Environmentally friendly construction saves resources | SierraSun.com

Environmentally friendly construction saves resources

When the sun is shinging outside, the interior of Randa Logistics is brightly lit using only natural light. Photo cells "havest" and enhance the light coming through the skylights. The warehouse uses LED lighting when needed, but they are turned off in this photo.
Courtesy SJS Commercial Real Estate |

Step foot in the Randa Logistics building in the Gateway Commerce Center in Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and it appears typical of the giant distribution centers in the area: long aisles of tall shelving with people scurrying about in a well-lit, air-conditioned building.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Despite the comfortable air temperature, it’s not actually air conditioned; and most of the lighting is natural sunlight.

SJS Commercial Real Estate developed the 525,000-square-foot Randa building with energy efficiency and sustainability built into the plans from the beginning.

“We have a lot of sunshine here,” said Marc Siegel, president of SJS. “Let’s put it to work.”

The building is LEED Gold Certified, which means, U.S. Green Building Council (USGC) audited the project from design through completion for the use of techniques and systems that reduce energy use, waste, and pollutants, and provides a better environment for those using the building.

“I’m proud of the (LEED certification) but more proud of the energy savings,” Siegel said.

It costs more to implement, but it’s worth it, he said.

“There’s significantly more effort and cost involved in this type of construction, but it’s who I am and who we are; it’s our philosophy,” he said.

“We’re business people and have to be financially sound, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Siegel, who hails from Chicago and has been a developer for 27 years, moved to the Reno area four years ago for this project. At first, he faced a lot of questions about his energy-efficient plans, but once others caught the vision, they were excited to take on the challenges.

“There’s a lot of great potential and energy in Reno and a lot of people to work with who share our vision for energy savings and sustainable development,” said Siegel, who now calls Nevada home.

“Storey County has been phenomenal to work with,” he said. “They’re very happy to include energy features.”

The Randa building is not the only energy-efficient construction at the TRI Center.

Schluter Systems, a supplier of tile installation products, uses geothermal technology for heating and cooling its 95,000-square-foot distribution building, as well as passive solar technology. The company also incorporates recycled material into the manufacturing of its products and reuses and recycles its scraps. It’s also LEED Gold Certified.

The Schluter developers “are the ones who really set the standard here,” Siegel said.

Sustainable construction is catching on. Many other large buildings in the area are LEED certified, including University of Nevada, Reno, Peavine Hall (LEED Gold); the Patagonia Distribution Center (Gold); Zulily Distribution Center (Silver); and Urban Outfitters in Stead (Silver), to name a few.

Many other projects are going through the certification process and an increasing number of contractors, engineers, and architects include green-building features in their projects.

Siegal explained that the Randa building has three main features that set it apart from other large buildings: light harvesting, a fully insulated building envelope, and a mechanical system for airflow

Skylights take up 2 percent of the ceiling, which is an industry standard, but they include photo cells that capture and enhance the natural light.

The building includes banks of LED lights to supplement the natural light when needed. When sunlight provides all the light needed, the LED lights automatically shut off, except for a minimum number required to stay lit to meet safety regulation. Motion sensors also control LED lighting so, sunlight or no sunlight, they are only on when required.

“When I walk in and see the lights off, I’m very happy and proud,” Siegel said.

The lighting feature alone saves about $125,000 a year in energy bills, according to an independent audit by NV Energy, he said. The savings is passed on to the tenant.

To keep summer heat and winter cold outside, and the inside comfortable, rigid insulation fully covers the envelope of the building, including above the roof deck, Siegel explained.

Other industrial buildings use similar insulation, but there are a lot of leaks, he said.

The well-insulated envelope allows the third feature, the mechanical system for airflow, to do its job more efficiently.

The system recirculates already heated air or naturally cooled air, and circulates it throughout the building leaving little temperature variation. The worker getting boxes from the top of the shelves near the 32-foot ceiling will experience little difference in temperature from the person walking down the aisles.

“It provides incredible comfort for a building of this size,” Siegel said.

The building has other environmental features such as xeriscaping, detention ponds and soil composition to encourage stormwater to soak into the soil before running off carrying pollutants into stream zones.

With the Randa building proving its systems make both business sense and are environmentally friendly, Siegel said his company is planning three new projects from 150,000 square feet to 700,000 square feet in the TRI Center. They are being planned as build-to-suit projects that will break ground once a tenant is identified.

And all three will include the energy-saving features of the Randa building.

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