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Cold (storage) goes gold
A California cold-storage facility earns LEED Gold

By Charles Redell | October 12, 2009 at 3:00 a.m. | Sustainable Industries

A new cold-storage facility relies partly on PV power. As technology improves, new markets for green building are opening up. In California, a new cold-storage facility recently received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The almost 135,000-square-foot facility in Otay Mesa stores pre-packaged food at -10 degrees Fahrenheit and is 62 percent more energy efficient than a baseline cold-storage facility, says its builder, Hamann Construction. Along with LED lighting and motion sensors, halving the width of aisles and using loaders that recharge their batteries with energy generated by the weight of the product being lowered from the racks make a big difference, says Gregg Hamann, the company’s owner.

The most innovative energy-efficiency measure is the $16 million building’s height. At 60 feet, it is about two times the height of a normal cold-storage facility, Hamann says. Because the amount of refrigeration needed for a cold-storage facility is directly proportional to its surface area, increasing its height this much doubles storage area, but increases surface area by only 14 percent, he says.

“The height configuration has got to spread” through the industry, he says. “It saves millions of dollars.”

Most of the facility’s energy is expected come from a 1 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system and 10 1 kilowatt wind turbines on its roof, which would supply 73 percent of the building’s energy needs. The PV system is co-owned by Hamann and San Diego Gas & Electric. The unique arrangement made it possible to double the size of the PV array and bring the cost of power down to a point where the system will pay for itself in about eight years, according to Hamann.

The builder says he is committed to green building in the future and says he believes it is the obvious direction of the market. Of four buildings he is currently working on, three are aiming for LEED certification.

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