I learned that on one of my backpacking excursions.  The name comes from their silvery, grizzled appearance.  Silvertips are a bit endangered.  Humans are encroaching on their habitat and they need a lot of territory to survive.  Come to think of it, so do humans.  Which makes for a real challenge when humans live in high-density and close proximity such as in high-rises in the middle of concrete jungles, but that is another discussion.  The Silvertip is also very, very strong and won’t go away without a fight.  Humans have developed wilderness areas and conservation practices that are allowing a come-back.  There is a pretty good comparison to good, quality, sustainable design.  Buildings once interacted with their environment naturally providing daylight and mass appropriate to the climate to minimize energy needs and maximize comfort.  Then humans learned to harness inexpensive (in current costs) fossil fuels to heat and cool buildings.  That allowed cheap (OK – inexpensive) buildings to be built with little regard for the local environment or climate.  Now that is changing.  A better understanding of the interrelationships among humans, the environment, and climate has led to a rapidly developing field of sustainable design – and a come-back for good, quality, thoughtful design.  That is where we come in.  I am both inspired and awestruck by the sheer power and grace of the Silvertip.  As this web site develops there will be links to other sites concerned with preservation of the Silvertip and their cousins the black bear.  Here are a few personal stories.  I hope you enjoy them.

When We Met Yogi and Pooh

The annual family backpack trip in 2000 was quite an adventure – that is if you like being raided by bears.  Very large bears.  Unusually large bears.  In the dark.  When you are very sleepy.  I met Dad, Chuck, Chris and Jeff on July 15 in Mammoth Lakes, California to prepare for a trek into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, just south of Yosemite.  Prior mailings from the forest service had warned us about the bears and recommended that we carry bear canisters to hold the food.  We knew this to be a mis-print because bear canisters are very large metal boxes and no way can or will we carry anything called a canister on our backs for five days.  We’ve been hoisting our food up in the trees for 37 years and doing just fine, thank-you.  Bear canisters – my foot!  As recently has been a hitch, we didn’t allow enough time to adequately sort through and measure our food.  I brought lunches and dinners and snacks.  Chuck brought breakfasts (and then some), lunches, and snacks.  (Notice the overlap?).  We had a heck of a time stuffing the stuff in our packs and just didn’t know why.  We hit the trail.  Early.  Way too early (I’m not a morning person).

Eventually we got to just below the lake of our first destination and found it blocked by a rockslide.  By then we were in two groups and the first group decided to go around the lake to the left, the second group through the slide area to the right.  I was in the around the left group, up to the deep stream.  The cold stream.  Jeff went back to check things out.  We waited thinking the rest would be around shortly, and after a long time saw some of them on the opposite shore.  So I took off my shoes and carried my pack across the stream.  Well, half way across the stream.  Then I stopped for a brief bath.  It wasn’t very deep.  Did I mention that is was cold?  It is amazing how fast a body can get up when just moments ago it was almost too tired to walk.  So fast that water didn’t really soak into anything.  Chris came over (did much better) and I went back for Jeff’s pack.  The feet turned into blocks of ice.  We were just below some snowfields, as we found out the next day.  Did I mention the mosquitos?  In camp they were almost tolerable, but on the trail around the lake there were thick clouds of them.  They were fresh hatches, hence young and not really biting.  Just annoying.  We made camp.  Ate food.  Built a fire.

The next day a few of us hiked up to a small lake that was mostly frozen on top.  As we had lunch, it was melting before our very eyes, little ice floes drifting past, breaking up with a curious tinkling into a slush of crystalline icecicles.  Quite fascinating and very pretty.  We watched for a while and took the obligatory photographs.  We went to bed that night satisfied that our food hoisting method was working very well.  We were particularly proud of our effort – having found a high tree to hoist into, and another adjacent to tie off the rope up high where the bears would not see it.  We had our popcorn, stared at the stars, and turned in.

At 4:15 the next morning I suddenly sat up in the sack with a “snap” and a “thud” echoing in my head.  Two seconds later it hit me – a bear had somehow snapped our rope and the food bags had dropped to the ground.  I uttered a few non-repeatable words and woke Jeff and Chris.  I shined my light outside and they reflected on two green eyes about 25 feet away, right under the spot where our food was tied.  I put on my pants and put on my boots as fast as I could and went outside yelling at the bear who had dared to mess with our food.  He ignored me.  As if he wasn’t in enough trouble already!  I threw some rocks in the bushes next to him so that he would get scared and run away.  Again no reaction.  I yelled at Chris and Jeff and Dad and Chuck to come out and help me make more noise, since the bear was obviously near deaf.  Jeff and Chris, however, were thinking “there is a bear out there, and Uncle Michael wants us to come OUT of the tent?”  “What is not right about this?”  But out they came, brave souls all.  Jeff and Chris helped me throw rocks in the bushes (we figured actually hitting the bear might make him think that we were food, and we weren’t sure about that move yet).  Dad came out, but I think he was sleep-walking at first.  Chuck stumbled out, without his contacts – making him quite blind – and threw some rocks AT the bear (figuring that was the best way to miss him).  Then, being basically blind, he stumbled toward us making so much noise that the bear had had enough and ran off.  But he picked up one of our food bags in his mouth as he ran off.  We yelled at him – “Hey, that’s our food!  Bring it back”.  And a few other expletives deleted.

We gathered a few flashlights and hurried after him, at a pace of about six or seven inches a minute.  It was still dark and we didn’t REALLY want to surprise him too fast.  As I recall, down the hill, Chris saw him next, just 15 feet to our left.  We repeated the ritual again, getting the high ground and throwing rocks near, but not at him, telling him how ugly he was, and displaying our command of X-rated vocabulary.  After a while, after consuming some of our food, and really making a mess, he took off again.  This time he grabbed a day-pack that we had used to hold some of the food while in the larger garbage bag.  The chase was on and soon we found him again and repeated the ritual, and again he took off, this time with a smaller yet bag.  We were making progress, but he was scattering our food all over the place.  Did I mention he was a sloppy eater – slobbered all over everything!  Bit right through my plastic gorp bottle.  I miss that bottle – I’ve had it for decades!  The next time we caught him he took off without taking any more bags with him.  Victory!  We looked all over the meadows below trying to find where he went.  It was getting light and we wanted his mug shot to go in his prison file.  But he had vanished.  How could so large an animal just disappear like that?  I have been backpacking for 37 years (as I recall) and have seen a few bears, but this was by far the largest out in the wilderness.  Chuck pegged him at 800 lbs.  I figure 600 to 700 just because he couldn’t possibly be 800.  Although he was about to become very well fed!  Being now light, we looked closer at his handiwork.  He had climbed up the tree where we tied the rope and pulled on it till it broke, hence dropping our food bags.  Clever bear, that.  Obviously circus trained.  We named him Yogi.

We gathered up our stuff.  Didn’t want to litter, although it was really the bear who should be cleaning this up!  Back at camp we inventoried everything and were surprised to discover that we actually had more than enough to finish the trip.  We were beginning to think we may have double packed a few meals.  So much for the careful planning.  Actually, we had been planning all along to feed a few bears, but the human kind, not the wild ones.  We hit the trail, onward to our next destination.  We found a fairly nice campsite, though a little too close to the trail.  Lots of very tall trees in which to tie up our food.  Lots of bear claw marks up the trees.  Not a good sign.  I took a walk above the campsite and found some very nice bear print specimens.  Fresh, clear, big.  Headed toward our camp.  We headed down the trail looking for another spot.  Found one off the trail a bit.  Still a few bear paw prints, but not as fresh, and fewer claw marks in the trees.  This would be our next home. We made camp.  I went for a walk.  A small pond over the hill, some cliffs, beautiful meadows, and this eerie feeling that I was being watched.  Must be the mosquitoes.  Again, dinner, popcorn, and this time a real engineering feat with the food bags.  25 feet up with the rope tie-off walked up a hill and around the next tree wrapped high up in the branches and brought down and buried in some rocks.  Then the decoy bag with our carry-out trash and some rocks, a little lower so as to be easier to see (in the dark?).  Then dinner, popcorn, star-gazing, and turn in.

Chuck (or was it Dad) got up for one last plant watering.  Climbed back in the sack.  About 9 PM as I recall, maybe 10 PM.  We had just gotten our boots off, and we hear rocks rolling in the stream.  Quite a few of them, which is unusual.  And the stream is over the hill.  Uh oh!  Out come the flash-lights.  Our main bag is still in the tree.  Good sign.  The decoy seems to be missing it’s bottom.  On go the boots, and out we climb.  Our decoy had been struck.  Raid number two.  We hung out for an hour, and no bear.  We felt like geniuses for our successful decoy.  Back to bed, one more last tree-watering, and in the sack.  Not one minute later and we hear branches breaking.  A big squirrel out there?  Put the boots BACK on, grab the flashlights, and out we go.  The food bag is gone!  How can that be.  We hear something, but don’t see it.  Then Jeff comes out with the nephew-size flashlight, and we finally see that up high in the tree, maybe 30 to 35 ft. up, is a very large bear.  He is awkwardly draped over some branches.  He had climbed up above our food and pulled the rope, and the food, up to him.  He was eating in his tree-top restaurant.  We should have thrown some rocks at him.  Hit him good.  But he was up in the tree.  And he was big.  And he was persistent.  So we brushed up on our vocabulary and told him what a sloppy eater he was.  And his mother wears army boots.  And a few more things.  Everything we could think of for the next three hours.  We built a bon-fire.  Started it up with quite a flare, but he didn’t flinch.  Just kept eating.  Our food.  We took his picture.  Lots of pictures.  It was dark and we had small cameras with small pop-up flashes.  None of the pictures, from three cameras, turned out.  We were jinxed.  We shined our lights on him and he would look at us. And we’d sheepishly shine it away.  Then Jeff jumped and said something like “oh my ___”.  Not 15 feet to our left (always to our left) was a large black bear walking ever so silently toward THE TREE.  The first bear was brown, by the way.  But NOT a brown bear as the Forest Service lady corrected our report a few days later.  Brown bears are Grizzly’s and they don’t want anyone reading the reports to think there might be a Griz up there.  Whether it was or not, well that is for you to wonder about.  The black bear started picking up some scraps that fell out of the tree, and the brown colored bear snorted at us a little.  So we thought.  Ok, we need another name.  The black bear was soon Pooh.  He walked down the hill, occasionally coming back up for more scraps, and Yogi would snort at US.  We didn’t think the odds were getting much better.  After an hour, Yogi finished everything up in the tree, but being a basic slob, had dropped a lot on the ground.  So down he came.  He ambled up the hill about ten feet, and Pooh followed him.  Suddenly Yogi whipped around and tackled Pooh and in a heart-beat chased him right toward us.  We were ready with our fuel cans to douse them.  In less than a second they turned and headed off into the woods, gone completely in another second.  Fast as any cat I’ve seen, and a whole lot bigger.  The ground shook.  We held our ground (like we could go anywhere in half a second!)  So much for the joke about putting on your tennis shoes and outrunning anything.  We looked at the mess, still keeping our distance.  Then Yogi came back, finished up everything he wanted, and left.  Not even a thank-you or a tip!  It was 3 AM (or so) and we went to bed.  Pooh came back and finished everything except a few tea bags, so we discovered upon arising the next morning.  We hiked out a day early, determined to come back next year and feed Yogi some cayenne pepper and then some.

The ladies at the Forest Service office were kind enough to inform us that we had tied our stuff up all wrong.  We needed to use the counter-balance method.  We asked then to demonstrate to us out back, and turns out they have never actually been backpacking – just read that in some official forest service pamphlet.  The counter-balance method does have some drawbacks.  Pushing the second bag up with a stick can tear the bag.  Getting them down can be even more fun.  And of course the second bag won’t get hung up on the branch, will it?  Turns out the bear canisters are pretty small.  Maybe hold six individual meals.  Weigh a couple pounds, made of plastic, have a lid that is removed with a coin or screw-driver.  Bear-proof.  Can still be carried away and tossed in the lake, but at least the bear won’t get the food.  And $70!  We’ll think about it.

Raided by bears, four times on one trip (in a way), saw an incredible bear fight, and lived to tell the tale.  We’ll never forget the bear fight.  What power, what speed, what, were we nuts?  Why didn’t we throw more rocks?

– Michael

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