Petersen Engineering

Corporate Partner

335 Maplewood Ave. Portsmouth, NH


Green Story

James Petersen began his career in engineering in 1986, and founded Petersen Engineering, Inc. six years later. Passionate about energy and the environment, James has expanded his expertise from his roots in HVAC and plumbing design to include building science, enclosure design and integrated design. A broad view of buildings, energy, and the environment has significantly changed James’ practice, and the success of the sustainable design movement has created new opportunities and has elevated his role on projects as the mechanical engineer.

Petersen Engineering looks at buildings holistically. “Any project we do we approach as an educated advocate for the owner, asking how can we design systems that will use as little energy as possible, as efficiently as possible and how can this be done while maintaining maximum durability, maximum adaptability, and as comfortable and healthy as possible,” explains Petersen.

Their engineers are building experts with a specialty and focus on the mechanical systems for buildings. The first thing Petersen analyzes is how to reduce the energy needs of a building. “Most buildings are drafty and under-insulated with grossly over-sized heating and cooling systems, creating an incredible amount of energy waste,” says Petersen. “With good design a reasonable target is for buildings, new or renovated, is to use 50% to 70% less energy.”


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Report Card Score

What makes us green?

  • Design systems that will use as little energy as possible, as efficiently as possible
  • Analyze how to reduce ventilation loads by reducing or eliminating energy waste so that all of the energy a building takes in is used effectively
  • Reduces waste and thus load without go without compromising the comfort or style of a structure
  • Company goal to reduce energy use of any structure by 50%
  • Apply their building efficiency and conservation ethic to every project
  • Push “energy recovery” as not just good for the environment but primarily good for the client; present, prove and educate that efficient engineering is a win/win
  • Influencing the big projects; design mechanical systems for large projects, impact is huge
  • Aggressive education ethic for all clients and all the players on the design build team from architects to developers to builders to plumbers
  • A mechanical engineering firm such as Petersen is in an excellent position to push, educate and encourage this ethic. Although Petersen focuses on designing building systems, they do not limit themselves to those systems alone. They always look at the building as a whole – making sure the client understands that heat transfer and moisture within a structure have a massive effect on the efficiency of the entire building.
  • Mechanical engineers are well suited to assist the architects to create a structure that will achieve these things because that means the building as a whole will perform well.
  • Operates from the experience that the first 25% of better building efficiency is very inexpensive and essentially financially painless
  • Experts in superior wall assembly and its benefits: where an old style wall might have an insulation value of R2-R7, peppered with air leaks; a newer wall with a tighter membrane might boast an R-13 value
  • Clients can come to Petersen and get a building that is engineered to use ZERO energy – this would be a building that reduced energy use by 70% and then created the other 30% of energy from renewables. This is not pie-in-the-sky construction; it is accepted and accessible and not especially modern or cutting edge design. It does require an attitude and education from the entire building team and the client. This kind of building does cost more to design and build but it has its payoff over time in energy costs.
  • Leaders in NESEA and players in every regional green building/design conf. and trade show
  • Office heated with heat pump, open windows for cross ventilation instead of using AC
  • Office has gone almost entirely paperless with a shirt to digital plans, correspondence and project back-up
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