Georgia Power was looking for a new building after deciding to consolidate its Coastal Regional operations, and wanted one that would stand as a corporate icon for green building and sustainability. The company found 28 Abercorn Street in Savannah, Ga., a two-story, 11,400-square-foot concrete structure built in 1920 as a car showroom, and purchased the building for $2.6 million in November 2009. In 2011, after two years of renovation, Georgia Power achieved their goal when their new facility became the first in Savannah to earn LEED® Platinum certification. We sat down with one of the team’s architects, Patrick Shay, senior principal of Savannah, Ga.-based Gunn Meyerhoff Shay Architects, to discuss how our VRF zoning systems helped Georgia Power bring their vision to life.
ME: Describe some challenges that you’ve faced that Mitsubishi Electric products helped solve.
Patrick Shay (PS): Humidity control is an issue in our climate. If we use Mitsubishi Electric for the VRF system, we can put in a relatively small outside air system and use that to force tempered outside air into corridors and such. That unit can be controlled by occupancy and CO2 sensors to not pull too much air in, so that you don’t pay a premium to treat more air than needed. The units that are cranking all the time are only dealing with temperature.
Because we’re along the Southeast coast, we are encountering more and more violent storms. That means more power outages. Mitsubishi Electric technology is very dependable, and when it comes time to conserve energy, you can turn these systems back on sooner. Say the whole building gets shut off because the grid goes down. Some of the buildings we do are life-safety critical: You have to ration power. An energy-efficient system allows us to put those [HVAC] components on the transfer switch from grid power for people trying to recover the building. It’s really bad if the IT department can’t come back because the air conditioning can’t come back up. So, one of the non-obvious benefits of an energy-efficient system is that it’s easier to recover from power outages.
Have you gotten any feedback from clients on the Mitsubishi Electric systems that you’ve installed?
PS: The Georgia Power project that got LEED platinum happened because the area CEO and the people in the offices had the courage to let us do everything. Now, they repeatedly say they absolutely love being in their offices. That becomes part of their overall job satisfaction. People have been conditioned to think that if you go LEED on a project, you have to give up something. What they get in return is to be much more comfortable. We have never had anyone come back and say they miss all that dusty ductwork.
And from time to time, a CFO calls to say, “Wow, you said the HVAC would be 30 percent more energy-efficient. It’s even better than that.” Those companies can reduce their budgets for heating and cooling.
For more information, read the complete interview in the Fall 2013 issue of our Architect Newsletter and click here for the Georgia Power Case Study. To subscribe to our newsletters, click here.