I (Really Do!) Work in a Green Building

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Shan Bates’ post on how a tenant could benefit from buildings systems integration struck a chord with me. It’s probably because it is what my Facilities team has been working on for the past 3 years.

I work for Earth Rangers, a not-for-profit that is focused on the education and inspiration of the next generation of environmental stewards – like my four year old son. So it makes sense that our headquarters is a high performance building–LEED Gold certified–and that it is operated that way as well.

A typical day for an employee at Earth Rangers looks like this: carpool to the building (we do not have great access to public transit) and park in the parking lot beneath one of the building’s six solar trackers.  If you have an electric car, plug it in.  Then, walk past the bioswale (that filters storm water from the parking lot), swipe in to the building with an access card at the employee entrance, and smile at the camera in the entrance. If the occupant is first to arrive that day, the building’s intrusion detection automatically disarms, with no need to remember a code.  A picture of the employee lights up on the security board, so others know who is in or out when they arrive (good to know if your boss is in yet!).

Ventilation systems providing efficient, high quality fresh air then activate, because the automation system knows the building is occupied, and it then starts tracking CO2 levels to keep air fresh.  The lighting schedule activates as well, and the tenants can turn a light on or off above their desks through an app on their laptop once they have their coffee in hand and sit down at their workstation.

The space is comfortable, because the automation system is keeping the radiant heating and cooling system within ASHRAE comfort levels, while tracking its energy use and responding to time of day pricing.

At the end of the day, the last occupant leaves, and the reverse sequence happens, without relying on generic schedules (who leaves at 5pm?) to make sure that the building is operating only as needed. Lights are off, mechanical systems are automatically in setback, and security systems are active.

This integration has led to a current Energy Star Rating of 95 for the building.  Energy monitoring is showing where waste is still occurring (mostly at a workstation level with plug loads), and allowing the facility team to continue to improve on an already efficient building. If an Energy Star 95 building can continuously improve, imagine an “average” building!

Admittedly, there are hiccups in the scenario, which come down to tenant education and engagement. The tour that I have linked to above helps immensely with this. Staff can look at how the building is performing from an energy, water, or climate impact perspective, and are more likely to help support corporate goals as a result.

The point I am trying to make is that these technologies and strategies make sense now and are not in some building of the future.  Earth Rangers is proving that now, and we hope to inspire others to do the same.

If you would like to see the many integrated design strategies that have been implemented at the Earth Rangers Centre, take a look at our online building tour at www.ercshowcase.com


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  • Kathleen Batcheller

    12 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this, Andy. I hope to visit the center some day. I know you folks have applied for LEED Platinum certification. Any news on that? Also, one of our Green Building customers at Genzyme Center (LEED Platinum NC) describes the air quality as “delicuous.” How is the IAQ at Earth Rangers Centre?

  • We are awaiting the results of the audit for LEED EB. Soon I hope!

    Delicious is a good way to describe the IAQ levels in the ERC. We have 40 animals in the building, ranging from a family of ring-tailed lemurs to two African serval cats – so you can imagine that we would have to pay attention to air quality!

    We do not recirculate any air, and use the earth tubes and heat recovery to make this efficient and affordable in Canadian winters. Our automation system also monitors air quality (C02, RH and temperatures) at breathing height. This ensures that supply fans are only delivering the amount of air that is needed. This keeps IAQ delicious, without my utility bill being disgusting!

    • Kathleen Batcheller

      12 years ago

      Thanks for the info, Andy. I hadn’t even thought about the animals! I’m sure that presents unique challenges but nonetheless it sounds like your strategy is working perfectly. I’m sure other facilites, especially in the Northern regions, can learn a lot from all the good work that’s been done at the Earth Rangers Center.

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