Focus On: Environmental Way

Mar 12, 2013 | Energy Saving Buildings

The video screen in the lobby is the first hint to visitors that something is very different about Environmental Way in University Research Park.

Owner David Bowles can monitor the performance of all the building’s systems on a wall-mounted “dashboard” displaying real time information on everything from indoor temperature to outdoor lighting.

The 70,000-square-foot building, vacant for a decade before he bought it in 2009, is a poster child for green rehabilitation and sustainable development. Bowles, a mechanical and electrical contractor, uses his company’s 10,000-square-foot office space at Environmental Way to show potential tenants that going green won’t break the bank.

He paid about $2.1 million for the former IBM building at 1000 Louis Rose and spent about $800,000 to rehab and upfit it during 2009 and 2010. His redevelopment team combined the 26-year-old structure’s existing equipment with new and more efficient chillers and boilers, tapped into wind and solar power and relied heavily on reclaimed and recycled materials. A thermal storage system, for example, makes ice in off-peak hours and stores it to circulate and cool the building during peak hours.

Vintage wood retrieved from his wife Vickie Pennington’s five-generation homestead in eastern North Carolina went into interior finishes along with tree-bark wallpaper, milk- and clay-based paints and concrete-and-recycled-glass countertops. Used furniture and recycled carpet complete the space. Savings are enhanced by an on-grid rooftop photovoltaic system capable of producing excess electrical power that Bowles can sell back to Duke Energy.

The U.S. Green Building Council has recognized Environmental Way by pre-certifying the building’s core and shell as platinum LEED level, its highest and hardest to achieve rating. Bowles’ office space is gold level.

LEED-certified buildings are designed to have lower operational costs, send less waste to landfills, conserve energy and water and reduce harmful greenhouse emissions. Bowles sees plenty of potential green energy converts among his neighbors in University Research Park, and he welcomes them to view his working sustainability laboratory.

Potential energy cost savings for tenants is substantial. Bowles estimates his electric bill dropped about 72 percent as he completed the green makeover. Environmental Way also is the name of Bowles’ development company, which will spread the gospel of green from offices it shares with his Environmental Services of Charlotte heating and air conditioning firm and EMCI, his wife’s electrical and cabling company.

The remaining space in the Environmental Way building leases for $18 to $18.50 a square foot.

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