In honor of Earth Day, we would like to highlight a project in which the Green Globes rating system was used to measure success for an older building retrofit. Green Globes can be applied to bring resource efficiency and sustainability to most building types in America. The below account is just one example of how the rating system is used to help project teams determine what sustainability options are available to them.
With roughly 80 billion square feet of existing commercial space in the U.S. alone, updating existing buildings is a critical pathway to meeting water and energy policy goals and creating a healthier, safer building stock. Designing major renovations and retrofits for existing commercial buildings to include sustainability initiatives is one of the most impactful opportunities to green the existing built environment. Green Globes provides a roadmap that guides project teams towards sustainability measures that make sense for the environment and occupants as well as the owner’s budget and timeline.
Green Globes in action: As a membership organization for building systems’ professionals that promotes sustainability, it made perfect sense for The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to turn its own building into a living laboratory. Housed in a 1965 structure, ASHRAE completely renovated its Atlanta-based headquarters in 2008. Although the remodel of the two-story, 34,700-square-foot building was a significant undertaking, ASHRAE chose renovation rather than building new in order to keep materials out of the landfill and uphold their industry’s sustainability beliefs.
Green Globes provided an opportunity for continuous existing building improvements, and Michael Vaughn, ASHRAE’S manager of Research and Technical Services, discovered that Green Globes put him in the driver’s seat.
“The online survey tool gave me more control in the process,” explains Vaughn. “Pop-up notes in the sections led me through in a logical fashion, so I was able to structure my back-up information to match the survey. I could see whether we were on target or not, which gave me a higher confidence level.”
Guided by a technical advisory committee, members donated mechanical equipment that allowed ASHRAE’s headquarters to highlight separate systems on each floor for research and monitoring. These energy-efficient systems, as well as a wide range of features, contributed to ASHRAE’s award of 4 Green Globes:
- A dedicated outdoor air supply (DOAS) system provides 100 percent outdoor air to occupants throughout the entire building. Coils cool and dehumidify air to provide excellent indoor air quality. The system includes energy recovery by transferring energy from the exhaust stream to the incoming stream.
- A variable refrigerant flow system heats and cools the first floor. This system senses conditions in various zones and redirects unneeded heat in one area to other building spaces that require it.
- On the second floor, 12 ceiling-mounted, ducted, ground source heat pumps stem from a geothermal field to provide heat and cooling. A closed-loop piping system circulates water between the building and the geothermal wells.
- One-third of the roof contains a 20 kW photovoltaic solar array of 120 panels. The energy fed to the utility grid equates to approximately 8 percent of the building’s annual energy consumption.
- Water is conserved through high-efficiency building plumbing fixtures and non-irrigated native landscaping.
- The site was enhanced by the removal of on-grade parking for a bio-retention pond, reducing heat island effects and lowering site runoff by 31 percent.
- 92 percent of building structure/shell was retained and 2,200 tons of construction waste were recycled.
The revamped building now allows members worldwide to peer inside its workings with 1,300 trended points of data available via Internet to provide needed access for sound research and study of building improvements.
Vaughn liked that fact that Green Globes’ straightforward approach revealed improvements he could readily implement.
For example, the organization previously didn’t track waste recovery. “By going through the Green Globes’ spreadsheet, I realized that was something we could easily do. Now, we work with our vendors to quantify it,” Vaughn says. “We also added an eyewash station to benefit our janitorial service providers, and we documented our emergency procedures to make sure we had things covered—that was very useful,” asserts Vaughn.
Green Globes final report included a suggestion for daylight harvesting with sensors to further enhance the building’s remarkable energy efficiency. Vaughn says ASHRAE has watched lighting technology rapidly improve and is now on the verge of making changes in this area.
For an organization that plans to maintain a high level of building performance over time, Green Globes offers clear guidance. “The process is self-paced and somewhat tutorial so I didn’t have to read a manual before I could dive in, start compiling information and answer the survey,” explains Vaughn. “Working with the assessor also created a more personal connection and provided me direct feedback.”