GET WITH THE Program [Environmental Design + Construction]
(Environmental Design + Construction Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A California utility is helping owners and architects create energy-efficient projects through a collaborative, incentive-laden program.
California architects have found an unlikely partner in their efforts to build energy efficiency into their blueprints. That partner is their local utility. Yes, the power supplier is not only encouraging design teams to create energyefficient designs, but it is also offering generous incentives to use less power. And if you look in San Diego alone at the number of kilowatt hours saved and incentives paid, the effort is definitely a blueprint for success.
Savings By Design (SBD) is a utility-funded initiative that encourages high-performance building design, construction and renovation through incentives for design teams and building owners. Over the last two years San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has awarded nearly $10 million in incentives to more than 100 building projects, which will collectively achieve almost 48 million kilowatt hours (kWh) and 1.4 million therms in energy savings. That's roughly equivalent to powering 6,897 houses for a year.
With more than 70 San Diego architects participating in Savings By Design, the partnership between business, design and utility professionals has been so successful that the energy savings projected by SDG&E in response to visionary goals set by the California Public Utilities Commission has already been exceeded at 122 percent. The success is due in large part to the collaborative dynamic of the program as SDG&E reaches out to architects through professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) with in-depth information on new technologies, policies, products and innovations.
"This kind of collaborative program is important because it has affected a fundamental shift in the way building owners think about energy conservation," says Randy Hanna, AIA, Hanna Gabriel Wells Architects. "The obvious benefit of the incentives has gone deeper to promote a greater awareness of sustainable strategies that can be obtained through efforts like LEED and other certifications. Where the office building market might have balked at the certification process, now they understand a high-performance building costs less to live in and could yield a beneficial return on their investment."
How it Works
Qualifying buildings exceed California's Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards by at least 10 percent, with greater incentives being awarded for those that perform at least 30 percent better. The additional incentives can be earned from LEED certification, enhanced commissioning and end-use monitoring. SBD supports the LEED certification effort by offsetting the associated time, resources and costs. The program's software captures performance data and generates documentation integral to the intensive submission process led by the design team, and the monetary incentive to the building owner offers a financial subsidy.
Savings By Design recognizes two types of construction, which ultimately affect the health, comfort and productivity of the building occupants and reduces building and operating costs for the owner. The "Whole Building Approach" considers integrated energy efficiency solutions that balance electric and gas use. For less complex buildings, the "Systems Approach" uses a simplified energy simulation modeling tool to identify system options, associated savings and qualifying incentives on daylighting; interior lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; service hot water; plus manufacturing, refrigeration and food processing systems.
"Through Savings By Design, SDG&E has brought the architectural community a greater awareness of new energy efficiency strategies and cutting-edge technologies," says Hanna. "The program actively supports innovation by collaborating on energy models, such as natural ventilation studies, to test the performance standards of emerging technologies that could be incorporated into new projects."
As the first commercial net-zero energy building in San Diego County, Hanna Gabriel Wells' own offices were a hallmark Savings by Design project that recently received top honors at California's Energy Efficiency Integration Awards. The firm transformed a LEED-classified brownfield site - an old, cement-laden auto repair garage - using the latest natural daylighting strategies that balance the building's west-facing façade with ample skylighting; natural ventilation through a façade of operable windows where the garage's roll-up doors once were; an array of rooftop PVs; and sustainable landscaping. The building achieved 48.1 percent greater efficiency than Title 24. The renovations earned more than $14,000 in incentives and affected an ongoing energy savings of 29,047 kWh of electricity and 138 therms of natural gas, or approximately $4,500 per year at current energy prices.
"What's remarkable about Savings By Design is that not only does it use a carrot versus a stick to motivate sustainable design as it helps designers navigate California's rigorous compliance codes, but the program is an interactive resource providing technical support designers use to achieve the highest efficiencies," says Kevin deFreitas of KdA Architecture + Planning. "It's an extraordinary partnership model that other states should consider because it incentivizes good stewardship and is complimentary with existing sustainability programs."
In an effort to reconnect with traditional Indian culture of living "lighter" on the land, KdA led a design team that re-imagined the historic St. Bartholomew's Chapel on the Rincon Indian Reservation that was ravaged by a backcountry fire. The project incorporated a complement of locally sourced materials, bioclimatic design, efficient technologies and sustainable strategies. Low-tech, high-mass rammed earth walls, oversized roof overhangs, skylights and protected operable and clerestory windows were combined with high-tech products such as a thin-film solar PV system, a tankless water heater, a computerized lighting control system, and high-performance glazing and insulation. The result is a LEED Gold building that consumes approximately 26 percent less power, and 35 percent less water than comparable structures. The chapel achieves a combined annual savings of 26,007 kWh and 12 therms, saving $3,915 annually at current energy prices, and was front-loaded with $8,797 in Savings By Design incentives.
"Savings By Design's strong education component enables the design community at large to analyze good design and share best practices," says deFreitas. "Working with SDG&E informs an architect's future projects, whether they participate in the program or not, and begets success on all platforms - for designers, for building owners and for the environment."
While green is the golden rule in today's new construction, challenges remain as designers balance budgets with product choices and performance expectations. Energy efficiency programs like Savings By Design are a good model for how collaborative partnerships offer smart and strategic, forward-thinking solutions to offset the cost of high-performance building design, as well as affect ongoing utility cost savings that can significantly impact the bottom line of any business.
The acclaimed Hanna Gabriel Wells office is the first commercial net-zero energy building in San Diego County and is a hallmark Savings by Design project that achieves an annual energy savings of 29,047 kWh and 138 therms, or $4,500. Credit: Kessler Photography
KdA Architects + Planning designed the award-winning St. Bartholomew's Chapel to be 100 percent naturally daylit during operating hours and generate 40 percent of its own power as the building "lives light on the land" in accordance with Native American custom. The chapel utilizes a significant amount of site-harvested building materials; the signature element being the massive rammed earth walls that flank the sanctuary, each nearly 60 feet long, 18 feet tall and 2 feet thick. Symbolically important, these beautifully textured and organic walls are literally molded from 120 tons of sacred reservation soil. Credit: Harrison Photographic
TED REGULY IS THE DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER PROGRAMS & ASSISTANCE FOR SAN DIEGO GAS & ELECTRIC, A REGULATED PUBLIC UTILITY COMMITTED TO CREATING WAYS TO HELP CUSTOMERS SAVE ENERGY AND MONEY EVERY DAY. HE CAN BE REACHED AT 858-654-8653 OR TREGULY@ SEMPRAUTILITIES.COM
(c) 2012 BNP Media
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