When the city of San Diego needed a new building for its Environmental Services Department, city officials decided to practice what they preached.
They became determined to create a building that would not only house 200 workers, but also showcase the latest in environmental technology.
The city started in 1994 with a 73,000-square-foot building off Ridgehaven Court, near Serra Mesa. The city purchased the building at a cost of $3 million.
The building, which had been vacant for about three years, required an extensive two-year renovation to bring it up to code and also upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems.
Of the $2.7 million it took to fix the building, $268,000 was for the installation of “green” technology. But since opening of the building in 1996, the energy savings generated by the green technology has already paid for itself, said Nicole Hall, spokeswoman for the city’s Environmental Services Department.
The city worked with several entities on the enviro-upgrade. San Diego Gas & Electric Co.; The Electric Power Research Institute, of Palo Alto; Public Technology Inc.; and the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council provided consulting services or incentive programs.
The existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit was replaced with a more efficient system. The fiberglass cooling towers use a two-speed, five-horsepower fan motor, which was far more efficient, Hall said.
The lighting system was given a makeover. For rooms facing the outside, windows were covered with a special film that allowed designers to take advantage of the natural sunlight without greatly increasing the heat gain. For the greatest benefit from the sun, the architects designed an open office layout, with glass corridor walls wherever possible, said Chuck Angyal, architect with SDG & E.;
Elsewhere, efficient fluorescent lighting was installed overhead, with supplemental lights at each work station.
To avoid the cost of lighting, heating or cooling an empty room, the team installed occupancy sensors that turn off the power when the room is unoccupied.
The designers installed faucets with electronic eye sensors that control water flow, low-flush toilets and even waterless chemical urinals, Hall said.
The resulting energy savings for the city works out to about $92,000 a year , $89,000 in electricity and $3,000 for water. But that’s not all. Compared against before the renovation, when the building consumed 1,518,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year, it now uses about 61 percent less , 587,000. That means that less fossil fuel needs to be burned to generate the electricity.
Hall estimated the resulting energy savings of 931,000 kilowatt hours reduces emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 353 tons annually. Sulfur dioxide is reduced by about 2,000 pounds, and nitrogen oxides by 1,800 pounds a year, she said.
Water consumption at the building was cut by 45 percent , from 1,078,400 gallons a year down to 593,100. The resulting water savings of 485,300 gallons every year is hardly chump change in water-scarce San Diego, Hall said.
The city’s Ridgehaven building is open for tours. Business leaders come to look at the building for ideas, while school groups also tour the site. Often, the building will even attract people from out of town, Hall said.