Cargas Office Building In Lancaster, Pa Achieves LEED Silver

Cargas Systems is a local, family run business in Lancaster that has sustainability woven throughout its culture.  This culture starts from the top down with their innovative founder Chip Cargas.  Chip believes in creating a workplace that is fun, environmentally friendly and is dedicated to customer service.  From the early stages of planning, Chip and his team at Cargas were committed to incorporating sustainability into their office.  Chip was primarily focused on energy savings, daylighting and a minimalist approach with materials.  The envelope was designed to be highly insulated and allow for the maximum amount of daylight through skylights and large windows on the south face of the building.  Also on the south face of the building are solar panel covered sunshades on the exterior and Trombe walls on the interior.  In the winter, these trombe walls act as heat sinks and absorb the winter sun and radiate that heat throughout the interior space, reducing the cost of heating the building.  In the summer months, the solar sunshade absorbs the sun before it enters the building.

 

Cargas Office Building, Lancaster, Pa

Cargas Office Building, Lancaster, Pa

The major design strategy which remained throughout the entire project was sustainability and comfort.  Chip Cargas and his company (National Award Winning Business for Sustainability through the Green Plus Program) were dedicated to this process and implementing green strategies which made sense over the long term.  Another unique aspect of the building which is truly sustainable is that the structure was built to easily add a second story in the future.  The building was completely designed for vertical expansion to limit the impact to the surrounding area which is a fantastic concept.

Early in the design process, a charette was conducted to determine the LEED Credits which were both feasible and necessary to receive the High Performance Building Grant. Through the use of an energy model we were able to determine an approximate payback cost for using a variety of systems. The team compared using water source heat pumps, rooftop VAVs, and geothermal heat pumps. We finalized on using geothermal heat pumps. We submitted for and were approved for the high performance grant, which had us on track for LEED Platinum Certification. During the design-build phase, it became apparent that the cost for achieving the high performance building was more than the grant had to offer. The HVAC system was then revised to a water source heat pump (still highly efficient) with a roof top cooling tower and high efficiency gas boiler. The final outcome was a solid and very energy efficient LEED Silver building (nearing Gold Status) that was built both within budget and on schedule.

Cargas Custom Bike Rack

Cargas Custom Bike Rack

A very important design strategy that was included in the project was the inclusion of a 50 kw Solar Photovoltaic array.  This array provides 20% of the electrical demand for the entire building which coupled with the 40% more efficient HVAC & Lighting system, reduces the overall building energy consumption by over 60%!  This is a remarkable feat for a new building.

The construction process included many different aspects for the subcontractors involved.  Training on LEED, the process, waste management, indoor air quality management and general green building practices.  The end result was a team effort from all parties involved, including the ongoing training and education which is provided by Chip and his staff to various local organizations and schools.

Trombe Walls at Cargas Office

Trombe Walls at Cargas Office

Some Of The Unique Green Aspects Of The Building:

  • 53 kw PV Solar Array which provides close to 20% of their annual energy
  • Water source heat pump system for heating and cooling (Utility bills average $.20-.50/sf)
  • Trombe walls to act as a heat sink inside the main windows of the building
  • Highly Efficient Glazing with sun shades and blinds to control sunlight and heat
  • Lighting control systems to dim entire areas when natural daylight is available
  • Flexible design for vertical expansion in 5-10 years (can add a 2nd story)
  • 100% Low VOC Materials
  • Local materials were a focus
  • Recycled content of materials was high (Over 20%)
  • Custom bike rack and shower facilities (numerous employees bike to work!)
  • Preferential parking for low emitting and high efficiency vehicles

Their new office building is located at the old site of the Lancaster Stockyards (contaminated site).

Check out some of the before photos here : http://www.behance.net/gallery/Lancaster-Stockyards/386610

Cargas is an innovative business focused on custom software and technology for a broad range of industries.

Cargas Celebrates 25 Years!

Cargas Celebrates 25 Years!

Learn more about their company here: http://www.cargas.com

Feel free to share your success stories with me on twitter!

http://www.twitter.com/leed_resource

 

Zero Energy Buildings: Myth Or Must?

As the immediate needs for more environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings become more and more apparent, a logical question begins to come into focus: Where does it end?

Many in the design and construction community believe the answer is Zero Energy Buildings.  Zero Energy is a term used to describe a building that consumes as much energy as it generates in a given year or net zero.  Conversely, carbon emissions, which are directly related to the energy consumed, are zero. This is not to be confused with the notion that the building consumes zero energy all together.  This would be nearly impossible given all of the HVAC, Lighting, and Life Safety System demands that are needed to operate a building, especially a commercial one.  The key is to reduce the amount of energy consumed to the lowest possible amount and then create that amount of energy on-site by renewable means.

Here is a DOE’s database of Zero Energy Buildings in the US Today: http://zeb.buildinggreen.com/

Science House (Minnesota) is a Net Zero Building Used as A Teaching Tool

It all starts with the building envelope and conservation: 

This encompasses the entire surrounding perimeter of the building including the roof, the walls, fenestration (windows/glass), and the foundation below.  The envelope is the first building system which must be optimized to achieve the most efficient building possible.  Several new building envelope concepts have emerged, most notably the use of air/vapor barriers and insulation on the outside of the building in lieu of the traditional installation on the interior of the building.  Driving this concept is the fact that thermal bridging has been found to drastically reduce the functional R-Value of an exterior wall when substrate and exterior finishes are attached directly to the framing of the building with no layer of thermal protection on the outside.  Not only must a building envelope be well insulated but it must also need to be sealed well enough to prevent air leakage.  Air leakage is one of the top reasons for energy loss in existing buildings today.

Click here for a link to a great resource, the passive haus institute on more information to maximize envelope efficiency: http://www.passivehouse.us/passiveHouse/PassiveHouseInfo.html

System Optimization & Proper Sizing: 

The next step to achieving net zero energy consumption in a building is through the optimization of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that operate the building.  Virtually on a monthly basis new mechanical, electrical, lighting and plumbing equipment are released to the market with increased efficiencies.  Designers are finding new ways to integrate these systems and make them efficient as possible.  Also, these systems need to be engineered to be properly sized and configured based on the envelope and the anticipated demands of the occupants.  After occupancy, the use of building management systems, smart controls and variable settings on equipment have all helped to integrate these systems and provide constant feedback on the amount of energy being used at a given time.  The proper sizing and smart usage can combine to reduce the energy consumption by nearly 50% by using highly efficient systems and equipment.

For more information and great articles on optimizing energy efficiency in buildings:  Check out the M-Files Blog http://blog.mcclureco.com/

Note:
Studies and energy models have shown that maximizing both the envelope and the major building systems can reduce the energy consumption of a building by 70% (over the baseline energy usage established by ASHRAE 90.1).   Where does the remaining 30% come from?

On-Site Energy Generation:

The final step of achieving net zero energy consumption is through the generation of on-site energy for use by the building or the purchase of renewable energy through a green power provider.  The plausibility of generating your own energy or using renewable energy sources has increased recently due to a heightened awareness and a drop in costs (avg solar array runs between $3.50 and $5.00 per watt).  Systems that incorporate energy recovered from these various systems are becoming more of a common place for those planning to construct a new building: Solar, Geothermal, Cogeneration, Energy Recovery, Micro turbines, Wind and hydroelectricity.  Utilizing this energy locally first, at the building location, is where the remaining 30% reduction occurs.

Whether Net Zero is Feasible or Not, Raising the bar is a Must:

Buildings and optimizing their performance must be a focus for the design and construction communities because they have the single largest impact on the environment today (and the costs of operating our buildings).  Our collective commitment to creating buildings that perform optimally from a comfort, consumption and generative stance is imperative.  Finding creative ways to reduce energy (as much as fiscally possible) and then operating these buildings in an optimal manner is a must.  I am confident that the technologies and the strategies will continue to evolve and netzero will eventually become commonplace.

The Living Futures Institute (Creators of the Living Building Challenge) has now implemented a Net Zero Certification Program, for more information, go here: http://living-future.org/netzero/

Join us for GREENCon – March 15, 2012 – Messiah College

Early Bird Rate is $40 Until 2/22

Join us for a great conference & expo!

USGBC Central Pennsylvania will be hosting GreenCon – A Green Building Conference & Expo on March 15, 2012 at Messiah College.

The day will feature national and local experts on green building technologies, systems and philosophies.  There will be plenty of opportunities to learn, network and witness sustainability up close and personal as Messiah College gives tours of their numerous green initiatives.  There will be several guest speakers discussing exciting, relevant and innovative topics.  You can earn credential maintenance hours and promote your business through exhibiting or sponsorship.

If you are interested in learning more about this conference, please comment below and I will be happy to send you information regarding registration/exhibiting/sponsoring.

Happy New Year!

LEED Credentials: More Valuable Today Than Ever Before…

The Business Case
Clients that are building and renovating today want to do so responsibly and for the least amount of money.  They are beginning to evaluate their building projects not only as long-term investments but they are also taking a closer look at the sustainability of their choices (life-cycle cost analysis, environmental impact, impact on occupant productivity).  They also have employees, customers and shareholders that are all asking “What can we do to be green?”.  Someone with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credentials can assist in both the evaluation and implementation of green building practices.

The credentials make a clear statement:  I understand and I am committed to building green.

LEED AP:

There are two types of credentials available from The Green Building Certification Institute.  LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and LEED Green Associate (GA). These credentials have been established to be somewhat of a clearing house for those working in either the design or construction of green buildings.  Both require a significant amount of material to study and sitting for a third party exam.

Of course, just having the “LEED AP” behind your name doesn’t make you an expert but it does indicate that you have a certain amount of knowledge and experience in LEED.GBCI/USGBC did catch some flack under the old exam (prior to 2009) because you didn’t need any experience to sit for it.  The market was certainly flooded with new LEED AP’s… and the question was raised “Do these LEED AP’s know what they are talking about or did they just memorize the material?”

They have since modified the criteria and to sit for the LEED AP exam now you must have worked on at least one LEED project.  This does somewhat differentiate the candidates although you cannot guarantee the exact level of experience.  For more information on becoming a LEED AP, check out the various handbooks here: http://www.gbci.org/main-nav/professional-credentials/candidate-handbooks.aspx

LEED Green Associate:
For those without the opportunity to work on a LEED Project, GBCI also created the LEED Green Associate exam.  Although the credential may not carry as much weight in the industry as the AP designation, it certainly denotes a level of understanding and commitment for the candidate.  I highly recommend if you have an interest in green building pursuing this credential.  Not only will it allow you a great foundation for your career, it is a great way for anyone to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge in this competitive job market.  This would also be a great way for college students to add a critical piece to their resume. For the Green Associate handbook, go here: http://www.gbci.org/Files/Candidate-Handbooks/LEED-Green-Associate.pdf

Credential Maintenance:
For both the LEED AP and the LEED Green Associate professionals there is continuing education required.  Every two years each LEED AP and GA will need to record 30 and 15 hours of continuing education respectively.  A certain number of these hours must be LEED focused.  This encourages the professionals to continually strive for improvement and to validate their credentials on an ongoing basis.  Check with your local USGBC Chapter for seminars, courses and green building tours which can help you with this process.  Here is the credential maintenance handbook: http://www.gbci.org/Files/cmp_guide.pdf

The Ultimate Goal: A Better Finished Product
The more LEED AP’s you can have working on a project the more well rounded the project will be.  Everyone on the team will understand the “rules of the game” per-say.  Every team member whether it be the owners representative, the architect, the mechanical engineer, or the construction manager should understand the synergies of the credits and how each system integrates into the functionality and ultimately the sustainability of the building.

Throughout the design & construction of any project, many variables need to be evaluated: Cost, Quality, Environmental Impact and Life Cycle Analysis.  Each member of the team should be able to speak to these traits given their area of expertise and weigh in accordingly on all critical decisions such as systems, products, design aspects, etc.  Ultimately the goal is to complete a building that in the long run uses the least amount of energy, reduces the impact on the environment and is comfortable for the owner and the building occupants.

Campus Square Building Wins National Award

It was truly a pleasure to be involved in the design and construction process of one of the most sustainable buildings in the region. Campus Square is located in Midtown Harrisburg which has undergone a complete revitalization in the last 5 years.  The revitalization has been the vision of GreenWorks Development and their commitment to responsible development has definitely paid off. Campus Square has gone on to win a USGBC Central Pennsylvania Project Of The Year Award, ABC Keystone Chapter Project of The Year Award and most recently an ABC National Pyramid Award. These are all landmark achievements for this project.

Campus Square is a great example of blending high performance technologies, urban revitalization, flexibility and sustainable building products.

Some of the green building aspects of Campus Square include:

  • Geothermal (Ground Source) Heating & Cooling – 46 Geothermal Wells Under The Building – Designed & Installed by McClure Company
  • 42kw PV Solar Array with battery backup for emergency power – Designed by groSolar and installed by GR Sponaugle
  • White TPO Roofing by Carlisle Syntec Roofing installed by Houck Group
  • Energy Star Windows provided by Pella installed by Wohlsen Construction
  • Over 30% of all the materials used in the building is recycled content
  • Over 40% of materials were made within 500 miles
  • Over 98% of the construction debris was recycled

The Green Center of Central Pennsylvania is located in Campus Square as well. The Green Center is open to the public and teaches people about the various aspects of sustainability.

Here is a great video which tells the story about the building and the transformation of Midtown Harrisburg:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hK0Zga3kUwI]

If you have questions or comments, feel free to post them.