Integrating Sustainability at Cambria Office Building

July 1, 2003
Maximizing Building Performance Through Environmental Strategies - PROJECTS

“Solving the environmental issues of the 21st century will require new approaches, not only in the measurement of progress, but also in the means of achieving it. We must improve the way we do business together by promoting teamwork instead of accepting confrontation.” Lofty ideals? Not for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which drafted this statement for its Final Report of the Pennsylvania 21st Century Environment Commission.

Pennsylvania, in fact, has been one of the most active states in promoting green design – and it’s not just talk. In October 1996, Secretary James Seif of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with Heinz Endowments, challenged his staff and 909 Partners landlord to design and construct a Green Technology Model Project to house the agency’s Southcentral Regional Office and set the standard for future Commonwealth facilities. (By extension,  the Governor’s Green Government Council was formed in 1998 to help the Pennsylvania state government adopt environmentally friendly operation policies and practices.)

Project No. 2 – the 34,500-square-foot Cambria Office Building in Ebensburg, PA – followed with similar goals but with a more knowledgeable staff that was able to take lessons learned in the first project and refine them at Cambria. Of particular note: The project was designed utilizing a more focused systems integration process in order to minimize redundancies between systems, maximize their efficiency, and, thereby, downsize or entirely eliminate systems components. Selection criteria for systems and materials were based on life-cycle analysis, including comparisons produced on BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability from the National Institute of Standards and Technology []) and computer-generated energy simulation models using PowerDOE software.

“In Cambria, we were able to basically retain the same design team,” explains Jim Toothaker, former bureau director of the Department of Environmental Protection, Harrisburg, PA, and now practicing as an independent consultant in high-performance green building services in Etters, PA. “As a result, we had performance standards, which established an energy budget for the building, as well as performance criteria: no more than one ton per 653 square feet for the HVAC; relative humidity not to exceed 45 percent during the cooling season and no lower than 25 percent during the heating season; R-30 glazing and outside walls; an R-33 roof, etc.”

Since the building’s opening in November 2000, energy savings have been measurable – and significant. The team’s holistic approach to “the big picture” means energy costs come in at around 81 cents/square foot annually, “compared to the average building in the United States, which costs $1.71/square foot annually for energy,” notes Toothaker.

More significant, according to Toothaker, is the building’s level of comfort. “What really makes high-performance green buildings [successful] are baseline kinds of things – indoor air quality and daylighting, for instance,  and people have every right to expect them. A building that’s well-designed and properly put together – that focuses on the really important people-oriented issues – is going to be an extraordinarily comfortable building. Isn’t that what we’re really after?”

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