Monday, June 29, 2009

Monterey College of Law Wins Award

The Monterey College of Law Community Justice Center project has been selected as a Building of America Award winner and is scheduled to be featured in the upcoming Green Building of America-Northwest Green edition of Construction Communications.

As a featured project, the publication will show how it is making a difference for its community through its sustainable elements. Construction Communications works closely with each region's cities, counties, major associations and organizations, developers and project teams to ensure the top sustainably designed and built projects are covered in each regional Green Building of America edition. You can view regional editions on our web site at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would your project benefit from registering to LEED v2.2?

If your project is not in a dense urban setting you can lose valuable credits for transportation and density/community-connectivity under LEED 2009. The deadline for registration to LEED pre-2009 is this Friday, 6/26. This includes LEED New Construction and Existing Buildings. The cost of registration is $450 for members plus the time to process the registration. Once registered under v2.2, the project may have until 12/31/09 to move to LEED 2009 at no extra cost. This gives time to see if additional energy savings and renewable energy credits of 2009 out-weigh the penalty of not having density/connectivity or public transportation.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PG&E Energy Audit at Portola Hotel

Technical Solutions Engineer Chris Saiz demonstrated his expertise as we walked through the Portola Hotel and Spa yesterday. We were conducting a Level I Energy Audit walk for the hotel's LEED Existing Building Operations and Maintenance certification. The account manager for PG&E, Alex Calvillo, arranged for this audit. Alex was present, as well as Alicia Kilgore from PG&E; Al Hittle, the Portola's Chief Building Engineer; and George Lewis from the Engineering Department.

We thought that most of the lighting upgrade opportunities had already been implemented, but Chris pointed out large areas in Jack's Lounge that could be converted from 50 watt MR16 halogen lights to 3 watt LED equivalents. There were also a number of incandescent lights still in some of the lobby areas that could be replaced with CFL's. Chris made a point of observing the intent of the lighting. If it was directional, he would lean toward LED lighting, even over efficient fluorescent lights.

The Portola Hotel has quite a large kitchen area that serves both restaurants and banquets. Chris offered inisights on the refrigeration and kitchen equipment, explaining how PG&E provides incentives to purchase or upgrade equipment. This will be valuable information for future reference. As equipment requires major repairs, knowing the incentives for replacing the equipment, as well as energy savings makes better informed buying decisions.

Similar to most luxury hotels, the Portola Hotel and Spa has a dedicated laundry operation. The hotel has a state-of-the-art co-generation plant to help make the laundry operation efficient. This did not stop Chris though. He saw opportunities to preheat water before it entered washing machines and to use heat exchange technology for the dryer operations. We also discussed time of day usage and the potential to change the schedule of operations to reduce the impact of peak time rates.

We managed to brave some rather vocal seagulls on the rooftop where Chris offered suggestions to improve the operation of the chiller and air-handling units. We also toured some of the gorgeous rooms. It's hard to focus on energy savings when you're enjoying a terrific view of the Monterey Harbor and marina, howevber, we did manage to find some potential savings here. Even a relatively small savings per room can get big when you consider it's multiplied by more than 300 rooms.

Finally, Chris was able to provide suggestions on reducing computer energy demand. Chris works primarily in the Silicon Valley, so data center energy management is a core competency for him. He made the case for virtualization using products similar to Vmware to reduce the amount of servers in the data center. Each server generates 255 watts for 8000 hours a year. It also requires about 350 watts of cooling, so this can add up! He is also a big proponent of energy management software that can shut down any of the hotel's 80 computers as they become idle.

We're awaiting a report from Chris about his observations. We will use that to implement low-cost/no-cost solutions. We will also form a long term capital plan based on upgrades that will present some large opportunities. This is where the LEED certification process challenges you to a higher benchmark of achievement. As a result, the Portola Hotel and Spa will achieve terrific energy savings, and offer a great place to stay for the Green-minded traveler.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is this green washing?

I had a client consider a Big Belly Solar for their project today. As usual, I went out to the product's "LEED," "Green" or "Sustainable" web page. Was I ever in luck? They had a LEED page! Now, how typical is this that every one of these products can qualify for an innovation point? And according to this promotional material, that can be the difference between Gold and Silver. I'm sorry, but I guess it's up to me to figure out how this product is going to get a LEED innovation point for using energy from the sun to compact what may have been compacted with nothing but a foot. Now, I know we are supposed to be diverting from the landfill, but is it innovative to just compact instead? Let me know if I'm off base on this. May be I just had a bad day...

Monday, June 8, 2009

The LEED Triple Bottom Line

The USGBC through LEED encourages a triple bottom line of the environment, economics and society. Usually I am working with the economic and environmental aspects of the project. I have been wondering how a project like the Boys and Girls Club can balance out the social equity portion of a Green building. Some of the ideas I am thinking about are how a facility such as this will be accessible to children that may not have had the opportunity to be in a Green built environment. This is probably the biggest aspect of social equity. There would not be too many green buildings in our areas that would be designed for kids to hang out and feel safe. What a terrific opportunity!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boys and Girls Club Alisal Unit

I am very pleased to be kicking off a LEED eco-charette for the proposed new Boys and Girls Club in Salinas. The project is targeting Platinum. Our charette will include a tour of Chartwell School by Executive Director Douglas Atkins. Ausonio Inc was the builder of Chartwell School, and it achieved 57 LEED points to be the first ever LEED Platinum K-12 campus.

I look forward to leading a discussion about how the building design can engage youth in sustainability. We have a great invite list of city and community leaders. I hope we have a good turn out.