Integral Wins Prestigious Engineering Award

The American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers has awarded Integral Group the first place Technology Award in the new commercial buildings category for the Packard Foundation Net Zero Energy Headquarters in Los Altos, Calif.

The project also received the Award of Engineering Excellence, which ASHRAE gives only rarely for exceptional merit to the most outstanding project receiving a first-place Technology Award. It has only been awarded three other times, in 2000, 2005 and 2012. Peter Rumsey, consultant and former Chief Technology Officer of Integral Group and Eric Soladay, Managing Principal at Integral Group, led the project.

The 49,000-square-foot Packard Foundation Headquarters is the largest certified net zero energy office in the nation. The net zero certification, the ASHRAE award and even the contract all required a year’s worth of energy data, proving the exceptional performance of the buildings.

“What this award really shows is that we made the building work,” said Soladay, who served as the engineer of record and manager of the project. “A vision without proper implementation is just a nice idea. For Packard we did both.”

Before the building was occupied, the Integral team looked at the operating trends for a couple months, “but it’s not until people are in there fussing with things, opening windows and turning on lights that you get that real time feedback,” said Soladay.  The team implemented a long-term post-occupancy building monitoring and system optimization process they call Performance Engineering.

“By looking at measurements week-by-week and day-by-day we’re able to adjust the system and have the contractor make adjustments to reach this high level of performance,” Soladay explained.

During the monitoring and commissioning process, Integral was able to train the building operator, Juan Uribe. Now he looks at data trends over time and has made ongoing improvements based on what he sees.

After the contract period of a year was over, Packard extended the contract for continued commissioning on an as needed basis. “We aren’t there to fix problems; It’s all about optimization,” explained Soladay. “The building is now net positive—producing more energy than it consumes.”

The project’s success and its current high-level of performance resulted from the extensive commissioning, from having an engaged building operator and, most of all, from collaboration and teamwork.  “Peter and I agree, this is the best collaboration we’ve ever done together,” Soladay said of his work on the project with Rumsey.

“Peter led the design and had the vision for it. As project manager and engineer of record, I made it work,” Soladay said. A strong collaboration with other members of the team, such as EHDD architects and the mechanical contractor, Western Allied, added to the project’s success.

“We really worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Western Allied in order to reach the net zero target and have it perform,” Soladay said. “They were amazing.”

By luck—or lack thereof—a lot of equipment failed early in this project. “Western Allied was there every step of the way,” Soladay said. “Their quick attention to problems made sure the Foundation never missed a day of work because of equipment failures.  Angie Simon ran the project for Western Allied and later became the president of the company. We couldn’t have done it without her,” Soladay said.

True to its mission of supporting conservation, science and environmental causes, the Foundation headquarters demonstrates the full potential of the capabilities of integrated design, innovation in technology and replicable design. In its first year of occupancy the Packard Foundation has already served over a thousand visitors in sustainable building education and performed better than expected, producing more energy than it has consumed.