Phillip Saieg: The Pursuit of High-Performance
One thing becomes quickly apparent about Phillip Saieg, director of the Alliance Center in Denver, Colorado. He has a passion for his vocation: high-performance existing buildings.
As director of the Alliance Center, a multitenant non-profit center focused on sustainability, Saieg is in charge of the normal stuff — operations, maintenance and the property management of the building. But the facility is also run as a program, embodying the mission of the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado: to "advance sustainability through collaboration among nonprofits, business, government and education."
With 38 tenants focused on improving quality of life from diverse social and ecological angles while seeking to cross-pollinate ideas, with around 1000 tours a year of the facility on its sustainable aspects, with a current recertification to LEED Gold of the 2005 EBOM certification (the facility also earned LEED CI Silver at the time), insatiability, curiosity and passion seem like handy traits.
When Saieg first came out to Colorado from his native Michigan, it was for school, studying business communications and theology. After graduation, he started working in green building construction and consulting. When the opportunity came to work at the Alliance Center, it seemed tailor-made: hands-on, in the city, in a commercial building.
Plus, "it feels great to work for a non-profit and feel like you're working for something a little bit bigger, collaborating with others and working for a better future," Saieg says. "It's something you can believe in a lot more."
Though in many ways the Alliance Center is not your typical facility with your typical tenant mix, it faces the same challenges as any other commercial facilities and has set out to be a test bed for numerous high-performance strategies in an effort to serve as a case study.
In fact, creating a high-performance building was one of the main reasons Saieg was hired and he seems indefatigable in pursuing the boundaries of what is possible at his facility. For example, he muses on the possibilities of "virtual submetering" using RFID technology to be able to track energy use in the facility down to individual uses of the elevator or use of a single fixture. "But I'm really far away from making the case on that one," he says.
One initiative that's well underway is aggressive submetering on each of the six floors, with each floor getting meters for lighting, cooling, heating, plug loads and miscellaneous. The third floor is getting further submetered by zones, matching the submetering to geographical data to see if, for example, the northwest facade consumes more lighting than the southwest facade. That data will be fed into the energy model.
Saieg does not suggest the typical facility manager pursue submetering in this fashion. His project is made possible through a partnership with the Department of Energy, as one of eight projects selected by National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The larger goal of that collaboration is to study how commercial facilities can submeter for best returns.
But a benefit of such localized metering in his facility is that it allows Saieg to pursue what he calls a "cap and trade" program. Starting as a voluntary program and later getting baked into the leases as they start to renew, tenants will be given an energy budget based on the average use in the building. Long term, the plan is to attach a monetary bonus or penalty, depending on whether the tenant uses less or more than the baseline.