If these walls could breathe
Beginning in May, 2015, Architectural Nexus (Arch Nexus) started a nearly 2 year journey to design and renovate what was once was an old warehouse into a new “living building.” With creativity, a living wall and plenty of on-site generated renewable energy, the architecture firm teamed with devoted partners like SMUD, to successfully open the doors to its new Sacramento office – a building that’s on track to become California’s first Certified Living Building.
Vision to fruition
The Arch | Nexus SAC living building gives more than it takes. In essence, it’s a fossil-free, all-electric building that uses onsite renewable power generation to produce more energy than it needs to be fully operational 24/7, 365 days a year.
The new office is centrally located in the historic R Street corridor near Midtown Sacramento and lived a former life as an abandoned warehouse/office. It features many cutting-edge innovations to address the California water and energy crises. It boasts a roof full of photovoltaic panels, onsite sewage composting, water treatment, battery storage, a garden, indoor living wall and use of non-toxic and repurposed materials to create a highly efficient building system that is truly groundbreaking for its methods of construction, operation and occupancy.
The architectural design firm is fully embracing The Living Building Challenge™, a green building certification program administered by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). It represents the most advanced measure of sustainability. Once the 12-month performance period is complete, this will be the first Certified Living Building in California.
A committed partner in SMUD
Arch Nexus partnered with SMUD to take advantage of the Savings by Design program, which provided financial incentives and staff expertise to help gain significant energy savings on the project. “I’ve worked with several utilities throughout my career and SMUD has hands down been one of the best to interface with, said Arch Nexus Energy Analyst David Griffin II, AIA BEMP. “SMUD was just as excited about the project as we were and were fully invested in its success from the very first design meeting.”
“Arch Nexus had the vision to embrace this challenge and we were fortunate to be able to support them on this journey from the very beginning,” said SMUD Senior Architect Ray Nalangan, AIA LEED AP. SMUD worked alongside Arch Nexus beginning with initial design concept meetings through numerous energy modeling trials, and together the team came up with a truly integrated and custom energy design approach to tackle this aggressive living building challenge. “Our working relationship made communication a lot easier and having input early on helped us share other creative ideas with the design team.”
Upon closer examination, you’ll even find SMUD’s salvaged utility pole steps reused as a support in the green screen (plant trellis) lined along the building’s exterior. Director of Sustainability for Arch Nexus, Patty Karapinar, AIA, LEED AP BD+C O+M, was brainstorming ways to repurpose materials for the project and after talking with her husband, Sam Karapinar − a retired SMUD employee, she approached Nalangan with the idea knowing that SMUD separates and recycles a lot of materials like scrap steel. Nalangan made the call to collect the right pieces from SMUD’s Warehouse in order to help his customer reinforce the green screen and SMUD’s partnership.
Feeling the difference
Not only is the living building one of the most aggressively sustainable buildings in the world, it’s one with a unique personality too. “A goal of mine as an architect who’s focused on environmental sustainability is to create buildings where the occupants feel they can engage and physically connect with the space,” said Griffin. “It’s a step in the opposite direction of complete automation and creates greater awareness of the built environment around us.”
One of the most notable things about the living building was the immediate recognition of improved air quality. “When we first moved in, we could physically feel the difference. It felt fresh, vibrant and alive,” said Arch Nexus Business Development Associate Cheryl McMurtry, LEED AP. “We’re getting used to things like the compostable toilets and open workspaces, but we’re also really enjoying the interaction with the building by opening the windows and actively working to help make some of the renewable solutions successful.”
“We were very fortunate to have found a building, a true diamond-in-the-rough, on Historic R-Street in Midtown Sacramento,” said Kenner Kingston, Arch Nexus President. “We are even more fortunate to have transformed it and ourselves, as occupants, into a connected, living ecosystem.”
SMUD’s ILFI Accelerator Program
We’re encouraging more living buildings in SMUD’s service territory by offering a 10% Savings by Design bonus incentive for projects who follow suit in undertaking the Living Building Challenge™. Eligible projects should complete the Savings by Design application process and from there, SMUD can help with technical assistance, schedule group information sessions with SMUD staff, the ILFI and Arch Nexus to see how their experiences together can benefit Sacramento’s next living building.
For more information about SMUD’s ILFI Accelerator Program, call 916-732-5448 and go to the International Living Future Institute for more on this emerging building type.
New rates approved
The SMUD Board of Directors recently approved 1% rate increases in both 2018 and 2019 for non-residential customers (e.g., commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc.).
The rate increase will be used to help upgrade SMUD’s system to provide customers with a modern energy grid that can successfully integrate more renewable energy sources to meet evolving customer needs. It will also be used to improve the technology that SMUD customers use to monitor and manage their energy use.
Even with the rate increases, SMUD customers will still benefit from some of the lowest electricity rates in California - on average about 30% lower than neighboring PG&E.
For more information, log on to smud.org/RateInfo.
Free utility connections for your business
SMUD has a free program to help you set up or switch internet, phone and other business service providers.
We can quickly and easily help you find and set up the services you need, or just compare pricing for your existing services to ensure you’re paying the lowest rates. With just one call, we’ll help you explore your options, find the lowest prices and take care of your service and activation details, all for free. Call 1-866-325-0328 and get started today.
Energy workshops and trainings
SMUD hosts free workshops and trainings to help your business thrive. Classes cover a range of energy-related topics like lighting, solar energy and energy efficiency for your business. Upcoming classes include topics such as Tiny houses: From permits to code requirements, what builders need to know, Zero net energy: Getting through the code, Changes in the Title 24 Energy Code and EnergyPro introduction and advanced trainings.
SMUD’s Energy Education & Technology Center’s workshops are held at 6301 S Street, Sacramento. Workshops are free unless otherwise noted and open to anyone wishing to enroll.