So how do we track our building performance?

If you haven’t read it yet, blogger Katie Zemtseff, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce’s environment reporter, reviewed our blog. It was a great review, and in it, she challenged us to report on how the building is performing.

We’ve been here two months, and we are still adjusting the systems to make sure they perform accurately and efficiently.

According to the modeling and calculations done by Stantec Consulting, the building will record a 56 percent water savings and a 30 percent energy savings compared to a traditionally designed building designed to the current codes.

To reach those goals, we need to make sure the building and all its systems are working the way they were designed to. Hence, we have commissioning – a quality-control check performed by an independent third party (Keithly Barber Associates, in our case) to ensure that the systems have been installed and are performing according to the specifications.

We just conducted the first tour of the commissioning, and it explained a lot. At times we have felt that the systems haven’t worked properly. The heating, for instance, has been especially erratic; sometimes it seemed too cold, sometimes too hot. Through the commissioning, we discovered that one of the thermostats was located above a light dimmer that emits a lot of heat.

We caught other things as well, including digital controls that were not programmed properly. Also, a CO2 sensor wouldn’t open a certain louver. Through this in-depth review of the building, we hope to detect and fix all problems within a couple of weeks.

Once we know that the systems work properly, Weber Thompson’s Energy and Resources Group (from our internal Green Team) will start analyzing the utility bills for the whole building and power bills for WT office space. (We occupy 25,000 of the building’s 40,000 square feet.)  The building’s management company (Stephen C. Grey Associates) will send us bills for the entire building. Fortunately that company also managed our previous location, so we will be able to compare our current bills with the models as well as with our former, traditional office building.

Anecdotal evidence (happy faces) shows that we are pleased with our new digs, but we want to provide concrete proof. Our Green Team’s Interior Environment Group will conduct a survey of all building occupants to ask about subjective topics, such as comfort levels and satisfaction with the space, and more objective topics, such as allergy symptoms and number of sick days.

It will be very interesting to compare people’s experiences with our new open office to those of our old sealed office. We will conduct the first survey in July and will repeat the survey quarterly for the first year, and then annually. We hope to learn a great deal and to use these experiences in our future designs.

We will keep you posted.

– Elzbieta Zielinska LEED AP, project manager for The Terry Thomas

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