Like many small businesses, Johnson Braund Design Group focused on their core business of designing hotels and many other types of projects rather than their steadily increasing electrical consumption. Throughout their 30-year history, the firm had made some adjustments such as using two T8 fluorescent tubes in each of their 200 fixtures rather than four tubes. But consumption had grown to the point that their utility provider considered them a "medium commercial" user and raised their rate accordingly. The group knew the primary culprits were the increasing technology required by a growing staff and the facility's aging and failing forced air electric resistance heating and air conditioning system. So, the firm's leaders set a simple, if ambitious, goal. Reduce electrical grid consumption by 50% within one year for their 8,000 square-foot facility.
The leaders also set forth some guidelines. The office area could not become a dark, unpleasant cave and a 'solution' couldn't result in a reduction in employee productivity and well being. In outlining their program, Johnson Braund turned to the ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual and ENERGY STAR Guide for Small Business: Turning Energy into Profits. According to Steve Allwine, marketing coordinator, the firm decided to start with the "low hanging fruit" of energy consumption.
The move to reduce the number of T8 lamps per fixture reduced overhead lighting consumption 20%. Additionally, upstairs employees only use 9-watt CFL bulbs in desktop lamp task lighting and rely heavily on day lighting, particularly on sunny days. The group is also integrating an automated daylight-dimming mechanism to further decrease electric consumption. The switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs in desk lamps reduced task light consumption 85%. Now CFLs in overhead can lights are being replaced with new 12-watt LED recessed down lights.
Occupancy sensors were placed in rest rooms to automatically shut off lights and the fan when the air has been refreshed. Printers were placed on timers so that they would turn off and not use energy overnight. By adjusting workstation BIOS, computers that have been turned off overnight automatically boot up five minutes before employee arrival. Workstations and monitors are put on stand-by after 15 and 10 minutes respectively, greatly reducing electrical consumption.
Increased insulation was another area of focus. A trip to the hardware store for weather stripping eliminated a persistent draft out the back door. Expanding foam sealant patched exterior holes and reduced the "mystery cold drafts" felt throughout the building.
The heating and cooling makeover was where real gains in efficiency were realized. Johnson Braund worked with the Carrier Corporation to design and install a highly efficient heating and cooling system using home-sized compressors. ENERGY STAR qualified equipment was a must, as were programmable thermostats. The removal of the previous rooftop units meant the roof became the perfect, shadow free canvas for a solar array. A 10 kW solar array was designed and build to reduce reliance on the grid. To help with frequent power outages, a battery back-up was installed allowing operation even during a prolonged blackout. The solar array is projected to reduce consumption significantly, and has the additional benefit of shading the roof in summer and reducing air conditioning demand.
Dedicated duct work was set up in the server room to capture waste heat and direct it to cold building exits. In summer, the hot air is dumped directly outside. This eliminated the need for a dedicated AC unit operating year round in the server room and contributes an extra 8,000 BTUs of captured heat every hour during the colder months. Several other heat recovery ventilators were included with the system to recapture as much waste heat as possible.
Johnson Braund has met their goal of a 50% reduction in grid consumption and has now set a new goal of reducing consumption another 50% over the next three years. The new plan calls for more day lighting, common area LED lighting, solar hot water heating, reducing the number of servers and converting many computer workstations to laptops. The firm has analyzed their electrical usage by category, such a lighting, computers and HVAC. The ultimate goal is to generate more power on-site than is consumed from the grid. To meet that objective, the group is studying harnessing micro-hydro power from a stream that runs through their property.
Johnson Braund is saving over 48,000 kWh annually at an estimated cost savings of nearly $3,000. This prevents the emission of 38 tons of carbon dioxide annually which is the environmental equivalent of CO2 emissions from the electricity use of almost five homes.
John Toman — Robison Engineering
Johnson Braund Design Group, Inc.
Steve Allwine, Marketing Coordinator
15200 52nd Ave SE
Seattle, WA 98188
Phone: (206) 766-8300