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ASHRAE Journal Podcast Season 1 Episode 6

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Behind the Design of ASHRAE's New Global HQ

ASHRAE’s new global headquarters proves it is possible to transform a 1970s-era building into a net zero energy, low carbon operating office—on a budget.

On this episode of ASHRAE Journal Podcast, the architect, mechanical engineer of record and project manager of ASHRAE’s new HQ discuss what went into deciding which systems to use and how the building would operate. ASHRAE Treasurer Ginger Scoggins, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, former chair of ASHRAE’s Building Ad Hoc Committee, Gregory Walker of Houser Walker Architecture and Stanton Stafford of Integral Group also share lessons learned from this high-profile project.

Guests from left, Gregory Walker, Ginger Scoggins and Stanton Stafford

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  • Show Notes

    The architect, mechanical engineer of record and project manager of ASHRAE’s new global HQ discuss what went into deciding which HVAC systems to use and how the building operates. ASHRAE Treasurer Ginger Scoggins, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, former chair of ASHRAE’s Building Ad Hoc Committee, Gregory Walker of Houser Walker Architecture and Stanton Stafford, P.E., of Integral Group also share lessons learned (1:55 and 16:15) from this high-profile project.

    The trio discuss some of the challenges they came across, such as the task of creating a market-rate net zero energy project (2:13), building envelope issues (3:00 and 20:00) and adhering to a fast-paced construction schedule (3:19).

    Then, Ginger, Greg and Stanton talk about how the design team chose between two options for the building’s HVAC systems (6:13) and how ASHRAE took a more innovative approach by choosing a technology not widely used in the Atlanta area (10:37).

    More resources:

  • Guest Bios

    Ginger Scoggins, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, is a licensed mechanical consulting engineer with 32 years of experience. She is the president and co-owner of Engineered Designs, Inc. in Raleigh, N.C. In addition to running her firm, Ginger has been heavily involved in ASHRAE since 1988 when she joined the Triangle Chapter in Raleigh, becoming the first female president of the chapter, the first female regional vice-chair and the first female director for the region. She is currently serving as ASHRAE society treasurer. Ginger is the recent past-chair of the ASHRAE Building Ad Hoc Committee.

    Stanton Stafford, P.E., is the founder and managing principal of Integral Group in Atlanta, Ga. Since launching Integral Atlanta in 2015, Stanton’s team has designed building systems for more than 2.0 MSF of LEED Platinum Certified, Zero Net Energy and/or Living Building Challenge space in the Southeastern United States. Nationally, Stanton is helping promote healthy, resilient, low-energy, low-water use buildings as the immediate past chair of ASHRAE Technical Committee 2.8, Building Environmental Impacts and Sustainability, and a founding member of ASHRAE Standard 228P, Standard Method of Evaluating Zero Net Energy Building Performance. Locally, he serves as a past chair and advisory board member of the Lifecycle Building Center of Greater Atlanta, an entrepreneurial non-profit focused on building material salvage and reuse.

    Gregory Walker, AIA, LEED AP, is a founding partner of Houser Walker Architecture and has practiced architecture and interior design for the past 28 years. At Houser Walker Architecture, he leads the firm’s efforts in workplace design, campus recreation, libraries and cultural centers. Leading the design for a wide range of complex project types, Gregory excels at translating the complexities of the design process into simple, understandable solutions. These skills have been developed and honed through leading design studios at the University of Arkansas, Georgia Institute of Technology and as the Paul Rudolph Fellow in Residence at Auburn University. He is an active mentor within the architectural community and has served on a number of advisory boards in Atlanta, was the AIA Georgia President in 2015 and has served on national AIA committees.

  • Transcription

    ASHRAE Journal:

    ASHRAE Journal presents...

    Greg Walker:

    There is nothing like doing a project where he put the smartest engineers in the world in a room and say, "Okay, now you're the quality control."

    ASHRAE Journal:

    Episode six. Ginger Scoggins, Stanton Stafford, and Gregory Walker go behind the design of ASHRAE's new global headquarters. They share what they learned while renovating a 1970s era building into a Net Zero Energy showcase.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I am Ginger Scoggins. I am the current ASHRAE treasurer. For this particular project, I was chair of the building ad hoc through the sale of the old building, the design phase, right in the construction phase, through the commissioning phase of the project.

    Greg Walker:

    I'm Greg Walker, I'm the punching bag... I mean, the architect on this process. I'm with Houser Walker Architecture, and we're based here in Atlanta.

    Stanton Stafford:

    I'm Stanton Stafford with Integral Group in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm the managing principal in Atlanta. I beg to differ on Greg's punching bag comment because as the mechanical engineer of record for a project that will house the center of the mechanical engineering universe, so to speak, I think I fielded my share of punches on this one, but came out, you know, with my chin up.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Greg Walker, architect extraordinaire, tell us what was your biggest takeaway learning lesson from this project? You can do one for the design phase if you want, and one for construction.

    Greg Walker:

    I think from the design side, one of the biggest takeaways was confirming that there is a right steps in the right order process to doing a market rate level Net Zero Energy project. What I mean by that is there's a definite ordering hierarchically of the decisions you need to make, and Stanton and I have talked about this a little bit over time, but the envelope needing to be set first because you just have to know what those parameters really are to know how to right size any of the systems behind it. If you're not getting daylight in in the ways that you need, it's going to require more artificial lighting, which is going to cost more money, and everything else. If you're not thermally efficient enough, or you don't have the air infiltration tuned as well as you can, you'll spend a lot more on the mechanicals system because you're going to need a bigger system.

    I think it's not really looking at the envelope, as a lot of architects do, as purely an aesthetic set of decisions. It's understanding how quickly you can get to the performance metrics that everybody agrees you've got to hit to make it correct. From the construction side this was a very quick project, and a very fast paced project. I think one of the things that we learned going in there is with as much as we were trying to put into the ceiling area, mechanical systems, the lighting, the radiant system, and the sprinklers, the BIM was inval—You know, us using a BIM, or Building Information Modeling platform was not only essential, but probably could have been even utilized a little bit more as a coordination tool on the contracting side. I think we've started to experiment with that on other projects since ASHRAE’s, having them do almost like a second BIM model, just to confirm the coordination. There was so much more on in the ceilings with ASHRAE, so there was definitely moments where you're like, okay, that can't go there. You've got to move this over and reset that. That's probably the biggest thing was maybe when you're aiming for that level of coordination, make sure that everybody on the design and construction side really understands what they're seeing.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    You were given a very challenging budget to start this project. We all were, which ended up not being the budget that we ended up with, but it was the budget we started with.

    Greg Walker:

    Yeah.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    You did a good job of walking us through the challenges with our budget. Talk a little bit about that, in terms of how you helped make those decisions.

    Greg Walker:

    Yeah. I think with any budget, you start with... What we're trying to decide early on is what's important to ASHRAE, what is the most meaningful decisions that need to be incorporated into the design, because then you can start to offer options, and you can start to offer other things that can be done. But at the end of the day, if you're not meeting the fundamental needs and telling them where they might need to reallocate some of the money back towards more fundamental things, you can get lost and end up really over budget.

    For us, I think because we didn't have really too many opportunities to do anything twice, we tried to think of it as with a budget, like, okay, we've got to be here, kind of within this range at the end of schematics. Then we got to be a little closer at the end of design development. We got to be this close, even when we're going under contract. It's a hard thing, I think, for owners to hear, we're still never going to be 100% aligned because we're just moving too quick.

    I think for us, that strategy was to just try to narrow down the variables so that if we got into something in CDs where something didn't quite work, or if we got into something under construction that didn't quite work, that we were talking a pretty narrow range to fix it.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Greg Walker:

    That's probably the way that we approached it.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Okay. Moving over to Stanton. Stanton, early in the process, probably, I think, between SDs and DDs, you guys narrowed down the systems pretty quickly to two options.

    Stanton Stafford:

    We did.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    The question to you, I guess, is how did you come up with those options, and why did you come up with those options? If you can remember back that far?

    Stanton Stafford:

    No, I can remember. I remember it was-

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah.

    Stanton Stafford:

    There was a lot of back and forth with the technical ad hoc and Ginger, your team in those early charettes, you could tell everybody in those charettes really was chomping at the bit to talk mechanical system, it being ASHRAE. I think we worked the process, like as Greg described, really in a logical order, focusing on passive strategies first. I remember when I got to that section John Andary, my colleague and I, we got to that section, and we had a lot of different systems on the table.

    One of the things that we knew, having done Zero Energy projects before, if you get the passive side right, if you get the envelope right, then there are a lot of different ways to skin the cat relative to the dynamic systems, the HVAC systems.

    Depending on what you could do with the passive, it frees you up to do a lot of different things with active. We had a lot of different systems and from the get go conversations with the technical ad hoc, there were certain systems that were less desirable, other systems that ASHRAE and the design team really wanted to explore further.

    We got to a short list, and really, the two systems that we decided on to compete side by side in early DD pricing and design were really two ends of the spectrum. There was the more off the shelf conventional approach to building conditioning, and then there was a little more cutting edge, especially for a hot, humid climate system that may show more leadership in proof of concept that you can do this in a market where it's not done.

    On the off the shelf, it was thermodynamically zoned rooftop units paired with the dedicated outdoor air system, and high volume, low speed fans, zoning those units to handle the sensible load by facade, by program space type, and letting the dedicated outdoor air system handle the ventilation air trim the latent and really set the relative humidity level in the building with the fans. I think we ended up with over a hundred fans in the building, but the fans, as that means of improving air velocity towards ASHRAE 55 thermal comfort model.

    And then on the other end was a system that we ended up with, was a radiant heating and cooling system using radiant panels as being an existing building. It's not in-slab radiant, but radiant overhead panels paired with that same dedicated outdoor air system and the high volume, low speed fans. Again, that carried in both concepts, as did the DOAS unit. That radiant system was fed by a heat pump chiller, a modular air-cooled heat pump chiller because we had a conscious focus on water consumption, and minimizing water consumption, and reducing complexity of the system that was on the table. We went with an air-cooled solution. Those really represented two ways of almost accomplishing the same energy performance, really, because we had done the right thing, and made the right moves relative to the building envelope and the passive strategies.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Well, kudos to getting a group of HVAC design engineers to agree on one concept, because that in itself is a challenge. We had some strong leaders in our group that really have some strong opinions on what kind of systems to use.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Lots of good opinions.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Lots of good dialogue. It was a very productive, worthwhile experience from my point of view. I hope ASHRAE feels the same.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yep.

    Greg Walker:

    I do want to follow on though, because I think there was something in that decision making process that not being the engineer was really interesting, that I think is central to ASHRAE's story, which is that Stanton mentioned a lot of, at least from my perspective, a lot of the decision making to go the route with the radiant and the DOAS units wasn't necessarily cost driven.

    We all knew that was going to be the more expensive route than the off the shelf. It was that idea, though, that we want to help push in this specific market, in a kind of temperate, humid climate, we want to push what we think is the right long term solution. Both from an energy consumption, comfort and whatever, this kind of technology.

    I know you or Jeff used to always come back to when you did the first building that ASHRAE previously occupied, there was a similar decision about the VRF units, and that they were going to be more expensive. They were not well known in the market, but ASHRAE could help push that conversation. I'm kind of curious from your perspective, how that part of the mission fed y'all's decision making from the committee side.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah. That's a good question. I distinctly remember when the two options came up. We called a time out and took our ad hoc into another room to have a discussion about this, because we knew it was going to cost more money to go with the radiant system, but we felt like, well there were several reasons, but we felt like rooftop heat pumps is tried and true, and there's nothing wrong with it, and it's definitely replicable.

    That was our debate amongst ourselves. One of our premises when we started this was a cost effective replicable system that would meet the energy requirements that we had set out. In terms of that, the rooftop option was definitely the more cost effective, and the more replicable system, as opposed to the radiant. On the other hand, the radiant system with everything that was proposed with it, really did, in terms of the Atlanta area, the Southeast, push the envelope in terms of technology, in terms of abilities, all of that.

    We really had a long discussion amongst our ad hoc and actually took a vote, which if you're involved in ASHRAE, you know everything's decided by a vote, right? So we took a vote, and it was pretty much unanimous that the team wanted to put technology and pushing the envelope ahead of replicability and cost effectiveness. We felt like as ASHRAE, we really needed to do that for our constituents because I don't know that we could have all shown our faces if we'd all shown up with just rooftop package units on an ASHRAE building, just because of that.

    I do remember we went back into the room and had that discussion with you guys. That was the argument between the two. Now, it's good to know, and I always say this when I do the presentation on it, that there is a cost effective replicable option if you don't want to go to the expense of the radiant system that we did. It does show that it is almost as energy efficient as the radiant system that we did. That is out there for other folks that may not have the opportunity to have equipment donated like ASHRAE had on this particular project.

    Greg Walker:

    In that vein, one of the interesting things we did as the architects after the project was done, and if we wanted to communicate that same kind of message about replicability and cost is to avoid sidestepping the whole how much was the donated material worth? What was our real cost of construction? We asked our estimators, like, "Okay, if we had just gone with rooftop package units, and just paid for it all, gotten zero donations, where would we have been?"

    I think we might have actually been a touch cheaper than we were with some of the donated material, but what it demonstrated, exactly to your point was, yes, you don't have to have fancy donations. You don't have to have all this other kind of stuff that we were able to fall back on this project. You could still do this, even with different materials. It's a little, in the conceptual sense, challenging, because you want to push that technology, you hope that other institutions in the Southeast that do have the means would take that on as a challenge and-

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Greg Walker:

    And try to make it there. For all your listeners, the biggest cost differential was the labor. There was a bigger differential in the labor cost when we were looking at the two systems, because it's not that it was a crazy, complicated technology for the mechanical engineers. It just wasn't familiar to them. They had to think almost more like plumbing engineers than—

    Ginger Scoggins:

    You mean the contractors. Yeah.

    Greg Walker:

    The contractors, right.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah.

    Greg Walker:

    They had to think almost more like plumbing contractors than they did mechanical contractors. That was a little bit for them to get over, but the next one that they do, and the next one after that, and the next one after that, I think would bring a more familiarity, more comfort, like, okay, this really isn't that complicated.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Just like VRF in the Southeast over the last 10 years.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Greg Walker:

    Right.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Exactly. Yeah. The other thing we talked about, in terms of separating the systems, was roof space. That became really, really, really important when we started talking about photovoltaics.

    Greg Walker:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    If we had put all those units on the roof, we would really have limited—

    Greg Walker:

    It was a challenge. Yeah.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Our space for our photovoltaics.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Very true.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    We're seeing that now a little bit, we've got a couple of arrays that are shaded by our DOAS units, and they're just, they're not performing as well as the rest of the arrays, just because of that shade. I had a second question for Stanton was, what was your biggest lesson learned on this project?

    Stanton Stafford:

    I really enjoyed seeing the back and forth relative to cost and trade-offs on this project, and really seeing, almost in real time, what we preach in transfer of cost out of mechanical systems into passive systems, and really trying to find ways to push money the passive way to minimize the size of the active systems.

    Because of the budget limitations and whatnot, actually getting that costing feedback, going back to the drawing board, and really working between, whether it be the envelope, the day lighting skylight strategy, looking at different ways of glazing the building and whatnot, looking at the constructability costs of different options, and working that back and forth.

    Then, also looking at the HVAC side of the equations, how that fit in, in an attempt to work within ASHRAE's budgets. All the while, knowing that there was a cost escalation situation going with materials and labor across the market, across all markets in the US.

    My big takeaway was truly the importance of investing upfront in the time and thought to get your envelope, get your programming strategy correct, because all that together can help reduce your energy utilization index before really getting into the HVAC, or electrical, or even hot water heating side of the equation.

    I wanted to ask Ginger, knowing that you work on the consulting side, that's your day job.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Stanton Stafford:

    I've never really worked on the owner's side, so I would like to hear from a consultant, what it was like, the experience working as the owner, managing the owner team, versus working as a consultant. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah, that's a good question. As being a consulting engineer it for 30 years, I recognize what it's like to be the whipping boy on a project, if you will. It was kind of nice not to be the person being whipped, but maybe the person doing the whipping for once. It was enjoyable. I really liked being on the owner's side, and watching budget, and watching the project develop, hitting the milestones of the schedule, which was a really tight schedule, as we all know, just driving the whole thing forward, for me, was a lot of fun.

    I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about contingencies, and I learned a lot about working with a construction manager, as well as an owner rep, because we did have an independent owner rep that helped us out a lot. I do have a day job, so I was trying to not make this a full time project for me, but it has been a really enjoyable project from my standpoint, in terms representing ASHRAE on the volunteer side.

    Stanton Stafford:

    I've got a following question for you.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Okay.

    Stanton Stafford:

    What are three elements you think that the owner's team nailed for this project, and then, what are three—

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Okay.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Decisions, owner driven decisions that maybe you'd modify the next go around?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I'll start with the ones that I think we would modify on the next ones. The first one would be budget. We spent a lot of time coming up with initial budget that did not take into account all of the envelope improvements that had to be made. We have a bunch of mechanical engineers sitting around the table coming up with costs for mechanical systems.

    We knew we were going to have to replace the windows, but we really didn't anticipate that we were going to have to replace pretty much the shell of the building. That was a cost bust, in terms of our estimating abilities at the start of the project, which Greg quickly told us was incorrect.

    That's probably something that we would do better. Other things we would modify, so we were told pretty early on that we should just go ahead and plan on having two moves and moving someone into a rental space while we found a building, or built a building, and tried not to do it with the schedule that we had.

    I think that one actually turned out okay. I know it was tough. I know it was tight on everybody to get it done, but we didn't know we were going to have a pandemic in the middle of it either. Had we known that, we would've probably taken that advice and slowed the whole process down. Because we didn't know that we just moved forward. The pandemic, in some ways, has helped us because we've had a year here where we haven't occupied the building.

    We have been able to work through some of the issues this past year that, had it been a fully occupied building, trying to work through these issues with an occupied building would've been a problem. That was a double edged sword, so we saved a lot of money by not having two moves, because we looked at that budget also, as well. Luckily, we've had this year to work through some of our issues.

    Things we would not have changed. I think that I would not have changed anybody on the ad hoc. I think everybody did a great job on the ad hoc. We had a lot of different personalities that we had to wrestle together, so I think the ad hoc really kept each other in checks and balances. The technical subcommittee also, as well.

    I think that the photovoltaic system, and hiring that like we did, and paid for it like we did was a good decision. We were talking in the beginning about leasing that photovoltaic system, and having a payback for a long period of time. We were very fortunate that we had a very supportive board of directors who saw that, first of all, we're only going to do this once. We're probably not going to do this again for another 30 years, so let's spend the money to do it right. They supported the changes, the cost changes, and also the photovoltaic installation, so that really was helpful.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    Thanks for listening to the ASHRAE journal podcast. We want your ideas. What topics do you want to hear about, and who do you want to hear it from? Email us your ideas at podcast@ASHRAE.org. That is podcast@ashrae.org. Let's get back to the episode.

    Stanton Stafford:

    I think your OPR, I think you should talk about that OPR process because I feel like that was something that, it's never going to be perfect, but it was a great starting point for the design team—

    Greg Walker:

    Yeah.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Stanton Stafford:

    And it was well thought out, and you'd done a lot of upfront work, as you would figure ASHRAE would. Talk about that a little bit.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Sure. That was the brainchild of our technical advisory subcommittee. Luckily they got that done, I think before you guys even interviewed, is that right?

    Greg Walker:

    Yes.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    The fact that you still interviewed with that OPR out there, I think is pretty impressive in and of itself, because it's a pretty strong OPR. It had some pretty strong boundaries, in terms of what we were trying to accomplish. Having that there before the design teams interviewed kind of told everybody what they were getting into.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Definitely.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    So it was no surprise, right?

    Stanton Stafford:

    No.

    Greg Walker:

    But I think you want that constraint, right?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Yeah.

    Greg Walker:

    I mean, I think for as fast as this was moving, if we had had to peel two months off up front to try to go through that process—

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right.

    Greg Walker:

    There's no way. There's no way we would've made it.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I agree with that.

    Greg Walker:

    We were up to the last day anyway, almost, it felt like. I mean, there just would've been no time. From our perspective, I think it was incredibly helpful to know exactly what the direction was, and to know where the angle was, so you could start to make decisions very quickly around what does that need to be.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Right. I think it was a good, strong OPR with a lot of good, strong boundaries, like I said. We had a lot of good design teams that came forward for this project, which was great, and a lot of good experience. You guys came through in the final selection there, and you did a good job hitting the OPR, and understanding what our parameters were.

    Greg Walker:

    Well, it was nice, because you could always refer back to it. If anybody had a question about what's the relative importance, at least you could stick it up against the criteria. If nothing else, you could stick it up against the criteria and say, "Okay, is this essential, or is this going to hit one of these other highly desirables?" If it's not, then we can talk about it, but we're talking about it more as an option, maybe as less a I've got to have it.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    What else you got?

    Greg Walker:

    I'll ask you my question. My understanding is you were sent over as ASHRAE’s delegate, or representative, or something to the COP26.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yep.

    Greg Walker:

    Is that a correct?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    That is correct.

    Greg Walker:

    All right.

    Stanton Stafford:

    That's cool. Nice.

    Greg Walker:

    You were jet lagged in back, so...

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yep.

    Greg Walker:

    The first question might be a little more humorous, but what was your favorite Scottish dish that you ate?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Well, it was not haggis, and it was not—

    Stanton Stafford:

    Did you have haggis?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Black pudding. No. Nope. No. I just heard about haggis and I didn't want any.

    Greg Walker:

    There you go.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Same thing with black pudding. No.

    Greg Walker:

    Well, my second question was going to be, what was the favorite Scottish dish and did you wake up the next morning feeling okay?

    Ginger Scoggins:

    They like their alcohol there.

    Greg Walker:

    They do.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    They actually... We heard a lot about all the whiskey that is produced in Scotland. I didn't try any, I'm not a whiskey person, but I heard a lot about it. There's a lot of whiskey production that happens there.

    Greg Walker:

    Definitely.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    But in all seriousness, I did hear a lot about, obviously, the impacts of climate change and the—

    Greg Walker:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    And as you know, or maybe don't know, Greg, we did a joint event with AIA—

    Greg Walker:

    Okay. Did not know.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    With Architecture 2030 about the need for governments to hit a 1.5 degree, and that the building industry contributes 40% to global emissions, which is huge. The focus on decarbonization, and the focus on renovating buildings as we did, as opposed to building new—

    Greg Walker:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    In and of itself is a carbon saver there. During this process, if you remember, we got rid of our gas generator.

    The whole thought there was to decarbonize the headquarters and not have the use of fossil fuels. Even though we have a natural gas line running right through the front of our property, we don't use any of it, so there you go. That's good. I think we did everything right, in terms of the headquarters project, and the whole need to reduce carbon. Reducing energy reduces carbon, so we hit that pretty strong, I think with OPR, and the goals for the systems.

    With our photovoltaics now, hopefully we're going to show after a year's worth of study that we are Net Zero, or at least very, very close. You can go onto the photovoltaic link and it tells you how much CO2 we've saved with the production of energy that we have with our photovoltaic system. That's going to be a really good metric to keep track of over time, which one of the things that was discussed a lot is the fact that carbon, the reduction of carbon has now become more appropriate than the reduction of energy, in terms of where the focus needs to be in the future.

    Even though they're hand in hand, which they are, but there's more to the building industry with new construction, and renovation, in terms of carbon. Reducing energy should always be a goal. It was an interesting time.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Mr. Walker, what advice would you give your peers, architects, engineers, contractors, advice you would give when they're interested in tackling a performance based design, or construction project? Be it Zero Net Energy, your net carbons, your net water, I mean, what did you learn from this process, and over your career, that may help your peers tackle this type of project?

    Greg Walker:

    I think the single most important thing any of us can have, but certainly on the architecture side, is you have to have an owner that's committed to help making this happen. If you don't, if you have an owner that's just paying lip service because they want press, or they want to look like they're doing good, that's great and maybe they can take you part of the way there, but I think you have to have owners who understand at least where their project fits into a broader picture, or a broader pattern, and are willing to stand behind the decisions that are going to get made as an outcome in the process.

    Stanton unfortunately took a couple of my questions for Ginger. I might ask you to kind of rethink something we talked about a little bit differently, but I'll ask the question this way to Ginger. What was the single biggest, from the owner's perspective, what was the single biggest surprise as you got into the early phase of the projects that you were like, "Oh man, we just did not anticipate that?"

    Ginger Scoggins:

    I've already said it. It was the envelope renovation portion. I mean, we didn't budget for it. We didn't anticipate it. That was like, holy cow, this makes perfect sense that we've got to do this, but we don't have the budget for it. That's when we had to go back and ask for some additional funding. The second one I would say, is that we got into the construction and all of the plumbing pipe had to be replaced. All the fire sprinkler pipe had to be replaced. The electrical switchboards. We had huge discussions on the electrical switchboards and the replacement of those.

    I mean, we knew the mechanical system was going to be a gut and redo, but we assumed, obviously incorrectly, that some of the main components of those systems could stay in place. It would not be as costly as they ended up being. We had a building inspection done before we purchased the building.

    Greg Walker:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    We had a lot of inspections done before we purchased the building. I think it maybe wasn't stated as strongly as it should have been, that we needed to replace all the plumbing piping, and we needed to replace all the fire sprinkler piping, mainly because it didn't meet code. That was another hit, in terms of the budget. From an owner's perspective, it was the two biggest things, I think, that that hit us that we were not anticipating.

    Greg Walker:

    In that regard, then, this was an interesting—I totally agree with one thing you said there, which was that there were code changes from when the systems had originally been put in that were mostly mandating that they be replaced or updated more significantly. This is always a fundamental dilemma with me on renovations, which is if you want to do the right thing, which I think ASHRAE was trying to do, both from a financial, but also a kind of we want to reuse as much as we can standpoint. It's not that the piping was, let's say on the sprinklers, was all bad.

    There was some that was genuinely just worn out, but it was because code had evolved enough since then that it just didn't meet code. I'm always curious since you guys maybe, certainly infinitely more than AIA ever touches anything code related. You all are so involved in helping set where code goes, how would you take some of those lessons into account when you're thinking about codes for existing buildings to help both improve performance, but not necessarily say, "Wow, we've just got to scrap it all and start over because it's 30 years old."

    Is there a balancing act that you all, being on the owner side, made you more aware of? Like, "Okay, maybe we need to think about this while we're in code."

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Yeah. I mean, I think we thought about it more from the aspect of, well, we're renovating the whole building. We don't want to go back five years from now and have to replace the plumbing piping—

    Greg Walker:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Or the fire sprinkler piping because it's failed. Now's the time to do it, so let's do it so we don't have to do it five years from now. From a design engineer standpoint, and I'll let Stanton also weigh in whether he agrees or disagrees, if systems are 30 years old, we always recommend replacement.

    Stanton Stafford:

    Mm-hmm.

    Ginger Scoggins:

    Simply for the fact that they're 30 years old and most likely do not meet code. Now, you can't say that about plumbing piping because plumbing piping, there's no code for plumbing piping. It's just whether it's sized correctly for what you need for the load. If it's 30 years old, the recommendation should, in my opinion, be replace it. Just from a liability standpoint as an engineer, we have to say that. I don't know Stanton, if there's anything you want to add.

    Stanton Stafford:

    No, I totally agree, Ginger. Every project, there's a balancing act. When you've got a tight budget, I think there is maybe a little more momentum towards let's evaluate and figure out what may have some longer life to it, and what doesn't need replacing. It really wasn't until we actually got the camera down in some of the pipes that we realized the level of degradation that the plumbing, and the storm motor pipe had seen over the years, which drove us to the obvious conclusion that we needed to replace. I mean, you got a 30 plus year old building that is being renovated for the next 30 to 50 years. It's always, hey, if you're going to be thinking that long term into the future, let's start fresh with systems that that are new, that have life, versus having to band aid it over the second life of the building, so to speak.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    ASHRAE Journal podcast team is managing editor Mary Kate McGowan, producer and associate editor Chadd Jones, assistant managing editor Jeri Alger, and associate editors Tani Palefski and Rebecca Matyasovski. Copyright ASHRAE. Views expressed in this podcast are those of individuals only, and not of ASHRAE sponsors or advertisers. Please refer to ASHRAE.org/podcast for the full disclaimer.

     

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