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Cold storage building is 'Gold' for contractor
By Carlos Rico | October 9, 2009 | San Diego Source, The Daily Transcript
Because the costs of building sustainable projects are higher and returns often are not seen for at least five years, contractors have a hard sell when it comes to environmentally friendly buildings.

Even if it is helping the environment, Gregg Hamann, vice president and chief financial officer of Hamann Construction, said it takes forward thinking to build up the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification, let alone its Gold standard.

However, Hamann’s company was able to connect with Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises, who was convinced building to LEED gold standards was a smart investment. Now, because of this partnership, the first LEED Gold certified cold storage building in San Diego has been constructed.

The $25.5 million, 134,946-square-foot facility that is used to refrigerate and store prepackaged food items at 10 degrees below zero is located along the industrial Otay Mesa corridor.

It has a freezer full of green and sustainable amenities that will help the building with energy efficiency, water conservation and a longer life expectancy.

For instance, there is a more than 1-MW photovoltaic solar panel system on the rooftop that is an equal partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric. The system is slated to produce approximately 883,008 kilowatt-hours per year.

"This will directly provide approximately 36 percent of the building's energy," Hamann said. He noted that "504 kilowatts will go into the building, while the other 504 kilowatts will be owned by SDG&E and provide clean, locally generated power to the community."

Hamann added that Innovative Cold Storage went beyond meeting the LEED Gold standards. Additional features include using some of the plant’s capsulated water to flush the toilets, which will save over 300 gallons of water each month.

"We also installed 10 wind generating panels to capture wind to help provide energy to the building," he said. "This, along with the solar panels, will produce approximately 73 percent of the energy needed to power the building."

Some other energy efficient features include day-lighting and high-efficiency controllable lighting, a cool roof, increased ventilation, carbon dioxide monitors and reflective concrete.

Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises also uses three high-efficiency ammonia screw compressors -- each providing 88.4 tons of refrigeration -- with the refrigeration equipment designed to balance electrical demand between grid power and onsite renewable energy, allowing significant power savings.

The freezer's interior was designed with extremely narrow aisle racking to allow for 33 percent more space. Because of this, Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises uses a special condor forklift that recharges itself when it brings food down from the high ceiling and storage space.

"The owner went far beyond what is expected," Hamann said. "We pushed for LEED Gold and now it is going to be more sustainable." Hamann said it is more challenging to build up to LEED standards.

"You have to train your employees all about the LEED rules and standards," he said, adding that such training isn't cheap. "There (are) also bureaucratic regulations (from city and state) that make it challenging to want to build up LEED Gold.” He added that some regulations include not being able to use some of the water the plant puts out on irrigation.

Hamann does admit that it costs more to build to LEED standards, and the return on investment is what detracts owners from building more sustainably.

"It is about a 10 percent increase in cost to build to LEED Silver standards, and the payback won’t be achieved until five years down the line," he explained.

On this LEED Gold project, Hamann said there was an increase of about 20 to 25 percent (about $6 million) in total cost to go up to the second highest standard the U.S. Green Building Council has.

"To build up the LEED Gold standard you need someone who truly believes in sustainability and is not in it for the bottom line because they are not going to see their return on investment as fast,” said Hamann.

There are also approximately 5,000 square feet of office space at the project, which took 14 months to complete and four years to design.

It was a design-build project with the El Cajon-based contractor handling both the architectural and construction work.

"We had built the original plant for Innovative Cold Storage Enterprises about 10 years ago, so there was a previous partnership there," Hamann said.

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