Glenborough's Next Project is Energy Retrofits at Corporate Headquarters

By Ron Wilkinson  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Glenborough Uses Energy Star As Guide For Extensive Energy Efficiency EffortsPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Glenborough's Long-Term Goal Is To Be Industry Leader In Sustainability

At Glenborough's corporate headquarters, the 400 South El Camino Real building in downtown San Mateo, Calif., Santamaria took the world-class corporate program and is turning it into reality with carefully selected energy retrofits.

The 14-story building is at the heart of one of America's most desirable communities. The population is well-educated and progressive, and cares about a clean and healthy environment. The El Camino property is located within an easy walk, or bike ride, from surrounding residential communities.

Knowing the demographics, Glenborough fills its space by giving firms and their employees a building that makes a statement about sustainability. Santamaria and his team know that locating in the right building can give firms a leg up in recruiting and retaining employees.

After joining the staff, the first thing Santamaria did was to form an energy and sustainability team for the building and obtain its first Energy Star benchmark in 2004. Early retrofits included lighting and daytime cleaning, which brought the Energy Star score up from 61 to the 70s. A natural gas-fired combined heat and power plant was installed in 2005, yielding $100,000 in annual energy savings.

Recently, the conversion of legacy pneumatic (analog) thermostats to wireless pneumatic thermostats has shown substantial savings. The installation is component replacement only, so no wire or conduit is run, no walls are broken into and no ceiling tiles are removed. In the first four months, utility bills show that electricity use was reduced by 10.2 percent.

Since 2005, the year that Santamaria launched an aggressive companywide energy program, power purchases at the corporate headquarters have dropped from 2.5 million kWh per year to the current level of 983,000 kWh per year. In addition, the combined heat and power plant produces roughly 900,000 kWh per year.

The 400 El Camino Real building's Energy Star benchmark is now 86. To bring it up to the mid 90s, the firm is replacing a 40-year-old R11 chiller with units that have oil-less, magnetic bearing, variable frequency drive centrifugal compressors. The new chillers, in combination with the wireless pneumatic thermostats and the energy management system, will form the next generation of smart building technologies for the facility. These will enable a voluntary demand reduction program that will use the wireless pneumatic thermostats to automatically reduce peak demand in the afternoons and pre-cool the building in the early morning hours by remotely controlling VAV box airflow.

On top of these steps is a building optimization program designed for additional energy cost reduction. Using a third-party energy dashboard, the program will not only allow the O&M staff to run the building more efficiently, it will allow occupants and the public to see, directly, how Glenborough's 400 El Camino Real building is protecting its occupants and preserving the environment at the same time.

Ron Wilkinson, PE, LEED AP, ASHRAE CPMP is chief engineer for e4 inc., a sustainable-buildings consultancy in New York. He is the author of the first commissioning training program for the LEED-NC rating system, the chair of the commissioning advisory committee of the AIA Committee on the Environment, and the recording secretary for ASHRAE Guideline Project Committee 0.2/1.2 on commissioning for existing building systems and assemblies and existing HVAC&R Systems. He can be reached at

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  posted on 3/22/2013   Article Use Policy

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