The owners of the Environmental Way office building in University Research Park received two pieces of very good news recently. First, next-door neighbor TIAA-CREF signed a 10-year-lease of the full first floor. Second, the NC Chapter of the US Green Building Council just honored their ambitious efforts to turn an aging and long-vacant office building into a showcase of energy efficiency.
“We are thrilled,” said Vickie Pennington-Bowles, who along with her husband, David Bowles, created Environmental Way four years ago out of the 70,000-sf 1980s building at 1000 Louis Rose Place. “We hoped they would see it as an example of taking an almost 30-year-old building and make it energy efficient.”
The USGBC’s NC Chapter gives annual Sustainable Building Awards to honor architects, builders, owners and trades who created the state’s many LEED-certified buildings. Environmental Way received the Smooth Operator Award, which recognizes “excellence in operations and maintenance by honoring individuals or organizations that exemplify leadership in and commitment to operating buildings with environmental sensitivity, resource efficiency, and longevity.” Other finalists for the 2014 award included Childress Klein, which manages 7.8 million SF of offices across the state and employees 27 LEED-accredited professionals and “green” associates.
The making of Environmental Way
The couple bought the long-vacant office building partly to house their growing businesses, Environmental Services of Charlotte and EMCI Ltd., Electrical and Cabling Services. They also saw the chance to showcase their companies’ skills at helping clients lower costs through energy efficiency, while providing leasable office space for companies wanting those benefits.
“One of the main reasons we went to all of this trouble to make the building energy-efficient is that our companies, commercial services heating and air and electrical, are the two most expensive parts of making a building energy efficient,” David Bowles explained. “We wanted to show our customers that we could help them with doing that as well, with a very practical common-sense approach to heating and air and electrical.” After extensive renovations (see the details below), Environmental Way earned LEED Gold certification for its core and shell; its office up-fit was pre-certified LEED Gold.
Last year, the rapidly growing online marketing and sales company Red Ventures leased the second floor of Environmental Way. TIAA-CREF leased the remainder of Environmental Way, including 10,000 square feet occupied by the couple’s businesses. Both businesses have relocated temporarily to the City North Business Center at 1801 N. Tryon St. Pennington said that Environmental Way’s energy efficiency helped attract TIAA-CREF to Environmental Way.
Tops among Energy Star Certified buildings, too
The EPA also has a ranking for energy efficient buildings. Eight office buildings in the URP have earned Energy Star Certification, meaning they generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than at least 75 percent of all office buildings nationwide. Environmental Way’s extensive array of technologies helped it score a stellar Energy Star rating of 95 – meaning that it is more energy efficient than 95 percent of office buildings nationwide.
Other URP buildings with Energy Star Certification include two TIAA-CREF buildings; the Wells Fargo CIC; Mallard Pointe; and Three-, Four and Five-Resource Square.
The heart of an award-building retrofitted building
CBS News in 2013 ranked Environmental Way among five of “the greenest, most environmentally friendly buildings in Charlotte.” Here are the key energy and resource-saving features of Environmental Way (from Environmentalway.com)
- Our Carrier i-Vu Energy Management System provides total building control and management. This is the brain of our building, telling the other working parts what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The system provides graphic displays of real-time information, multiple views of building information, customized reports, and alarms that can communicate through a desktop computer, pager, or e-mail.
- Our Photo Voltaic (PV) System consists of a 9 Kilowatt rooftop system utilizing 40 – 230 watt Sunpower modules and 2 Sunpower 5000m DC to AC Inverters. Additionally we have added a Vertical Axis Wind Generator. This unit will be an “off-grid” type system where the power is stored in a bank of batteries. The batteries will then provide power for exit lighting and small appliances.
- The exterior lighting utilizes Induction Lighting. Parking area lights consist of 150W fixtures, which replaced 400W metal halide fixtures, and the wall packs on the exterior of the building consist of 100W fixtures, which replaced 250W metal halide fixtures. Aside from the method of coupling energy into the mercury vapor, these lamps are very similar to conventional fluorescent lamps. Since an induction lamp has no electrodes, it can have a very long service life. For induction lamp systems with separate ballast, the service life can be as long as 100,000 hours, which is 11.4 years continuous operation, or 22.8 years used at night or day only. Typically operations and maintenance costs are significantly lower with induction lighting systems due to their industry average 100,000-hour life cycle and extended warranty. By replacing the existing fixtures, we have cut the energy consumption by 1/3 and maintenance costs are reduced to 1/5 because of the extended service life.
- Ice thermal storage system – This is also referred to as “Load-Shifting” where ice is made during off-peak hours in the thermal storage tank to store cold energy for use during peak hours. This translates into cheaper costs and higher efficiency.
- Carrier Air-cooled Scroll Chiller (120-ton unit) – The basic components of a vapor-compression liquid chilling system include a compressor, a liquid cooler (evaporator), a condenser, a liquid refrigerant expansion or flow control device and a control center. The unit utilizes Puron® Refrigerant (R-410A), which is an environmentally friendly alternative to the R-22 Freon used in a majority of systems today.
- Air Quality is of utmost importance at Environmental Way. We’re utilizing Merv 13 rated air filters. The existing equipment has been cleaned and sanitized. Ventilation and humidity control is optimized for high quality indoor air quality.
- Our Condensing Boiler consists of two PulsePak Hydronic Boilers. These boilers are high efficiency (up to 99%). These consume only 1A of electrical power when operating!
- Our Solar Thermal System consists of two Thermal Flat Plate Collectors and 120 Gallon Solar Storage Tank. This system should be capable of providing adequate hot water for the entire building.
- Our Kohler Wave Technology consists of low flow fixtures that allow for water savings of up to 25% or more per year as compared to standard fixtures.