*The following story was written by Megan Patrick and appeared in the Vancouver Business Journal on December 7, 2007.
Schlecht Construction, with offices in Longview and Vancouver, is in the development stages of a state-of-the-art two-story, Class A office building near Sifton that is set to be so environmentally friendly, it was chosen as the prototype for the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Smart Design Office program.
The 26,000-square-foot project, to be called 157th Plaza, will have space for up to 16 tenants and is expected to save more than $8,000 per year in energy costs.
“Everybody is saying we’re green, we’re LEED, but just because you’re green doesn’t mean you’re energy efficient,” said Bryan Halbert, vice president of Schlecht Construction. “This building is energy smart.”
Halbert, along with Schlecht Construction President Larry Schlecht, Larry Bonife of Vancouver-based Cornerstone Masonry and Jim Lovelace, are managing partners on the project.
The $6 million project, designed by architect Mark DiLoreto of Vancouver-based Planning Solutions Inc., will meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
The Energy Smart Design Office program emphasizes the need to consider a project’s efficiencies at the start of the building design process because most of the cost savings of using energy conservation measures can’t be captured as cost effectively as retrofit measures, said Katie Pruder, BPA spokeswoman.
Bonneville Power Administration offers a 50-cent per square foot incentive for buildings that qualify for the region-wide program.
To qualify, buildings must be served by a participating utility – in this case, Clark Public Utility will serve 157th Plaza – and be a new building, an addition to an existing building or a major office renovation.
It must be three stories or less, less than 100,000 square feet and have 30 percent or less window-to-wall area ratio. The project also must include an efficient cooling system, effective window U-value, solar heat gain coefficient windows, an integrated design of an HVAC system and efficient lighting.
The incentive helps to cut down on the up-front costs, but to remain competitive in an aggressive leasing market, the lease rate has to be competitive to attract tenants, Halbert said.
Typically, triple net costs are 44 cents to 55 cents per square foot on top of a building’s base rent. Halbert expects 157th Plaza to be able to operate on less than 40 cents per square foot triple net.
The full-service price will be $24 per square foot – less than some LEED-certified projects are charging now, Halbert said.
“We’ll be able to charge less for triple net up front, and as energy costs rise, our costs will go up more slowly,” he said. “There is about 15 percent vacancy in Class A office right now, so I have to be competitive.”
157th Plaza was chosen as the prototype nearly by happenstance, Halbert said.
Schlecht was already discussing the energy-saving features when the BPA’s program came along, and the project’s engineer, Matt Todd of Longview-based Entek Corp. was in touch with the BPA.
The design is nearly 90 percent complete and moving into the permitting stages.
As of now, the location may seem remote, but there are several developments planned near the site, 15710 N.E. 65th Ave.
“It may be the first leasable space in that area,” Halbert said.
Schlecht is looking to lease the building to medical tenants.
“There is a higher consciousness about their environment, and that area is somewhat underserved,” Halbert said. “Kaiser just built a new facility down the street. Now it’s a little out of the way, but it’s going to be a hot, hot area.”
Schlecht Construction is expected to break ground on the project in March and be completed within a year.
SETTING THE PROJECT APART
Coated exterior windows with sun shades will bounce light in, but keep heat out. The windows have a U-value of .29, which reduces the thermal value by 75 percent.
Because less energy is needed to operate the building, designers were able to reduce the building’s mechanical unit for 60-tons to 50-tons.
Rather than using a traditional hot tar roofing method that can double the temperature radiating off of the roof, 157th Plaza will have peel-and-stick TPO roofing.
The TPO is durable white PVC plastic that is welded to the roof using heat. On a 90-degree day, its reflected heat is 92 degrees, reducing the “heat island effect,” said Bryan Halbert, vice president of Schlecht Construction.
It also allows the use of smaller conduits and wires so the mechanical unit doesn’t have to work as hard, reducing energy consumption.
Pervious concrete allows water drainage and cleans microbes from runoff before it’s absorbed into groundwater will be used for parking lots.
Architectural block reradiates heat so there are no temperature swings in the building – usually associated with woodframe buildings. It also acts as a better sound barrier, Halbert said.
Digital Addressable Lighting Interface controls draw on natural light coming in and supplementing with electrical light only when it’s needed.
Each electrical ballast is addressable and programmable, making it possible to communicate directly to the components in the fittings. The controls can monitor ambient light and “tell” the ballast how much light it needs to output, saving energy.
The system can easily be reconfigured as tenants change and fixtures never have to be rewired – it’s all done by computer.
Halbert estimates a $3,000 lighting bill could be reduced to $600 using the controls, known as “light harvesting.”
A fully integrated, web-controlled HVAC system will be monitored remotely for troubleshooting.
“Because IT techs can troubleshoot remotely, they don’t have to drive out and reset the system, which saves money and vehicle emissions,” Halbert said.
He estimates the cost savings could be $3,000 per year on top of the energy cost savings.
FITTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Architect Mark DiLoreto of Vancouver-based Planning Solutions Inc. is a problem solver for a living.
In the case of 157th Plaza, he had to take a handful of sustainable building practices and design a comfortable, attractive building that is financially viable for the owners.
The most difficult piece is usually the financial one, he said.
“You always have to show developers what their return on investment is going to be,” DiLoreto said. “If it’s not affordable, it’s not going to work.”
Products like concrete, steel and masonry are long-lasting and low-maintenance.
“That makes it really easy for us because we can show the economic value without pushing the tree-hugging side,” he said. “They love to see the benefit to their bottom line.”
From the beginning, design is a balancing act.
Planning Solutions’ philosophy is to use as much natural light as possible. The downside is heat transfer.
But at 157th Plaza, the windows are coated and have a U-value of .29 and will have metal sunshades that bounce light in but keep heat out.
Luckily, the design work was a team effort between the owners, Schlecht Construction and the designers.
The design team wanted plenty of large windows. Bryan Halbert, vice president of Schlecht Construction, discovered the Digital Addressable Lighting Interface system and the owners wanted to use masonry.
Because the DALI system draws on natural light entering the building and only supplements with electrical light when needed, DiLoreto was able to add more windows to the design.
DiLoreto said the clients who generally come to PSI are not looking for projects their going to turn around and sell in two years, so the quality is expected to be high and buildings are made to last for 50 to 100 years.
“Architecture is problem solving,” DiLoreto said. “You take all of these design principles and use your creative skills to make them fit.”
Megan Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org