If you’ve been down to City Hall in the last couple weeks, a bright blue decal might have caught your eye. That blue sticker bears the highly-recognizable EPA Energy Star logo, as Brisbane City Hall was recently recognized as a 2013 Energy Star certified building.
Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for nearly 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year. Commercial buildings that earn EPA’s Energy Star must perform in the top 25% of similar buildings nationwide and must be independently verified by a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect. Energy Star certified buildings use an average of 35% less energy and are responsible for 35% less carbon dioxide emissions than typical buildings.
You may be wondering, “How did City Hall earn an Energy Star, exactly?” Well, in 2008, when the building was remodeled to be more seismically-sound, quite the slew of energy-saving measures were incorporated. Some of these included: occupancy sensors for overhead lighting in offices, a new cooling tower, boiler, and several water source heat pumps (high efficiency components of a new HVAC system), parking lots lights fitted with 35 watt LED bulbs instead of 150 watt High Pressure Sodium bulbs, and a second mechanical room, which contains an energy saving programmable lighting system for the interior of the building that allows lights to be shut off at a scheduled time as well as a sweep feature that turns off lights that were turned on manually after a programmed delay time. These energy-saving measures got us to an Energy Performance Rating of 74, only one point shy of 75, the minimum to be eligible for the Energy Star. That’s when staff consulted San Mateo County Energy Watch, a local government partnership between the City and County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), who in the spring of 2012 sent out a representative to conduct a free energy audit. Not finding any cost effective solutions that could be implemented to allow for further energy savings, he suggested staff try “floating” the building. This entailed programming the HVAC system to start up before business hours and to shut off before the close of day, with oftentimes the effects going unnoticed. So staff gave that a try, floating the building for 1.5 hours each business day in the morning and late afternoon. After the first two month of doing so, there was a 17% drop in the city’s energy bill. After eight months of doing so, an Energy Performance Rating of 76 had been reached, making City Hall eligible to apply for an Energy Star. The rest is history…and staff looks forward to applying for the Energy Star again in 2014!