"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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“Building P” Strives for Energy Perfection

By Jonathan Marshall

On the campus where E. coli and other foodborne pathogens are analyzed, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is striving to match its dedication to safety with its dedication to energy reduction.

The California Department of Public Health’s “Building P” in Richmond is a showcase for energy-efficient and sustainable building practices. (Photo courtesy of Tim Griffith.)

The California Department of Public Health’s “Building P” in Richmond is a showcase for energy-efficient and sustainable building practices. (Photo courtesy of Tim Griffith.)

As a flattering profile in the Winter 2012 issue of High Performing Buildings magazine relates, “Building P” on the Richmond campus was designed a decade ago as a showcase for energy-efficient and sustainable building practices in new state construction. Back in 2005, it achieved a laudable Energy Star rating of 91. (Anything over 75 on a scale of 1-100 indicates “top performance.”)

But the building’s managers have not been content with near perfection. They have continued to chip away at its energy use, saving taxpayer’s money and demonstrating the limits of what is possible for modern buildings to achieve.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

In 2008, the building won an Energy Star rating of 94, and in 2010 and 2011, it achieved an incredible score of 98. The facility’s extraordinary energy performance was achieved by design, diligent operation, and proactive maintenance. These measures have made Building P one of the most efficient of its kind and earned the CDPH a $150,000 rebate from PG&E through the Savings by Design program.

The designers started with careful site orientation and plenty of glass windows to make widespread use of natural daylight in workspaces and common areas. The building’s full-height windows are set back to minimize direct exposure to sun during summer days, thus easing the burden on the air conditioning system. In the winter, when the sun’s angle is low, light can penetrate directly into the building, reducing the need for heating.  Automated controls dim artificial lights when daylight is available, minimizing power consumption. Sensors turn off lights altogether when offices and conference rooms are unoccupied.

Through PG&E’s third-party MBPCx program, which offers no-cost technical services, the CDPH squeezed out further savings by closely monitoring and fine-tuning details, like re-positioning thermostats to avoid exposure to direct sunlight. CDPH also initiated a program to put all the office computers into sleep mode when not in use, slashing their power consumption by 42 percent. And the building now participates in PG&E’s automated demand response program, which resets the building’s temperature by 4 degrees to save energy during critical periods of peak demand.

“It’s inspiring to see what customers can achieve when they put their minds to saving energy,” said Christi Miyano, principal account manager at PG&E. “We’re proud to support the Department of Public Health and other owners by offering incentives and expertise to help make their buildings more comfortable, efficient, and sustainable.”

See a video on the achievements of Building P.

E-mail Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.