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

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Fresno: How One Real Estate Development Company is Reducing its Carbon Footprint

By Tracy Correa

Sal Gonzales and Tracy Kashian of Lance-Kashian & Co, go over maps of several River Park-area developments where energy-efficient lighting will be installed. (Photo by Tracy Correa.)

FRESNO – Most people don’t usually think of environmental consciousness when they think of commercial construction, but for one of the Central Valley’s largest development companies, the two go hand-in-hand.

Lance-Kashian & Co. has set out to become one of the greenest development companies around. And PG&E is helping the company reach its full potential.

With help from PG&E programs, such as On-Bill Financing, the company retrofitted exterior lighting at two of its large commercial office complexes in north Fresno. Nearly 200 250-watt metal halide bulbs (and ballasts) have been swapped out for energy efficient UCD (ultra-constant discharge) Xenon lights. The 120-watt replacements are designed to save more than 55 percent in energy costs.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

This month, work began at the popular River Park Shopping Center to remove nearly 300 high-pressure sodium lights in the center’s multi-story parking garage and parking lots. They, too, are being replaced with energy-efficient lighting. In addition to saving money, the lights are brighter — an important safety feature for late-night patrons at the shopping center.

Changing perception

PG&E has worked with developers and building owners for many years on energy efficiency. In the United States, buildings account for 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption, according to government statistics.

Exterior lighting at The Shops at River Park shopping center, one of Fresno’s largest retail centers, is being replaced with energy-efficient lighting. (Photo by Tracy Correa.)

Lance-Kashian wants to change the way people see developers, said Tracy Kashian, vice president of marketing, public relations and property management at the company.

“People think developers just cut down trees,” said Kashian, daughter-in-law of owner Ed Kashian. But Ed Kashian is dedicated to reducing his carbon footprint and wants his projects to reflect this commitment, she said.

Ed Kashian is more cutting edge than most seasoned developers with five decades in the business. He is at the forefront – including when it comes to technology –say those who work with him. He knows his way around an iPad better than most of his younger employees and prefers to hold business meetings via Skype.

So, the company’s commitment to energy conservation is fitting and its efforts are starting to show results.

Since the retrofits at the developer’s commercial office complexes – Park View Plaza and nearby The Village at River Park — utilities bills have dropped. At The Village, the July bill was $329, compared to $500 in June. And kWh (kilowatt-hours) billed was 2,030 compared to 3,978 the same period a year ago.

PG&E assistance

The lighting retrofits — which cost tens of thousands of dollars – were paid for with help from PG&E’s On-Bill Financing program. The program allows for improvements without large outlays of cash; PG&E finances the projects and the interest-free loans are repaid through the customer’s monthly utility bills.

“There is an expense to make these changes… but, we can help offset these,” said Alan Goto, a senior customer relationship manager in PG&E’s energy solutions and services department. He said there are a variety of programs, incentives and rebates to help customers looking to make similar energy-saving changes.

Goto has been Lance-Kashian’s account manager for 20 years and shares a close relationship, often meeting with the developer or his representatives monthly. He said the company is setting an example for others with its energy-saving changes at high-profile sites. “River Park Shopping Center is one of the largest shopping centers in the Fresno area,” he said.

LEED by example

But energy-saving lighting is only the tip of the iceberg.

Exterior lighting at one of Lance-Kashian & Co.’s commercial offices before (top) and after (bottom) being replaced with brighter, more energy-efficient lights. (Photos by Lance-Kashian & Co.)

In August, Lance-Kashian earned gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for existing building and maintenance on the 75,000-square-foot Park View Plaza building. The internationally-recognized certification by the U.S. Green Building Council was achieved for efforts in sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and indoor environmental quality.

Lance-Kashian is also pursuing LEED platinum certification for its new building, The Offices at Palm Crossing. The building is being called one of the “greenest buildings in Fresno” and is designed to lower baseline energy use by some 40 percent — compared to similar buildings — through the use of energy-conserving fixtures, recycled building materials and innovative insulating technologies. The building features a rooftop garden and solar panels in the parking lot.

LEED certification isn’t easy, said Jeff Adolph, a PG&E customer relationship manager in energy solutions and services in Fresno, who gives Ed Kashian credit for his innovation.

“He is definitely cutting edge,” he said.

E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.