SoCalGas - Features & Benefits
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Features & Benefits

Energy Efficiency

  • Computer models indicate that the ERC exceeds California Energy Commission Title 24 standards for new buildings by 45%.
  • Non-CFC, rigid-foam insulation added to the walls provides a total R-value of 11. This reduces heat gain and loss through the building walls by 50%. (The tilt-up concrete walls from the old building have an insulation R-value of 7.)
  • Roof insulation in the remodeled east and west sections provides an R-value of 38, double the R-value of traditional California roofs. Insulation on the new center roof section has an R-value of 30.
  • Careful sealing of doors and seams minimizes energy loss through air infiltration.
  • A highly reflective roof coating reduces heat absorption between 10 and 40%, which dramatically decreases air conditioning requirements.
  • Low "e" glass windows further reduce heating and cooling needs by allowing light, but little heat, to penetrate during warm months or escape during winter.
  • Skylights and translucent window walls allow natural daylight to illuminate interior spaces. These "daylighting" techniques combined with energy-efficient lighting systems reduce electrical lighting requirements by 40%, to slightly less than one watt per square foot.
  • Installation of T-8 compact fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts, dimmer switches, and occupancy and light sensors reduces energy demand. High-efficiency lighting also reduces the internal heat load, requiring less energy for air conditioning.
  • Unlike most conventional buildings, which typically use only one heating and cooling system, both gas and electric systems were installed in the ERC, thereby minimizing energy requirements. The four systems include: indirect/direct evaporative cooling, desiccant units, absorption chillers/heaters, and package units.
  • An automated energy management system monitors all major building systems and adjusts them for optimum efficiency. The digital system controls temperature and air flow throughout the building on a continuous basis, reducing mechanical system needs. Daylighting controls routinely adjust the amount of electrical lighting used to augment natural light that enters through the high-performance windows and skylights. The system also monitors and logs energy use, which is helpful for evaluating and improving designs and equipment.

Resource Conservation - Saving energy reduces resource consumption and pollution.

  • We made use of an existing Southern California Gas Company building. Instead of demolishing the 1957 office complex in Downey, CA, the former structure was dismantled only as needed. Approximately 60% of the old building materials were either left in place, removed for future reinstallation or recycled.
  • Hundreds of tons of construction and demolition materials were recycled and reused, including concrete, roofing materials, asphalt, metal, ceiling tiles, wood flooring, electrical equipment and mechanical systems.
  • About 80% of all ERC construction materials, interior furnishings and displays are either recycled, contain recycled materials, or are made of renewable resources.
  • Recycled building materials incorporated throughout the ERC include recycled steel, glass tiles, plastic bathroom partitions, metal from weapons confiscated by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, discarded materials from studio movie sets, surplus aircraft aluminum, and plastic scraps from natural gas distribution pipe.
  • The use of environmentally sourced building materials helps protect fragile ecosystems. Instead of specifying virgin wood products, the ERC incorporated previously used lumber. The ERC entry lobby is laid with reprocessed wood from an old Banana Republic warehouse.
  • Water-conserving plumbing fixtures and landscaping practices reduce water, energy and sewage treatment requirements. ERC landscaping includes plants native to arid climates which require little water. A drip irrigation system further maximizes water efficiency. Ultra-low flush toilets use half the water of conventional toilets.

Indoor Air Quality

  • Building designers avoided selecting materials that "off-gas" harmful chemicals, where feasible. Low and nontoxic products used include paint, caulking, floor sealers, carpet adhesives and carpet tiles. In addition, wherever practical, natural finishes were used.
  • Sensors monitor carbon dioxide levels and control fresh air intake to optimize indoor air quality and energy efficiency in the main exhibit hall.
  • Periodic inspection and maintenance of the ERC's air conditioning systems help to ensure optimal indoor air quality. Maintenance includes adjusting outside air intake volumes, cleaning cooling coils and drain pans, and changing air filters.

The Context

  • Energy use. Buildings use one-third of the energy and two-thirds of the electricity in the United States, at a cost of more than $110 billion a year.
  • Energy savings. It is typically cheaper to invest in energy-saving strategies than to invest in new power production. Saving one unit of electricity avoids burning three units of energy at the power plant. In addition to costs, saving energy reduces resource consumption and pollution.
  • Appliances and fixtures. High-efficiency appliances and fixtures are available today that use two to four times less energy and water than conventional models.
  • Lighting. Lighting accounts for 20 to 25% of the electricity used in the U.S. annually. Offices in the U.S. spend 30 to 40¢ of every dollar spent on energy for lighting power, making it one of the most expensive and wasteful building features. According to Amory Lovins, Research Director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps can cut lighting costs 60 to 85%. Compact fluorescents also last 4 to 13 times longer and can pay for themselves by reducing maintenance and replacement costs.
  • The environment. A single, compact fluorescent bulb saves enough coal-fired electricity over its lifetime to keep a power plant from emitting three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide, a suspected contributor to global warming, and 15 pounds of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.
  • Computers. Computer systems account for approximately 5% of the electricity used by the commercial sector, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Insulation. Up to 30% of heating and cooling energy is lost from leaking or non-insulated duct work in U.S. homes with forced-air systems. Adding insulation and sealing leaks are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce a building's environmental impact.
  • Roof structures. A Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory study found that if all roof structures in Los Angeles were reflective, power needs in the city would be reduced by as much as $500 million a year. The Florida Solar Energy Center determined that reflective roof coatings can reduce a building's air conditioning requirements by 10 to 40%.
  • Air conditioners. Nearly one-quarter of all ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are emitted by building air conditioners and the processes used to manufacture building materials.

The ERC Approach

The ERC is designed to optimize energy efficiency while maintaining a high-quality, high-performance space. This is achieved through careful integration of lighting, heating, cooling, insulation and energy management control systems. Design techniques and building technologies work together to minimize heating and cooling requirements, maximize the use of natural daylight and maintain healthful indoor air quality.

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