October is Energy Action Month. While we take action every day to drive waste out the built environment, Energy Action Month offers an ideal opportunity to reaffirm our commitment. With each action we take, we’re one step closer to our vision of together, building a thriving planet.
McKinstry balances current action with remaining resolute on driving future innovation. Spokane embodies that balance, embracing innovation while honoring its historic buildings and rich past. Every trip to Washington’s Inland Empire inspires me. Here’s why.
The power of net positive energy
Net-zero energy buildings and net-positive eco districts are inevitable. State and local governments are now mandating solar photovoltaics as building code, and behind-the-meter energy storage is emerging in both commercial and residential buildings. Technology costs for these renewable energy systems are dropping at an astounding rate. By 2030, we will see net-zero energy system design become the norm in every new construction project with clusters of buildings working together to produce more energy than they consume.
Spokane will soon be home to the future of the built environment. McKinstry and our partners broke ground on the Catalyst Building in August, starting construction on what will become the world’s largest verified net-zero energy building. The five-story, 159,000 square foot building will demonstrate what’s possible in our built environment – and what we’re capable of delivering here at McKinstry.
Catalyst started with a vision to build the smartest five city blocks on the planet situated in the heart of Spokane’s University District. When complete, Catalyst will be joined by a central hub that will supply every new building constructed in that neighborhood with zero-carbon energy. It will create a shared energy economy to enable a net-positive district where buildings work together as a whole instead of acting as independent energy islands.
Adaptive reuse for existing buildings
Catalyst is a beautiful vision and a beautiful project, but we cannot build a thriving planet by focusing solely on new construction. Our existing built environment is riddled with waste. Think about this: there are more than five million commercial buildings in the United States covering 82 billion square feet of floor space. We know:
- Those buildings consume 49 percent of all U.S. energy produced.
- We believe that, because buildings are inefficient, half of that energy consumption is wasted, creating avoidable carbon emissions. That is unacceptable to us. The overall demand on our limited resources is too great to sustain. Adaptive reuse of existing buildings is critical to align our built environment with the natural environment. That means deep energy retrofits, but it doesn’t mean forgetting our past and our historic sites.Those buildings emit 47 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions.
The renovated SIERR Building features ground-source heat pumps, radiant panels and a rainwater harvesting system. Building envelope improvements were also performed to increase energy savings. In the facility’s data center, waste heat is recovered from the servers and distributed during cold seasons to reduce overall heating requirements. The facility is one of a handful of LEED® Gold-certified and high performing historic buildings in the United States. It is referenced as a model project for rehabilitating historic buildings.
Intelligence driving autonomous operations
Artificial intelligence and data analytics are driving the built environment ever closer to autonomous operations, and Spokane is once again in the forefront. Machine learning and the ubiquitous nature of IoT sensors are opening new doors in creating a grid optimal built environment.
In Spokane, McKinstry and Avista are working with Washington State University (WSU) on an integrated smart grid demonstration using VOLTTRON technology developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The project will connect multiple buildings, solar arrays and batteries. Buildings will be able to communicate back and forth with the grid to manage energy supply and demand. The result will create a smarter, more transactive grid for WSU, Avista and Spokane as a whole.
Take the energy action pledge!
I am personally inspired by Spokane and the work McKinstry employees perform every day alongside our clients and partners. We are proud of our accomplishments and our ability to drive the future of the built environment.
Our work is not yet done. To continue our impact requires action from every building owner, operator and occupant. I invite you to join us as we celebrate Energy Action Month by pledging to take action.
If you think you can’t affect the future of our built environment, you’re wrong. It takes all of us, every day, taking actions small and big. Together, we CAN build a thriving planet.