Save Energy

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has awarded a $13,000 conservation grant to Thinkspace for energy efficient lighting retrofits.  Thinkspace’s plan calls for a reduction in energy consumption by approximately 21,106 KWH.  Annual energy cost savings are estimated to be a little over two-thousand dollars per year.  Our discussions with PSE have been on-going for three months.  It is much more difficult to qualify for a grant that I would have thought.  In the end I’m glad that it was not handed out so easily as I got to have a much better understanding about what it really takes to save energy.  A lot of hard work and analysis by the architect and electrical contractor have made this possible.  Read about the first post regarding “Incentives for Going Green“.

I have five office chairs and a desk which a previous tenant had left behind when they moved out.  I knew that these items need to be given away so I decided I would give “freecycle” a try and see how it compares to Craigslist.  I’ve used Craigslist a lot in the past, as I tend to give away a lot of stuff which tenants tend to leave behind.  When I set up a “freecycle” account, I really did not like the fact that I had to use a Yahoo account.  While I already had a Yahoo account, it seemed silly that I had to use one in order to join a “freecycle” group.  The next thing that I did not really care for was when I posted on freecycle, I could not add a photo of the items directly to the posted entry.  I had to separately add the photo to an album else where on the site and make reference to it.  I did get immediate response from the posting and it was nice to get an email from someone in the neighborhood that was will to pick up a chair.  After a week, I only had one chair get picked up.  I’m going back to Craigslist and posting over there as it is way easier to get the posting listed.  I think the net result really is the same, free on Craigslist or free on freecycle, both keep things from going into the landfill.

Energy Efficient BulbOver the past few months, I have been searching for companies, organizations, government agencies that encourage other companies to go green with their tenant improvements.  One of the first places that I called was PSE (Puget Sound Energy).  I talked with an Energy Management Engineer and he was happy and willing to meet me at the building to discuss my goal of finding a way to reduce the building’s energy consumption by at least 30%.

I found out that PSE offers many different incentives to increase a commercial building’s energy efficiency.  One of the most attractive programs is their energy efficient grant which can pay up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and may fund up to 70 percent of the installed cost.  Grants often range from several hundred dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars.  While that might sound really great it’s not easy to eligible for a grant.  I have been going back and forth with my electrical contractor, architect, and PSE Energy Management Engineer to come up with an optimal plan.  This has been an exciting process for me as I look at all the possible ways to reduce energy in the building and do so in a cost effective manner.  I think it’s much easier for a building to go green from the ground up than for a building that is only seven years old and retrofitting green.

One area of focus is using energy efficient light fixtures and lamps.  My research uncovered that many older buildings use T12 lamps (the diameter is 1 ½” lamp and use 40 watts).  They are cheap and reliable and approximately 58% of the buildings out there still use them.  One of the big drawbacks is that they draw approximately 6.5 watts of power even when the lamps are burned out.  The PSE Energy Management Engineer stated it’s much easier for a building that is using T12 lamps to replace or retrofit those fixtures with T8 lamps (the diameter is a 1” lamp and use 28 watts) and obtain a energy grant.  The space that Thinkspace will occupy is in a building which is only seven years old.  The building is already equipped with T8 lamps which is part of the challenge of identifying ways to be even more efficient.  A key metric that PSE uses is the ratio of KWH energy saved versus the total cost of the upgrade (materials and labor).

The architect has been focusing on ways to make sure we are optimizing as much daylight as possible.  The electrical contractor is focusing on reducing our watts per SF, calculating our total KW consumption with various light fixtures, and recommending the use of higher performance ballast and lamps.  We’ve submitted our plan to PSE Energy Management Engineer and are now waiting to find out if our latest plan will be eligible for a energy grant.  I will report back once I hear from PSE.

HVAC Return Duct

In addition to using HEPA air purifiers to maintain air quality during the demolition of the existing space, we also took a close look at the existing HVAC system.  Inside the space we have existing VAV (variable air volume) boxes.  VAV boxes are used to zone areas in large commercial buildings and also contribute significantly to the efficiency of the HVAC system.  On our existing VAV boxes we added additional filter media to ensure that we were not redistributing dust and other particulates in the air to other areas of the floor space.  We also used box filters and an extra layer of filter media on all return ducts.  This ensures that we were not bringing poluted air back into the HVAC system and redistrubuting the air to other areas of the building where other tenants would be impacted.

Filter Media

Commercial Light FixtureElectricity is one of the largest expenses in a commercial office building.  Whether you’re the building owner or a tenant that is occupying a large space, it is good business to look for ways to reduce your energy consumption.  For a building owner it means lower utility costs, a more energy efficient, and desirable building.  For a tenant, if you have a triple net lease (NNN), that means lower operating costs.  For our project, we are looking to reduce our electricity consumption by at least 30%.  In addition to receiving the benefits listed above, we will also earn LEED points toward our certification.

One way we are reducing energy is by using energy efficient commercial light fixtures.  Initially, I thought that energy efficient light would be poor light quality with an ugly commercial looking lense cover.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not true.  The light fixture we selected is attractive with a contemporary appearance.  The smart design uses both a high performance ballast and lamp which provides a combination of direct and indirect light.  What I really like about the light fixture is that it looks great, the fluorescent lamps are not visible, and feels like more comfortable light with no glare.

Demolition Chute

One of the LEED Certification goals is to divert construction, demolition, and packaging debris from landfill disposal.  Our personal demolition goal is to recycle 95% of all materials.  We started off our project with the Site Foreman telling all of our subcontractors that we don’t use the word “dump”.  All of the existing materials in the space that is removed will be recycled.  At the time of demolition we pile up similar types of materials into large piles.  All of the wood, cardboard, metal, plastics, low voltage wiring, sheetrock/gypsum, are stacked into individual piles.  Each of these items are then put into the debris chute which leads down to a container.  Each container is given a ticket number for tracking purposes.  We ensure that no garbage like McDonald’s trash is mixed up with our demolition debris.  The debris container is then taken to a recycling company which dumps out the contents of the container on a large warehouse floor.  The contents are then sorted out again and weighed.  A report will be issued with a detailed breakdown of how many tons of material were collected and a recycling rate will be determined.  Once I have received my first Recycling Rate Report, I will post the results.

Your company name does not have to be “Google, Dell, General Electric, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Nike, or Dow Chemical” in order to be able to make a significant difference in reducing its carbon footprint. thinkspace provides a path that allows the SMB’s to have a LEED Certified Green Interior and operate an office in a responsible sustainable manner. Thinkspace goes one step further and also calculates the carbon footprint for each individual office and provides an easy way for each company to become carbon neutral.

thinkspace’s design team has been charged to ensure that sustainable practices are woven into the buildings improvements from its inception. The Seattle area is leading the charge in green buildings and has an industry base to support and demonstrate this ability to the world. We have reduced our buildings electrical consumption by over 40%, use green building materials, low or no-VOC type paints, and operate our business with sustainable best business practices.  We compost and recycle.  We even have a alkaline battery recycling program.

HEPA Filter

During the demolition stage it is paramount to maintain air quality.  With a goal of being LEED Certified, we are taking the following precautions into consideration.  As the demo is in progress we have two huge dishwasher sized HEPA air purifiers constantly running.  The HEPA air purifiers remove particulates, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), and odors.  As carpets and drywall are removed, dust in the air passes through the giant HEPA filters.  Once the air is purified it is released out the back of the unit.  The filters are constantly being monitored and every few hours as the filters change color from blue to grey, they are changed and replaced with new filters.  This ensures that air quality is maintained for the people are that are working as well as the other tenants inside the building.

Once I decided that the business was going to make an impact by going LEED Certified, I spoke with my friend Stuart Mckee, former State of Washington CIO, who told me that I should look into how government could assist me in my endeavor. This triggered a whole bunch of ideas which included looking into grants from the State and City.

I immediately saw that Mayor Nichols had a huge initiative for Sustainability in the City of Seattle. I contacted Peter Dobrovolny in Mayor Nichols’ Green Building Program organization but he told me “unfortunately, we only work with projects within the City of Seattle”. I decided perhaps I should check with the City of Redmond. I went out to the City of Redmond website but could not find anything that stated they had a Green Building Program. I immediately thought perhaps it is best to contact Mayor Ives directly and ask if such a program exists. I contacted Mayor Ives through email and she responded “Thank you so much for your inquiry. We want to be very supportive of all property owners interested in sustainable construction and redevelopment. I have suggested that we consider a speedier review process for ‘green buildings.’ Staff will follow up with you”. Not long afterwards, I was contacted by City Staff and had a meeting to describe to them the type of sustainable improvements that was planned for Thinkspace.

The City of Redmond told me that they have not yet received a building permit that was for a LEED Certified Commercial Interior office building project, so they formed a “Green Team” specifically for this project. It consisted of people from different departments:

Judd Black, Development Review Planning Manager; Jason Lynch, Building Official; Cathy Beam, Principal Planner, AICP; Nathalie Schmidt, Assistant Planner, AICP; Mark Selvin, Building Inspector; Carol Anderson, Building Plans Examiner; and Jozanne Moe, Building Plans Examiner

The turnaround time for the building permits was truly expedited. The tenant improvement project was submitted as three different applications. From application to approval it took seven (7) days one of the floors and 14 days for the other two. I appreciate the fact that the building permit process was so quick and that City of Redmond is committed to sustainable buildings.

USGBCOur story begins with our business needing to build out space to run our company.  Our 25,000SF build-out is large and I wanted to make sure we did something special with the space.  I wanted to make sure that our space was not just another run-of-mill tenant improvement project.  After I started to do more research, I came across the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) website and found statistics which stated “worldwide buildings account for 33% of all carbon emissions”.  That’s when I felt strongly that Thinkspace pursue to be LEED Certified.  I didn’t want to just superficially put some “green” materials in the lobby area and call our company “green”.  Rather, I wanted to make sure that we took this as far as we could and try and obtain the highest level of certification.  I felt this is a great opportunity to make a dent and reduce our carbon footprint.