Have you ever driven into Wenatchee from the north side of town? Then you’ve probably seen the Ohme Garden Business Park near the intersection of Highways 2 and 97. Maybe you didn’t give the office building a second glance, but next time you drive by, you should.
The business park has been gradually transformed from an unassuming and outdated office building to a case study in modern, energy efficient office spaces.
The building uses only about 52% of the energy that a typical, similar size office building in our area uses, thanks to energy-efficient upgrades made over the last decade. What’s more, Chelan County PUD helped pay for about 80% of the cost of improvements, which save energy and money for years to come.
The building’s electric bills have actually decreased as its tenancy increased, and more occupants are drawn to its comfortable, bright and modern interiors. But it wasn’t always this way.
Strategic Aesthetics that Pay Back
When they purchased the building in 2007, the Cusicks knew it would take serious remodeling to turn the 31,700-square-foot behemoth into a beautiful office building that businesses would flock to. The building had few upgrades since its construction in the early 1980s. It was worn down, from the faded orange bathroom tile to the leaky windows.
The couple considered how to remodel while balancing aesthetics, function and cost. “We wanted to thoughtfully go through remodeling without spending too much on the wrong things,” Stew Cusick said. “Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Money Pit’?”
To save money both on upfront costs and energy bills in the long run, the Cusicks worked with Chelan PUD. Our commercial energy adviser provided guidance on energy efficient upgrades that qualified for cash incentives—serious cash incentives.
“The PUD’s offer was too good to believe, so I kept waiting for the caveat,” Cusick says. “There was no caveat. It’s real. I can’t believe more businesses aren’t taking advantage of this.”
Efficient Windows Give a Facelift and Block Out Noise
The leaky windows were the first to go. About 100 old steel-framed windows were replaced with new vinyl-framed, low-E windows.
Not only did new windows modernize the look of the building inside and out, the now well-sealed building was also more comfortable. The new windows made the building dramatically quieter by blocking out road noise.
Most importantly, potential tenants appreciated the beautiful, modern office space. Occupancy increased.
The cost? Chelan PUD offers $20 per square foot for efficient window upgrades, saving the Cusicks thousands initially. Plus, the project saves about 13,500 kWh each year, which has meant that the building’s utility bills haven’t increased even as occupancy did.
Heating and Cooling Upgrades for Almost Free
Heating and cooling consume the most energy of any use in an office building, so they are often a huge opportunity for savings. The Ohme Garden Business Park was using its original electric resistance heaters and standard air conditioners to heat and cool.
The units were upgraded to high-efficiency heat pumps, which offer efficient heating and cooling year-round. To make controlling temperature and occupant comfort a breeze, web-enabled smart thermostats were also installed.
The cost to the Cusicks for the efficient HVAC to condition the 31,700-square-foot building? About $14,000—or less than 10% of the total project costs.
Chelan PUD covered over 90% of equipment and installation costs for the HVAC upgrade because the improvement saves that much energy. Commercial buildings receive up to $2k per ton on heat pumps and $250 for each web-enabled smart thermostat installed.
New LED Lighting Shines Bright
No interior remodel is complete without new lighting. The original business park lights were mostly florescent T8s and T12s, which are inefficient and can cast an unattractive color that you might not notice until new lighting is installed and you see the difference.
The Cusicks gutted and completely remade the office spaces, each floor and section at a time. The new LED lighting installed throughout helped brighten and modernize the feel of the spaces and qualified for Chelan PUD incentives.
Even without a serious remodel, commercial lighting changes can be a quick and easy win. Plus, Chelan PUD offers incentives of up to 75 percent of the cost to purchase and install LED lights. Lighting incentives are available for new construction, too! See the Mercantile lighting project for another great example.
Interested in Saving Money? Chelan PUD Can Help You Pay for Project Costs
The best way to get started is to meet with the Chelan PUD commercial energy adviser, Scott Stanford. He will visit your building to see what works best for you, starting with no and low cost improvements that can save you energy immediately. Larger capital projects can be packaged together to ensure you get the most money back possible.
“We want to work with building owners to make sure they take advantage of as many cash incentives as possible,” Stanford says. “It’s always hard to hear of projects after they’re done, because they often miss out on deep savings and PUD incentives. Just talk to me first, and we’ll make it happen.”
If your building has electric heating, you could be eligible for thousands on energy-efficient upgrades for heat pumps, connected thermostats, windows, insulation, irrigation pumps and commercial refrigeration. All businesses, regardless of heating type, can take advantage of incentives on LED lighting and controls.
Call Chelan PUD commercial energy adviser, Scott Stanford, to discuss your options at 509-661-4187 and learn more about our commercial energy efficiency programs.