GreenTown Los Altos

Packard Foundation Headquarters: Leading by Example


Oct 2011


With conservation as one of its chief concerns, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is leading by example. The Foundation it applying its environmental values to its new headquarters building in Los Altos. The building is designed to be a net-zero energy, carbon neutral, LEED (US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum building.

Buildings, on average, use 40% of the energy and 70% of the electricity consumed in the U.S. The typical California office building uses most of its electricity in lighting (41%) cooling (15%), heating (12%) and office equipment and other plug loads (11%). Packard Foundation’s goal is to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2050, in line with the goals set by AB 32, California’s global warming legislation. And with the new building, they’re well on their way!

The new Packard Foundation headquarters is due to open in Spring 2012. The building, located at 343 Second Street in Los Altos, is approximately 45,000 square feet and designed to accomodate more than 120 employees. The design team includes EHDD Architecture (architect), Integral Design group (green mechanical engineering), Tipping Mar (structural engineers), Loisos and Ubbelohde (lighting and daylighting designers), and Sherwood Design Engineers (civil engineers and ecologists).  

Features of the Packard Foundation Headquarters Design include the following:

  1. Recycling of prior building site buildings: Buildings previously on the site were deconstructed and 95 percent of the materials recycled;
  2. Energy savings in lighting, HVAC and plug loads: Significant energy reductions were achieved in areas of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), and plug loads
    • Lighting:  To reduce lighting energy use, designers maximized daylighting. The design features a high window-to-wall ratio, achievable with triple-pane glass, and customized skylights that help create a space that doesn’t feel like the lights need to be turned on. The upgrade to high-efficiency glazing cost approximately $75,000 but offset the use of $300,000 worth of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity.The custom skylights were also designed to minimize summertime heat gain and include etched glass to reduce glare, which is important for office uses. The effort to maximize daylighting combined with high efficiency lighting and occupant controls significantly reduced lighting loads.
    • HVAC:  HVAC system includes a compressor-less chilled beam system which naturally cools water at night and circulates the cold water through pipes during the day, cooling the air without the need for a compressor. The heating system includes an air-to-water source heat pump.
    • Plug loads:  Designers looked at the electricity consumed by small appliances and equipment, from servers to coffee makers. By specifying the most energy-efficient appliances and equipment, the designers anticipate that plug loads will be reduced by nearly 60% relative to a baseline considering equipment that Packard Foundation currently uses.
  3. On-site renewable energy generation: Energy will be generated on-site by solar PV panels with a 300 kW capacity. Over the course of a year, the PV system will supply all needed electricity, making the building net zero energy. In the winter, the building will be a net energy importer, and in the summer, a net exporter. Before daylighting, cooling and plug load savings, the Packard Foundation building would have required more than 750 kW of PV capacity. The avoided PV saved Packard Foundation $4 million.
  4. Rainwater harvesting and greywater system: Packard Foundation had a 50% water use reduction goal. Rainwater and greywater (used water from sinks and showers) will be harvested in two 25,000 gallon cisterns and used for toilet flushing and watering plants.
  5. Stormwater management: Parts of the public street adjacent to the Packard Foundation building was designed to include rain gardens that will treat stormwater runoff and four surface parking lots will be retrofitted with vegetated swales and infiltration basins for the same purpose.
  6. Parking management: Packard Foundation headquarters will provide 67 parking spaces instead of the city-required 151 for a building of comparable size. Employees will have access and incentives to take alternative modes of transportation, including car-sharing and subsidized transit passes.

Part of Packard Foundation’s mission is “conserving and restoring the earth’s natural systems.” And they’re walking the walk. The building is designed to be replicable – a model for other local commercial buildings to emulate. We’re proud that Packard Foundation is in Los Altos and that they will offer our community this incredible building to educate and inspire us all towards greater sustainability.

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