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Building a model of efficiency

Energy: Newhall County Water District’s new offices boast the latest and greenest technology

Posted: September 26, 2010 10:30 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Newhall County Water District General Manager Steve Cole welcomes visitors to the ribbon cutting event of the district’s new facility in Newhall on Thursday.

 

A doorway to the future was revealed when the new Newhall County Water District offices officially opened.
From top to bottom, ceiling to floor, both inside and out, the brand new, ultra-efficient office building saves significant amounts of energy, water and money.

Santa Clarita homeowners looking for ways to save money — even if they care nothing about saving energy or water — could learn how to do it simply by visiting the new digs on Pine Street in Newhall.

“We’re going for the gold-level LEED goal award,” said the district’s Accounting Manager Rochelle Patterson, who took The Signal on a guided tour of energy efficiency at work during Thursday’s grand opening celebration.

“LEED” stands for Leading Energy Efficiency Design, and if those judging LEED award contenders at the state level are as impressed as more than 50 visitors to the district were at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the district is a shoo-in for the top gold prize.

“We simply had outgrown our last facility,” said district General Manager Steve Cole. “And, so, out of that need we decided to do something that could become a model for the community.”

Reducing water needs

From the very second visitors drive onto the Pine Street lot, they’re greeted with innovative, energy-saving alternatives.
The building’s decorative landscaping uses only drought-tolerant plants, reducing water needs.

The parking lot itself is paved with pervious concrete. It looks like giant Rice Krispies squares made of concrete, allowing rain water to pass through and recharge the groundwater.

This reduces the amount of rainwater running off site and reduces the load on storm drains.

Exterior and interior windows throughout the 14,500-square-foot building fill it with natural light.

What look like ceiling lights are set inside bright, circular clusters — imagine a porthole the size of a car wheel — which appear to have a magnesium-like intensity.

But they’re not lights; they’re solar tubes that refract, mirror and channel natural light into each room.

The sun power doesn’t stop there.

Photovoltaic system
On the roof, 260 solar panels pay for a third of the district’s energy costs, Patterson said.

The solar panel design, called a photovoltaic system, cost $195,705, but the district ended up paying only $128,200 of it.

The balance — $67,505 — was paid by Southern California Edison in the form of an energy rebate.

Room lighting is turned on and off with motion detectors.

Air conditioning is computer controlled and works by controlling the temperature in 19 rooms and then redirecting heat room-to-room as the need presents itself.

Landscape watering is controlled automatically through data exchanged by satellite.

Walls reduce heat loss since they’re built using insulated concrete forms. Concrete reinforced with steel rebar is wrapped with six inches of insulating Styrofoam. Think of a building-sized, eight-inch-thick Styrofoam coffee cup filled with concrete and steel.

Common sense
“We use common-sense things too,” Cole said. “Like having windows you can actually open.”

District staff moved into the new building in April after 40 years in the old one.

The water purveyor — one of four in the Santa Clarita Valley — has been serving local residents since 1913, expanding to serve 33,000 customers now from fewer than 3,500 in the 1950s.

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