Civic Center saves thousands through energy efficiency

Despite protests that the city of Newport Beach spent too much on its newly erected Civic Center, city officials are saying some respite may be in sight, especially in terms of energy savings.

The City Council recently received a one-time check for $261,150 from Southern California Edison for its completion of the Savings by Design program, California's new-construction energy efficiency program, and also expects to save more than $78,000 a year in savings on energy bills.

"For relatively little costs, you can put in the savings if you really think about the design," said Steve Badum, Newport Beach assistant city manager. "It's not only a trend. It's the right thing to do."

The savings, however, came at a cost: $1.1 million was spent to make the building more efficient and nearly $15.7 million in architectural design fees is anticipated.

The City Council was expected to vote Tuesday night on additional construction costs that would boost the Civic Center's total to about $140 million.

The city hired architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and worked with Edison early on in the design process to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, silver certification level.

"The target was silver but we're looking like we're going to make the gold level," Badum said.

The Newport Beach Environmental Nature Center is platinum certified, the highest level under LEEDl.

"All of our new buildings are going to go for green building standards," Badum said. "[Green building] has become the standard for the city."

The Civic Center boasts advanced lighting and climate control systems, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and one of the largest storm water containment systems in the city.

The center also has a raised-floor system for heating, ventilation and air conditioning that is relatively uncommon in the state, according to Cameron McPherson, technical specialist with Savings by Design.

"The system is not done that often in California because there is more cost to it and it takes more integrated design effort," he said. "Customers don't want to spend the extra money. There's more cost to it but energy savings are considerable."

Last year, the city spent about $250,000 in energy costs for the old City Hall, and it expects to spend $171,784 a year in energy costs for the new building, Badum said.

Steven Chaitow, principal of the architectural firm hired by the city, said new technologies and increased requests for building sustainability are making the design of projects more complex but also more environmentally responsible.

"We are trending toward more sustainability but it's more than a trend. It's an evolving social realization," he said.

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