Touring the Conrad Hilton Foundation in Agoura Hills

On Friday, May 8th the Cal Poly Pomona students participating in the studio to design the Residential Environmental Science Campus for Joshua Tree National Park, toured the Conrad Hilton Foundation building in Agoura Hills, California. The tour of the highly-sustainable Conrad Hilton Foundation, allowed the students to experience many of the sustainable design strategies with which their only exposure to this point had been in lecture classes. One of the takeaways of the field trip was standing in the natural cooling tower and experiencing the breeze produced only by natural ventilation.

The Conrad Hilton Foundation building, designed by ZGF Architects, marks the first-phase of a four-phase campus construction project that will set a precedent for environmental stewardship and work towards conserving the natural resources on a 70-acre campus. The building is narrow to maximize the opportunities for natural lighting, utilizes natural ventilation systems, window shading, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, and solar panels to chart the path towards net zero energy use.

For more information on the Conrad Hilton Foundation Building: http://www.hiltonfoundation.org/building-design

Greenhouse and Sustainability in California Greenhouses and Nurseries

California growers and post-harvest processors are among the most progressive agriculturalists in the state. At a recent forum in Tulare, agriculturalists offered input regarding their efforts to reduce inputs and described the assistance that would enhance their current sustainability efforts.

While long-term, successful farming is, at its core, “sustainable,” short-term demands of planting and harvesting make it difficult to focus on the future. The current crop’s immediate need for water may trump the future benefit of conservation. However, some growers have perfected practices that reduce both energy and water use.

Growers and processors are eager to learn about these best practices, such as integration of renewable energy and deployment of energy management systems – but opportunities for this type of education are limited.

The following recommendations include those most frequently cited by forum participants where SCG could add value to sustainability efforts in grower operations:

  1. Collaborate with growers and processors to evaluate and maximize well “life” in order to maintain or improve energy and water efficiency.
  2. Support natural gas-fueled pump deployment and retirement of diesel-fueled irrigation,
  3. Provide grants and incentives that meet the needs of smaller “family farms.”

To provide a full description of this event, the Alliance has released a new report entitled Sustainability Forum for Southern Central Valley Agricultural Growers and Post-Harvest Processors. The report documents the participants’ perspectives and conclusions, including:

  • Wanting more programs for converting water pumps and diesel powered wind machines to natural gas,
  • Opportunities to develop SCG supported programs to evaluate well efficiency and “life” potential,
  • Support for natural gas powered generators for cold storage at packing houses,
  • Providing easy to download grid maps showing natural gas distribution lines,
  • Wanting grants and rebates specifically focused on small family farmers as perception is that large firms dominate the programs, including offering a “call-in” number for smaller growers to contact SCG for information on programs and incentives,
  • Increase the number, distribution and teaming-up of water pump testers and irrigation specialists to conduct more audits and field operation reviews, and
  • Providing incentive programs to support larger water lines for drip systems.

Download the full report for more details.

Announcing the 2015 Blueprint for Functional Sustainability Competition

The California Sustainability Alliance is pleased to announce a partnership with the Cal Poly Pomona architecture department. The Alliance will sponsor a green building competition within the 2015 spring semester architecture studio. Students who participate in this competition will be asked to consider holistic sustainability at the deepest level, specifically in relation to the following question:

How do you move beyond sustainable design to design strategies that ensure sustainable operation?

Through the competition, students are asked to consider tenants of sustainability at the deepest levels, including zero net energy, zero net water and waste reduction. Students who participate in the competition, must first meet all of the studio requirements set out by their professors, then they must consider the opportunities for the deepest levels of sustainability in all areas. The Cal Poly professors will select two finalists from each studio class during the standard studio review. 

The finalists will be asked to present their designs to a group of green building professionals on Friday, June 5th during a reception on the Cal Poly Pomona campus. The student with the winning design will receive a $1,500 award and the student with the second place design will receive a $500 award. All finalists' submissions will be featured on the Alliance website. 

For more information on the 2015 Blueprint for Functional Sustainability Competition, check back on this blog between now and June. In the coming weeks, you will find more competition documents and guidelines, updates on student work and resources that may be used in the development of competition submissions. 

Lillian Kawasaki Remembered as Leader in Water and Environmental Fields

On July 18, the water and environmental industries lost one of its leaders. The California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance) joins the many others mourning the loss of Lillian Kawasaki, who passed away on that day.

Ms. Kawasaki was a founding member of the Alliance’s Advisory Committee and offered invaluable advice on the organization’s start and early development. We will miss her wisdom and support, and will strive to keep her commitment to the environment and sustainability alive in the Alliance’s work.

Craig McDonald, Managing Director for Navigant Consulting and Project Director of the Alliance summed up Ms. Kawasaki’s influence: “Lillian’s insight, leadership, and vast knowledge of the water energy landscape was essential in shaping the Alliance’s great work in these fields.”

Highlights of Ms. Kawasaki career include launching the City of Los Angeles’ Environmental Affairs Department, heading the city Community Development Department and serving as assistant general manager of environmental affairs and economic development for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Additionally, she was a member of numerous state and federal water policy committees during the course of her career, serving on the board of the Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California and such professional organizations as the Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment.

For more on Ms. Kawasaki’s remarkable life and commitment to public service and the environment, see her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

New Retrocommissioning Program Toolkit for Local Governments

As part of its efforts to help local governments comply with federal and state retrocommissioning codes and policies, the California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance) has developed a Retrocommissioning Program Toolkit specifically for municipal facility use.

Retrocommissioning (RCx) is a method of systematically examining the operation and maintenance of an existing building’s systems in order to identify ways to improve overall building performance. It offers a relatively quick and low-cost way to help building owners ensure that energy efficiency features and equipment specified in the building design are installed and operating as intended - and as required to meet occupants’ needs. 

The Alliance created its RCx Program Toolkit to help local government staff develop and implement a municipal facility retrocommissioning program.  The RCx Toolkit complements existing portfolio management tools and utility management systems, helping the user take the “next step” once a decision has been made to incorporate retrocommissioning into municipal facility standard operating procedures.  Although focused on the performance testing and documentation components, the Toolkit also provides resources, such as model commissioning specifications, to facilitate the entire commissioning process.

In addition to a detailed step-by-step description of the RCx program development processes of planning and preparation, creating data infrastructure, and collecting baseline data, the Toolkit includes necessary tools and resources to implement the program such as:

  • Sample RCx Action Plan;
  • References to common RCx resources and procedures;
  • Model Request for Proposals (RFP) language;
  • The RCx Dashboard, a spreadsheet tool that allows the user to enter basic building information to identify potential RCx candidates and track RCx program accomplishments.

The RCx Toolkit is designed to be flexible enough to be a complementary resource for an energy manager in a large local government or to be the sole RCx Program management tool for facility and public works staff in smaller jurisdictions.  It may be used to facilitate RCx for an entire portfolio of buildings, or for a defined sub-group, such as all fire stations or libraries.  Alternatively, a subset of the Toolkit’s procedures can serve to guide local government staff through retrocommissioning those measures for which that team is responsible, or to provide to its maintenance contractor. 

Depending on a government’s specific situation, the RCx Dashboard can aid in prioritizing buildings and identifying RCx candidates.  Data or analyses from other tools such as the EPA’s Portfolio Manager or a utility management system also function to prioritize the buildings, in which case, the Toolkit can work as a complementary resource library and tracking tool.  For example, for planning a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system replacement, the Toolkit includes sample retrocommissioning RFP language to ensure the HVAC contractor performs functional tests and provides the required documentation to the project team.  For projects completed by internal staff, such as lighting replacements, the Toolkit’s RCx functional tests can be used to document proper installation and operation of the newly installed lighting system. 

New On-Site Water Generation Study

 

California water supplies are stressed as a result of decreasing supply and increasing demand.  While conservation and efficiency are the most cost-effective solutions, they may not completely solve the problem. Consequently, California water planners are considering multiple alternate water supply options including:

  • Desalination
  • Brackish water treatment
  • Rainwater harvesting (storm water capture)
  • Recycled water

Of these, water recycling is the only option that is applicable across the entire state and which can produce a relatively consistent resource regardless of the season or weather.  Wherever there is a wastewater treatment plant there is an opportunity to generate a local supply of recycled water.

Indeed, generating recycled water is not a challenge, distributing it is.  A major barrier to implementing a successful regional recycled water system is the cost of distribution pipelines. Typically a network of distribution pipelines and pump stations is needed to connect existing municipal water reclamation plants to potential recycled water customers.  Constructing these distribution systems can be expensive ($2-4 million per mile), especially in heavily developed areas such as Southern California. As a result, excess recycled water supply generated by large centralized plants cannot always be used cost-effectively. The Alliance’s 2008 report on recycled water shows that enough existing recycled water supply to meet all of Southern California’s projected increase in water use through 2030 is currently being released to streams and the ocean without benefit.

Recycled water can be implemented on a smaller scale; generating water in the same location as its demand eliminates the need for expensive distribution systems. Additionally, water supply and conveyance accounts for the majority of energy use by the state’s water infrastructure - imported water is among the most energy intensive (especially in Southern California).  On-site water generation has the potential to not only conserve water also save embedded energy in water.

To better understand the opportunity for on-site water generation, the Alliance has released a new study entitled On-Site Water Generation: An Analysis of Options and Case Study The study documents the characteristics of on-site water generation systems and also conducts a detailed cost benefit analysis for a representative case study on the City of Huntington Beach, California.Specifically the studyexplores:

  • Types of technologies available to provide on-site water generation
  • Costs and benefit analysis of the on-site water generation options
  • Primary market barriers to technology adoption.

Key study conclusions include:

  • On-site recycled water systems can supply water at lower energy intensity than imported water and desalination in Southern California. 
  • On-site Recycled water systems are most cost-effective in larger capacities. 
  • On-site water recycling relies on a consistent supply of wastewater and thus can provide more water than rainwater harvesting in Southern California

The study also discusses a number of recommendations for California policy-makers to stimulate the production and use of on-site water generation. Download  the full report for more details.