Building's green makeover wins high score UC-wide
Behind-the-scenes changes are making a big difference in UCLA's Public Affairs Building. By finding out when everyone leaves the building for the day, Facilities Management has calculated down to the minute when they can turn off air-conditioning or heating, saving at least 40 hours of electricity every week.
It's all part of the Public Affairs Building's green makeover. The U.S. Green Building Council awards certification to buildings across the country for meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, and Public Affairs received the highest LEED score for greening an existing building on any of the UC's campuses. Altogether, changes to the building mean it now uses about 20 percent less energy, said Paul Butapetch, an engineer with Facilities Managements' Energy Services who shepherded the structure through its LEED accreditation.
The environmental redesign of UCLA's Public Affairs Building earned it a LEED-Silver certification from the US Green Building Council, and the highest LEED score UC-wide for a pre-existing building. Photo by Stephanie Diani. Logo by USGBC.
"It was kind of nerve-wracking to submit the application and wait to get approved," Butapetch said of the four-month process.
Although the Public Affairs Building is only the second building on campus to gain LEED certification – La Kretz Hall, home of the Institute of the Environment, is a LEED-certified new building – 18 other UCLA buildings are in planning or construction phases to gain their own certification. These include new buildings, like the police station, as well as existing ones, like Pauley Pavilion. In fact, the UCLA Climate Action Plan
and UC policy both require all new buildings and major renovations to strive for at least a LEED-Silver rating, a step up from the basic certification, which both the Public Affairs Building and La Kretz Hall had already achieved.
One of the biggest changes to the Public Affairs Building is a new heating, cooling and ventilation system, said Robert Striff, a senior energy engineer in Facilities Management's Energy Services who helped guide the process.
"This is a 50-year-old building," Striff said. "It didn't have an efficient heating and cooling system, so when we converted it to the most efficient system possible, given the building's size constraints, that made a big difference."
Everything about the Public Affairs Building is now metered – the water for plumbing, the chilled water for cooling, the electricity for lights, the steam for heating – so it's easy to measure progress, Striff added.
"If you can see how much energy you're using, you're more likely to try to control it and reduce it," he explained.
Facilities Management also added features like occupancy sensors and ultra-low-flush urinals. A pre-existing white roof, which reflects heat from sunlight and lessens the need for air-conditioning, also helped the Public Affairs Building snag a good LEED score.
Green practices that were already in place also helped, Butapetch said.
"There were a lot of things the occupants were already doing," he said. People were already buying recycled paper and carpooling to work, and the building's electricity has long been provided by UCLA's ultra-efficient cogeneration power plant. And even that plant gets 7 percent of its power from a green source: landfill gas that Los Angeles used to burn now creates electricity for UCLA.
The Public Affairs Building may have a white roof, but it's green all over.