Energy Resource Center Case Study

Find out why the Energy Resource Center is a model for energy-efficient design and construction.

The Energy Resource Center (ERC) is a showcase facility where business customers can learn about energy efficiency and environmentally sensitive building technology, so they can make informed choices about energy consumption and conservation. The innovation in the building’s design and construction when it was built in 1995 earned it California’s first “Energy Star Building” award, and more recently, LEED v4 EB: O&M Platinum certification.

Themed areas in the ERC include Air Quality, Combustion, Climate Control, Residential New Construction, Food Service Equipment Ventilation and Baking Lab, ISO 17025 Certified Food Service Testing Lab, Water Heating Demonstration Lab. Natural Daylighting, Natural Gas Vehicles and Energy Smart Landscaping. Customers can receive technical assistance, environmental and conservation information, resources and guidance.

For example, the full commercial boasts more than 150 pieces of energy-efficient appliances. Chefs, restaurant owners and facility mangers can test their recipes and compare new, energy-efficient food service equipment in the state-of-the-art facility.

Our Green Building Approach

We seek to preserve and minimize the use of natural resources by decreasing consumption, reusing materials, recycling, incorporating products that contain post-consumer recycled content and sustainable sourcing that does not threaten fragile ecosystems.

"Reducing energy used on site, saves energy at the source."

It's typically cheaper to invest in energy-saving strategies than to invest in new power production. Saving one unit of electricity avoids burning three units of energy at the power plant. In addition to costs, saving energy reduces resource consumption and pollution.

This recycled building project cost much less to build than a typically constructed, similar type building, thanks to the use of recycled and repurposed building materials. When these costs are amortized over the building life cycle, and energy savings calculated, the cost benefits are even greater.

The ERC is designed to optimize energy efficiency while maintaining a high-quality, high-performance space. This is achieved through careful integration of lighting, heating, cooling, insulation and energy management control systems.

  • It uses 40.7 percent less water than other commercial buildings its size (outdoors)
  • And uses 38.3 percent less water (indoors)
  • Requires 51.39 percent less energy than the national average of a building its size
  • Sixty percent of our employees use energy-efficient transportation including bikes, low-emission vehicles and carpooling.

All About Energy Efficiency

The 44,572-square-foot building, located in Downey, was designed by recycling an existing 1957 SoCalGas® building complex. Only about one-third was demolished – replaced with a 12,572-sq.ft., two-story addition. Most of the demolition materials went back into the new construction (550 tons demolished and sorted, 350 tons reused). Eighty percent of project’s materials are recycled, reclaimed, contain recycled content, or are from renewable resources.

Innovation in Heating, Cooling and Lighting

The largest percentage of energy use in buildings is related to heating/cooling and lighting. Design techniques and building technologies of the ERC work together to minimize heating and cooling requirements, maximize the use of natural daylight and maintain healthful indoor air quality.

"We’ve reduced the building's cooling energy needs by 54 percent."
  • While most buildings use only one type of heating and cooling system, the ERC uses both natural gas and electric systems to maximize efficiency and lower energy costs.
  • An automated energy management system monitors all major building systems and adjusts them for optimum efficiency.
  • We’ve reduced the building's cooling energy needs by 54 percent.
  • On full sunny days, natural lighting reduces electrical lighting needs by as much as 80 percent.
  • Three skylights in the main ERC first-floor corridor incorporate a sun-tracking system that uses mirrors, reflective light ducts and efficient diffusing lenses to create a technologically advanced interior lighting system for daytime use.
  • Lighting requirements were reduced by 40 percent through daylighting strategies (skylights and translucent window walls), energy efficient light bulbs, and monitor and sensing devices.

More Energy-Saving Features in the ERC

  • We replaced the water-thirsty landscaping with California native plants, drip irrigation and bio swales to divert rain water back into the soil.
  • Insulation, caulkings and sealers, roof coatings and low-e windows reduced heating and air conditioning needs.
  • One third of the ERC’s roof membrane was mechanically fastened, eliminating the need for heat equipment, hot asphalt, and toxic adhesives and sealants. A highly reflective white roof coating reduces heat absorption between 10 and 40 percent, which dramatically decreases air conditioning requirements. This low-maintenance roof is highly resistant to extreme temperatures, puncture and oxidation.

Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Hundreds of tons of construction and demolition materials were recycled and reused, including concrete, roofing materials, asphalt, metal, ceiling tiles, wood flooring, electrical equipment and mechanical systems. Here are a few creative examples:

  • Weapons confiscated by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department were melted, and a portion of the steel was used to manufacture rebar for the structural concrete.
  • A steel stairway and cable tray assemblies were recovered from a Warner Bros. film set and installed in the ERC.
  • Douglas fir beams and posts from a former Banana Republic warehouse in San Francisco (built in the 1880s and condemned after the Loma Prieta earthquake) now make up the beautiful ERC lobby floor (and installed with nontoxic adhesives).
"Stoneware flooring tiles contain about 70 post-consumer waste glass"
  • Building designers avoided selecting materials that "off-gas" harmful chemicals. Low and nontoxic products used include paint, caulking, floor sealers, carpet adhesives and carpet tiles. In addition, wherever practical, natural finishes were used.
  • Carpet tiles are made with face fibers containing 35 percent recycled, post-individual nylon. We have an unprecedented partnership with Interface, a major carpet tile manufacturer, for “complete loop recycling.” When the carpet becomes stained and worn, they will ship it to a recycling center to be made into new carpeting or used as an energy source, a preferable alternative to landfilling. Carpet backing can be reused as a filler for more backing.
  • Stoneware flooring tiles contain about 70 post-consumer waste glass – some mined from landfills.
  • Sisal, a durable fabric made from recycled tropical plants, is used as wall coverings.
  • Surplus scraps of yellow plastic pipe we use to transport natural gas were chopped up and added to the concrete mix in the ERC's entry walkway to provide a unique design and color.
  • Recycled two-liter plastic soda bottles make up nearly half of the fibers for the fabric on our office partition panels.
  • A wall veneer made entirely of surplus aircraft aluminum, previously intended for the manufacturing of military aircraft, makes a strong statement in the ERC's lobby.
  • The lobby reception countertop is made entirely of recycled tempered glass (reclaimed from commercial building windows). The glass was rendered into highly decorative, opaque, pale blue-green glass panels with a curved shape that mirrors the SoCalGas logo flame.