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Let the LA Electrical Training Institute Show You How to Get Your Project to NZE

The LA Net Zero Plus Electrical Training Institute (NZE ETI) is undergoing a sustainable retrofit that will position the facility as the largest Net Zero Plus (NEP) commercial retrofit building in Southern California and create a 21st century training, demonstration and testing center for intelligent building and sustainable energy technologies. Bisnow caught up with training director Brett Moss to chat about the institute's 4,000 students and the future of green building

Brett tells us the project in City of Commerce will be used to educate building owners, architects, developers, contractors and other commercial real estate pros on the latest sustainable building technologies, as well as train electricians to install them. He says the center will impart the knowledge needed to make structures built in the '50s and '60s high-performance buildings. The initiative is a collaboration of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11 and the LA Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (LA/NECA), and will also help industry pros prepare for California’s stricter Title 24 mandates.

The latest changes require all new residential structures to be net zero energy (NZE) by 2020 and new commercial buildings by 2030. The state is also requiring NZE retrofits for commercial buildings undergoing substantial renovations or tenant improvements and for repurposing projects, with a goal of 50% of existing buildings retrofitted by 2030.

IBEW Local 11 and LA/NECA have established a $300M Clean Energy Fund with ReNewAll, through its finance partner Tritec Americas, to finance new energy solution projects installed by members and contractors.

When completed on Earth Day (April 21) next year, the 142k SF structure, which is being upgraded entirely with American-made products by local union tradesmen, will demonstrate the future of smart energy technologies, including micro-grid system integration, battery energy storage solutions and advanced lighting controls, building management systems and other technologies.

The building, which is targeting Living Building NZE Building Certification by the International Living Future Institute, will be a mix of technologies that real estate professionals and students need to know about, Brett says. Among improvements are strategies to reduce energy use, such as a tighter building envelope; all LED lighting; and sensors and building management systems programmed to adjust indoor comfort and air quality according to external conditions, including electrochromatic windowpanes that can change glass shading from clear to total blackout.

At the conclusion of Phase 1 in April 2016, the building will be an NZE facility and will remain in that capacity for five to seven years. The building's renewable energy system is comprised of a 500 KW photovoltaic (PV) array producing renewable energy that feeds into the on-site micro-grid, which has a 70 KW critical load capacity. The micro-grid is a state-of-the-art, custom system utilizing smart tech capable of supporting the entire facility’s energy needs.

The system’s battery energy storage component is a model for energy independence, providing buildings the ability to store energy for emergency usage during power outages and natural disasters, as well as peak hours when energy demand is at is highest. It also allows the owner to sell electricity back onto the grid. “We’ve basically created a living lab,” Brett says. “We can replicate what we have here anywhere, typically scaling it up to any building size.”

An eight-screen dashboard system in the building’s main lobby allows monitoring of all systems simultaneously. It also performs energy audits and collects tons of data. Brett says the dashboard tells them how much energy is being used at any time, on any day; where it’s being used; how much energy is being sent to the utilities; and the building’s energy status in real time. “The building is so smart, it’s almost scary,” he says, pointing out the system can even go online and get the weather forecast to anticipate energy demand and make decisions based on weather conditions, like whether to buy energy from Edison rather than discharge the batteries if stormy weather threatens an outage.

The NZP ETI is also working with researchers at UC Davis and Berkeley campuses to create direct-current vehicle charging stations. Brett explains there is a loss of energy when converting power to AC current, but with direct there is no need for conversion, so less energy is used. He says NZP ETI will offer building tours and educational programs customized to the needs of different groups, from architects and building contractors to owners and developers to building inspectors. These events, which can accommodate groups of up to 180, can be scheduled on the NZP ETI website. A documentary on the NZE retrofit process is in production and will air on PBS during Earth Week 2016.