A Tall Tale Of Success (October 1999)
Because his New York firm (Fox & Fowle Associates) designed the impressive headquarters for publishing empire Conde Nast, Robert F. Fox has plenty to say about the 1.6-million-sq-ft building. It's only natural that Fox is proud of the end results, too.
However, what one finds out is that 4 Times Square is a tribute to the power of smart hvac planning, sustainability, and energy conservation.
Energy Spent = Energy SavedThe building was designed for the Durst Organization, run by two cousins, Douglas and Jonathan (Jody) Durst. Fox's firm and the Dursts started the project in an unusual fashion - on a retreat. What they learned and focused on, believe it or not, was communications skills.
"To be able to share meals and just sit and talk with [owner] Douglas Durst meant a lot to the members of our team," says Fox. "It was an incredibly successful retreat."
Upon their return, team member communication was enhanced via e-mail. "We did a lot of electronic transfer of drawings," Fox recalls. "On a project like this, the usual cost is about $1 million for printing, and we cut that in half. Our office kept a [Internet] bulletin board, and everyone including the subcontractors could get into that system, look at and download changes, and that saved a lot of time.
"We checked our steel shop drawings on the Internet - there were 17,000 of them, and they came from South Carolina. You can imagine what printing them, mailing them overnight, distribution, etc., would've cost in time and money."
Fox also reports that Durst involved maintenance staff from the beginning.
"The people that were going to run the building were there listening to design decisions as they were made," he says, "and they knew the building as well as anyone before it was even built. We were glad to have them, and learned a lot from them about how to design a building so they could clean it, manage it, and run it."
Once they had invested energy in efficient communication, the team set out to create an end product that would save energy. Fox didn't have a firm savings goal in mind, just that "We wanted to save as much as we could."
In FTI/DOE modeling, they employed an oft-secret weapon (see related article, page 76), but otherwise, they started with the building exterior. In particular, they explored the wonderful world of glass. Using high-performance (low-e) glass allowed designers to kill two birds with one stone.
"One of the more important parts of any interior environment is natural daylight," Fox says. "We found that with the low-e glass, we could develop a very high shading coefficient so we would not get the heat in the building while letting a lot of light in."
The next place they created long-term energy savings was in the outside wall, where they installed additional insulation.
"Typically in New York, one puts in four inches in the wall, some insulation in the roof, and that's it. What we found is that by putting two inches of extra insulation in the walls and four inches extra in the roof, we got a reasonable payback period. It did cost more money, but was very readily affordable," says Fox.
"And in the first two- to three-year period, the Dursts would have a payback on the building and then start saving a lot of money."
Fringe BenefitsThe search for energy conservation moved into exploring mechanical options, but now new environmental concerns came into play. And again, looking beyond first-cost proved a refreshing and successful strategy.
"We found that using the gas-fired adsorption chillers for both heating and cooling . . . was not necessarily the cheapest way to run a building, but it was the way that was the least harmful to the environment," recalls Fox.
The team then turned to the latest technology, such as a building management system, and other techniques for specifying the system and its operation.
"We have large chillers - 200, 600, 800 tons," says Fox. "We put them different sizes so we could turn them on in a sequence that meets the load of the building. On each floor we have an air-handling unit, so when someone is there, the unit is on; when someone is not there, it is not on. On every fan, pump, and motor in the building there is a variable-speed drive [vsd] so that whatever the load is, the machinery is changing its output, essentially, to meet that load."
When it came to placing the large equipment, Fox reports that the firm's environmental mindset proved to be a structural design ally as well.
"In buildings of this kind, the mechanical plant is almost always in the cellar because they are very difficult to build, and it takes a long time. We put ours on the roof since the equipment is gas-fired; it's a combustion product, so the combustion gases go right up into the environment, 800 feet into the air.
"The other benefit was that we now have this big mass of weight at the top of the building. It turns out to have a very beneficial effect on the wind, because this acts like a big, mass damper. The more weight there is at the top, the more wind it takes to push the building."
An Air Of SuccessFox echoes an oft-told tale about the evolution of outside air levels and the new facility.
"The buildings that our firm and others did in the 1980s were limited to 5 cfm per square foot of fresh air. That was New York State Energy Code at the time, as a result of the oil crisis, and most of those buildings are 'sick' buildings. We were determined not to do that this time, and we have increased [outside air] to 25 cfm."
Even though it costs more to temper what amounts to a five-fold increase in air, other conservation measures are resulting in enough savings to comfortably implement the 25-cfm level. After all, good indoor air quality is a moneymaking proposition.
"We found that almost 83% of the cost of running a company is the cost of the employees," Fox says. "Looking at a New York City person that costs $75,000 a year with salary and benefits, and going through all the arithmetic of what that would cost per square foot, you end up with $375 per square foot. We're convinced we've increased productivity by at least 5%, but even if you increased productivity by 1%, that's saving $3.75 per square foot.
"Some of the tenants could almost see a 10% increase. That's a product almost equal to the rent, in terms of money saved by increased productivity." Because of that 25-cfm requirement, the fresh-air shafts are very large, but Fox explains that oversizing them a bit more has provided an unusual but logical ventilation weapon.
"We can bring 100% fresh air into any four floors in the building to air them out," he says. "So when they're freshly painted, or have new carpet put in, we can air them out before the tenants actually come into that space."
You Can Lead A Tenant To Water...Fox and his colleagues were chagrined to find that sometimes tenants didn't want to act in their best interests when it comes to energy and IAQ recommendations.
"We put in a special air exhaust shaft to allow for the venting of smoking rooms," Fox notes. "This was important to us, to allow smoking within the building in special rooms by the tenant, and we would have this special shaft that would keep the room under negative pressure. It also acts for whatever special equipment you have, to remove any noxious fumes or heat or whatever from the building."
Sounds good, but there's a catch.
"None of the tenant floors wanted to give up the real estate to have a smoking room," says Fox. "Instead, their employees get up, go the elevator, take it down, go outside, and stand in front of the front door. That secondhand smoke will come back into the building because all of these buildings have a stack effect because of the elevator shafts. The air is pulled into the building and up.... So rather than take a fairly small room on each floor to accommodate smokers, they chose not to. We think that was extremely shortsighted."
On the energy side, voluntary guidelines given to tenants by the Dursts covered daylighting, direct/indirect lighting options, and suggestions about bringing in material with low volatile organic compound content. Many tenants have been reluctant to embrace any of these, and the Dursts are considering a tougher stance on such behavior in future lease negotiations.
Saving Energy, MoneyIt hardly needs stating that a building of that size needs quite a bit of hvac equipment, which increases the chance of something going wrong that much more. In the Dursts' eyes, commissioning was the only way to try to protect a sizable investment and nip any problems in the bud.
"You certainly don't want to have a ship out in the middle of the ocean with 3,000 people on it, and not be able to turn the engines on," is how Fox puts it. "Everything that moves in the building is being carefully monitored to make sure it's running at the right rpm, the right cfm, is giving the exact amount of output that the design specification calls for."
In the end, did these measures and many others (such as using materials with increased recycled content and environmentally friendly cleaning agents) pay off? Without a doubt, says Fox.
"In New York City, a typical office building's energy costs are about $3 per square foot. What we found is that we could save $0.60 per square foot just on the base building alone - nothing to do with tenants, just the elevators, machine rooms, outside of buildings, etc.
"If the tenants did everything we asked them to do, we could save about 40% of the energy used in a typical building. As it is, we're probably at about 30%, so that's not bad. In terms of dollars, we're close to saving about $1 million a year in energy."
No wonder the Dursts are happy with the results. ES
Seeing The Light: That's What It's All AboutIn the making of 4 Times Square, Fox & Fowle Associates showed that if Conde Nast put daylight dimming on the perimeter 15 ft of their space, they could payback that additional expense in 14 months, and thereafter save tens of thousands of dollars per floor. Needless to say, Conde Nast was intrigued. It is this kind of financial, energy-friendly, and forward thinking that makes 4 Times Square a project one can learn from. Another tactic Robert Fox uses to great effect is the inclusion of occu-pancy sensors.
"We were working very hard to get the lighting under 1 watt per square foot, and that has happened," boasts Fox. "It is much more achievable now than it used to be. We have occupancy sensors in all of the offices, and in the fire stairs, so the fire stairs are dark unless there is someone in there. Same with the mechanical rooms, etc., so the lights do not turn on unless there's someone in the room."
Fox did turn to two alternative energy sources to help chip away at energy costs, too. The first is a pair of 200-kW fuel cells.
"They produce about 4% of the building's demand," Fox says. If that doesn't sound like much, remember that when you're talking about 1.6 million sq ft, 4% adds up in a hurry.
The second alternative source has less of an immediate impact, but its long-term role in this particular project is brighter.
"We have integrated photovoltaic panels in the façade of the building," says Fox. "We looked at wind energy, microturbines, and so forth. But when we looked at all the surface area we had on the roof, we chose photovoltaics. We figured it out, and that approach [on the roof] had a 50-year payback." In this case, even the Dursts said no to 50 years.
"So we integrated them into the façade of the building," says Fox. "They are on the east and south sides of the building, and they produce about 1% of the building's power. The payback period on this is still horrific - about 15 years - but by not paying for these glass panels and substituting photovoltaic panels, the cost was about $10 per square foot. It was approaching affordability." According to Fox, the real benefit for the Dursts - because they will not sell this building - is that easily within 10 or 20 years, the technology for photovoltaic panels will be so much better, they'll be able to afford to take these off and possibly double, triple, quadruple, or even tenfold increase the amount of power generated by the sun.
"And that will make a big difference," says Fox. ES
- Robert Beverly
Virtual Reality, But Real ResultsWhen it came to creating energy savings in 4 Times Square, the project team didn't have a specific goal, but they did have a secret weapon. Meet an innovation known as FTI/DOE modeling. Robert Fox makes the introductions. "It's a very complex model of the building, including structure, lighting system, including the floor-to-floor heights, as well as exterior envelope, mechanical systems ... and it simulates the climate on an hour-by-hour basis for a year."
Wait, it gets better.
"Then it runs a program that will accurately predict how much energy you will use," Fox continues. "You can change the glass, change the mechanical systems, and each time find out how much energy you're saving. We did some studies with the Rocky Mountain Institute (Old Snowmass, CO) and Steven Winter Associates (Norwalk, CT)."
If this sounds slightly intimidating - and it probably does - fear not. "It doesn't have to be a big building" to use this technology, Fox explains. "It's not too expensive to hire firms like this. You could do this on a house, on any kind of project, and it makes a lot of sense.
"Also, the National Resource Defense Council (Washington) is available for free to discuss any of these issues; they were fabulous as far as introducing us to the right people, giving us the right guidance, etc. They are an incredible resource."
Sometimes, the perfect helping hand is just out there waiting, and all you have to do is ask. ES
- Robert Beverly