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©2014 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 56, no. 11, November 2014.

By Shawn Oram, P.E., Associate Member ASHRAE

About the Author
Shawn Oram, P.E., is a mechanical engineer with Ecotope in Seattle.

Revamping a ho-hum strip mall building into a high performance office building with a modest budget is possible if designers are focused on energy efficiency and costs from the beginning. King County Housing Authority turned a 1978 building into a high performance office and achieved a low energy use intensity (EUI) of 26.7 kBtu/ft2·yr (303 MJ/m2), making it one of the most energy efficient office buildings in the region. This was accomplished with a total construction budget of only $95/ft2 ($1023/m2) of which $14/ft2 ($151/m2) was spent for a 50-zone HVAC system


New Home for a Public Housing Agency

The King County Housing Authority jumped at the opportunity to purchase a former big box retail store that became available next door to its existing headquarters in Tukwila, Wash., (11 miles south of Seattle). At that time, the public housing agency’s Section 8 program employees were housed in leased office spaces dispersed throughout the Seattle area. The purchase of the 34-year-old building would bring together previously separated departments and promote an integrated agency culture. However, the timeline and budget were extremely constrained to complete the renovation before the existing leases expired.

The 35,200 ft2 (3270 m2) remodeled space contains all major functions of a typical modern office. The project goals were to create an affordable, energy efficient, net zero energy ready building. The design team delivered on this goal, turning an otherwise unremarkable and inefficient existing building into one of the most energy efficient office buildings in the region for a total construction cost of $95/ft2 ($1023/m2).


Targeted Measures for Proven Performance

Because of the compressed timeline and modest budget, in-depth energy modeling was not an option. Therefore, the design team chose to target proven energy-efficiency measures using careful design and readily available off-the-shelf technology assembled with an explicit focus on performance. The entire HVAC system construction budget came in at less than $14/ft2 ($151/m2).

The existing headquarters building in the adjacent property and the new expansion are nearly identical in size and heat loss characteristics, yet differ dramatically in energy use and equipment approach. The existing headquarters is operating at an EUI of 80 kBtu/ft2·yr (908 MJ/m2·yr). The new expansion is operating on less than one-third of the energy budget at an EUI of 26.7 kBtu/ft2·yr (303 MJ/m2·yr). This is 70% less than the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) 2003 national average for office buildings of this size at about 93 kBtu/ft2·yr (1056 MJ/m2·yr).

The primary driver for this extremely low energy use is a “Design for Off” approach to the HVAC systems. The HVAC systems were selected and designed to be shut off whenever possible. Ventilation is provided with a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) that operates during all occupied hours. Heating and cooling is provided in 50 separate small control zones. This allows for the heating and cooling equipment to be turned off completely unless there is a call for heating or cooling at the zone level. Controls are set up to create a 5°F (2.7°C) deadband between heating and cooling setpoints to eliminate cycling of equipment between heating and cooling. These measures dramatically reduce the HVAC distribution energy as seen in Figure 1.


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