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New San Diego Building May Be Largest U.S. Carbon-Neutral Commercial Office Building

By Caroline Massie

San Diego is now to home to what is believed to be the largest net-zero energy commercial office building in the country, according to the building's tenant, LPL Financial, and developer, Hines. Tower II at La Jolla Commons, the new headquarters of the large independent financial broker-dealer group, is a 13-story, 415,000-square-foot office tower that utilizes three fuel cells to convert biogas into an estimated 4.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. The building, however, requires less than 2.9 million to operate. As a result, unused power will feed into the area’s power grid, with enough electricity to power 750 homes.

To monitor and manage the tower’s reduced energy consumption, energy meters are located throughout the building and all surplus power is pushed back to the grid through San Diego Gas & Electric. The building, which houses 1,600 employees, includes heating and air control disks in an under-floor air distribution system, allowing for the customization of individual workspaces and reducing the overall energy demand.

Tower II at La Jolla Commons, which cost about $60 million to construct,is outfitted with 5,790 LED lights that feature automatic dimming capabilities based on the degree of available natural light, along with sensors that turn lights off by detecting unoccupied spaces.

The building isn't just energy efficient. Approximately 88 percent of the tower’s water consumption—about 2.5 million gallons annually—is recycled and used for irrigation and other needs. The landscape design is expected to require less water than more lush green spaces.

The structure is the second building to join La Jolla Commons. The first tower, designed by L.A.-based AECOM and completed in 2008, earned LEED Gold certification and is an Energy Star-labeled property. AECOM also served as the design architect for the Tower II, along with San Francisco-based Gensler, which designed the interior, and Houston-based Hines as the developer.

Source: Caroline Massie, ECOBUILDING Pulse. April 7, 2014.

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