City of San Diego takes the lead in "Green Building"

The new Department of Environmental Services office is a showcase of environ-mentally sound building practices - and will save the city more than $60,000 per year.

Information provided by City of San Diego Environmental Services Dept.
he City of San Diego national "Green Building" demonstration project, which will dramatically reduce energy consumption and pollution while providing a more productive workplace for employees, has been occupied following a major renovation of the three-story, 73,000-square-foot building. Approximately 200 employees, mostly from the Environmental Services Department, are enjoying the benefits of the energy efficient, environmentally sound facility.

When City of San Diego Mayor Susan Golding and Environmental Services Department Director Richard L. Hays pushed for energy efficiency and other environmentally sustainable criteria in the renovation, a cooperative effort began with San Diego Gas & Electric, The Electric Power Research Institute and Public Technology, Inc. to complete the renovation as a "Green Building" demonstration project.

"The vision of Mayor Susan Golding and the Environmental Services Department was to provide staff with an environmentally sound workplace while providing the city as a whole with a model for this day and age," said Department Director Richard L. Hays. "The real struggle was to bring these lofty goals into conformance with an ever-shrinking municipal budget."

The 13-year-old Kearny Mesa building, a 20-minute drive from the downtown city hall, was purchased to replace a leased facility that housed 160 Environmental Services employees. Nothing about the three-story office building on Ridgehaven Court in San Diego looks particularly unusual. The commercial structure typifies developments of the 1980s, when low first costs of materials and systems took precedence over long-term operating and maintenance expenses.

There's nothing in the appearance of the Department of Environmental Services newly renovated Ridgehaven facility to suggest that it is a showcase for environmentally sound building practices. Yet, it ranks in the lowest 10 percent of commercial energy users in San Diego County, and will save the city many times the renovation cost over its lifetime.

High 5 for the bottom 10

The Ridgehaven building is expected to consume between 8.5 and 10 kilowatt-hours per square foot per year, putting it into the lowest 10 percent of commercial energy users in San Diego County. That works out to energy savings of approximately $61,000 to $80,000 per year, an approximately 55 percent reduction compared to the 21 kilowatt-hours per square foot per year that the 13-year old building historically used.

The human and operational benefits make the project a win-win model of efficiency for the city. Improved air quality makes for a healthier workplace while significant savings accrue from lower utility bills.

Expert assistance for the project came from an integrated design team and outside consultants. As the "Green Building" attracts national attention, Gottfried Technology, Inc, the energy efficiency consultant on the project is preparing a case study of the Ridgehaven project to use in promoting green building on a budget to other local governments.

"We're seeing a surge of green development across the country. Projects such as Ridgehaven serve as catalysts for this design direction, and as practical, economical examples of how to make it work," David Gottfried said.

Project goals

After persuading the city to purchase the $3 million building, "we came up with a set of objectives that demonstrate our original vision," says Adam Saling, fiscal administrator for the Environmental Services Department and the city's Ridgehaven project manager.

Ridgehaven energy efficiency measures and environmental enhancements include:

"This project proves that any city could have a green building on a limited budget," emphasizes Alison M. Whitelaw, AlA, principal architect, Platt/Whitelaw Architects, Inc., San Diego.

Called on the carpet

Whitelaw credits Lynn Froeschle, AlA, for her extensive analysis of materials to meet the green guidelines set forth for the project. The carpeting, for example, has significant recycled content, is low on VOC emissions and comes in tile sections that can be replaced easily in minimal quantifies, reducing future rehabilitation costs.

"You can rotate the carpet tiles from high-wear areas to low-wear areas, so that the entire carpet will last a lot longer than one big carpet that can't be moved," Whitelaw explains. The carpeting also reflects creative budgeting: it will be leased from the manufacturer under an innovative "evergreen lease," only the second such arrangement in the United States, so that it's an operational rather than construction cost. The manufacturer will rotate, maintain and replace it over the lease term.


Manufacturers of selected energy efficiency and environmentally enhanced products will be able to take advantage of a partnering program that allows them to donate or give discounts on the products used in exchange for public recognition and other privileges. Gold, Silver and Bronze partnerships, depending upon the magnitude of the contribution, range from $3,000 to $30,000 and up. San Diego Gas and Electric and the Electric Power Research Institute are the first "Gold" partners, having funded a Green Building consultant who reviewed the design and recommended several energy effective measures.

The partnership program will also allow the participating manufacturers an opportunity to showcase their environmentally sound products and services that contributed to the green building renovation. Educational exhibits will be displayed in the building and will be open to the public as will a library that will offer information on the components of a green building model such as Ridgehaven.