New ASHRAE headquarters intended to demonstrate achievable energy performance in older existing buildings

ASHRAE unveils energy performance role model

Thursday, November 5, 2020

ASHRAE’s new global headquarters is a 20th century building remade to deliver high-level 21st century energy performance. The 110-member staff has spent the past month settling into the newly renovated and retrofitted 42-year-old office building, intended to physically embody the global society’s mandate to advance human well-being through sustainable technology in the built environment.

The extensive overhaul to transform the three-storey, 66,700-square-foot structure into a net-zero energy building commenced in January 2020. It reflects a deliberate decision of ASHRAE’s executive and broader membership to create a tangible example of what can be achieved in existing buildings, particularly those that date back to the era of low energy costs.

“Although new construction of net-zero energy buildings make a lot of headlines, reuse of existing structures is a basic tenet of sustainability,” affirms Ginger Scoggins, chair of the ASHRAE committee struck to monitor the project. “The energy performance of existing buildings must be addressed to substantially impact the 40 per cent of primary energy consumed by buildings.”

The new headquarters has a modelled energy use intensity of 17,000 British thermal units (BTU) per square foot per year or less than 0.005 kilowatt-hours per square foot per year (kWh/ft2/yr). It is slated to achieve net-zero energy status once the solar photovoltaic system is installed in early 2021.

Some of the other notable sustainable and energy-saving features include:

  • Radiant ceiling panel system, used for heating and cooling;
  • Dedicated outdoor air system for outdoor air ventilation with enthalpy heat recovery;
  • Overhead fresh air distribution system augmented with reversible ceiling fans in the open office areas and displacement distribution in the learning centre;
  • Six water source-heat pumps (WSHPs) four on basement level and two on upper level atrium that will be used to condition these spaces;
  • Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) for high-occupancy spaces in the meeting and learning centre;
  • Fabric duct for air distribution in office areas, reducing diffuser count and duct branches;
  • On-site electric vehicle charging stations available for guests and staff;
  • 18 new skylights and reconfigured window/wall ratio.

Building occupants enjoy the benefits of 30 per cent more outside air than the minimum ventilation rate set in ASHRAE standard 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. Given the ongoing spectre of COVID-19, building operators will also look to the guidance of ASHRAE’s epidemic task force and implement recommended measures for commercial office buildings as needed.

The Society’s theme for 2020-21, the ASHRAE Digital Lighthouse and Industry 4.0 — as chosen by this year’s president, Charles Gulledge — is in evidence in the headquarters’ digitally connected technology including, remote monitoring and analysis, online dashboards and advanced BAS (building automation system) integration with other systems. An advanced conferencing system enables Gulledge’s envisioned “digital lighthouse” teaching resource.

“ASHRAE’s first-of-its-kind headquarters building was designed as a living showcase of what’s possible through technology integration to increase efficiency, protect people and property, and enhance the occupant experience,” he says.

The 11-acre site in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree Corners offers easy access to a nearby lake, greenspace and walking trails along with urban amenities like restaurants and public transit. It was acquired and transformed with the help of USD $10.2 million raised from corporate and stakeholder donations.

“It is this support that not only shows our donors’ alignment with ASHRAE’s sustainability goals, but helps us to address the challenges of designing and operating buildings in a technology-driven environment,” observes ASHRAE immediate past president, Darryl Boyce, who also serves on the building committee. “ASHRAE’s new global headquarters is an example of an effective built environment that fully considers the importance of effective operations by installing the systems and equipment in a manner that facilitates operation and maintenance.”

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