By Dr. Mustapha Beydoun, HARC
At HARC, we are fortunate in that we don’t just have the opportunity to work on research projects that help to make our world more sustainable, we undertake this work out of a wonderful building that showcases green building design, technology, and operations in action.
Our HARC Headquarters building continues to perform very well and has exceeded our design and modeled performance targets. The building’s energy use intensity (EUI), a measure of a building’s annual energy use relative to its size (square footage), has dropped from a modeled 22 kBTUs/sqft/yr to just under 16 kBTUs/sqft/yr. The building’s Energy Star certification score has thus accordingly increased to 99 (out of 100). This means that our building is more efficient than 99% of all office buildings in the United States.
Our HQ building is now officially a net-zero energy building, meaning that we have produced more renewable (solar) power on-site than the power consumed by the building over the past 12 months. According to the New Building Institute, we are now one of only 48 zero energy office buildings in the United States, and the first in Texas (see red circle on the map below).
Achieving net zero energy would not have been possible without the generous support of the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. Their $136,000 grant to HARC in 2018 allowed us to add an additional 77kW of solar capacity to the roof, significantly upgrading our on-site photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant and thereby transforming our net zero aspirations from a design possibility to an operational reality.
HARC recently initiated our associated net-zero energy certification for the building. We will be perusing Zero Energy certification from the International Living Future Institute and LEED Zero certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC is the entity that previously certified our building as LEED Platinum.
Because of HARC’s on-site solar array and efficient building design and operations, we have not paid an electric bill since March. This not because we do not pay our bills at HARC, we certainly do, but rather because we have received credit payments from Entergy (our electricity provider) every month for all the extra power that we have put back into the grid. This was the case even during our exceptionally hot and humid summer months and wet and overcast fall.
In the coming year, the building will be enhanced with onsite energy storage that will allow us to more efficiently utilize our on-site renewable power generation at night and during times of inclement weather. It will also dramatically increase HARC’s resilience by allowing us to island and decouple from the electric grid during power outages and demonstrate the resilience benefits of onsite renewable power generation and energy storage.
The HARC HQ building is a showcase, a living lab, and an educational and demonstration site. It’s also our green home where we get to work with wonderful people on impactful projects in the Houston region, Texas, and beyond.