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©2015 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 57, no. 7, July 2015

Don McLauchlan, P.E., BEAP, Member ASHRAE

About the Author
Don McLauchlan, P.E., is a founder and principal of Elara Energy Services, Hillside, Ill.

29 North Wacker, owned by the Sun Life Assurance Company, is a 10-story, 1962 vintage office building (140,000 gross ft2 [13 006 m2]) located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown business district. This project’s comprehensive retrofit of the building’s major mechanical systems was implemented while the building was occupied.

The retrofit provided better comfort, controllability, reduction of noise and improvements in the aesthetics and space of each office. Specific improvements included upgrading the heating plant via a steam-to-water conversion design, redesigning the perimeter induction system to incorporate chilled beams and installing a building automation system with Web-based direct digital controls (DDC).

An energy use intensity (EUI) comparison between the previous mechanical systems and the newly commissioned, high-efficiency systems shows a clear reduction in energy use throughout the building. Over the course of 42 consecutive months, the new design reduced the building’s EUI from 113 kBtu/ft2 (357 kWh·m2) (40% occupied) in 2009 to 81 kBtu/ft2 (111 kWh·m2) (95% occupied) in 2013—a reduction of 28% despite the occupancy of the building more than doubling in the same amount of time. The resulting Energy Star score for the building is 88 (improved from 66) and translates into an electrical energy reduction of almost 417,000 kWh annually, along with a natural gas energy reduction of 31,000 therms per year. The energy use over the course of a full year was also monitored and revealed that the new system performs at $1.03/ft2 ($11.09/m2) versus $2.33/ft2 ($25.08/m2) on the old system (which was approximately 44% higher than current minimum requirements of local building code)—a reduction of greater than 50%. The building was awarded a LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification of Gold in 2014.



The concept for the mechanical upgrade project was created in 2010, when a detailed mechanical assessment report for the building was performed. The assessment report was necessitated by increasing utility costs and the recent emphasis on green technology. The ASHRAE Level II commercial building energy audit identified opportunities for improvement in energy efficiency, comfort, maintenance and reliability of the existing major mechanical systems.

Shortly after delivery of the report, the design team was enlisted to implement an infrastructure upgrade for the building based on 10 of the energy conservation measures (ECMs) identified in the energy audit. These ECMs included a steam-to-water conversion featuring the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers, a chilled water plant overhaul, redesign of the perimeter HVAC induction system to incorporate active chilled beams, a new interior variable air volume (VAV) system, refurbishment of other existing air-handling units, conversion to variable pumping and a demand controlled ventilation system, a new garage CO controlled exhaust system, a domestic water system upgrade, a lighting system upgrade, the addition of insulation to the perimeter spandrels and perimeter ceiling headers and a new building automation system (BAS) with Web-based direct digital control (DDC).


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