Shaheen tours Bedford Platinum-certified building to tout new energy-saving legislation

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is going to great lengths – and great heights – to demonstrate why her Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 ought to be enacted.On a June 6 tour led by Sullivan Construction President Tom Sullivan, Shaheen climbed into the attic of Sullivan Construction’s South River Road building in Bedford to check out the energy-efficient innovations the company has implemented to certify it as one of two buildings in New Hampshire with a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environment, or LEED, rating.”This building was renovated three years ago – but the original building, the house next door, was built in the 1880s,” Sullivan explained at the beginning of the tour. “This piece here (the main building visible from South River Road) was about a vintage 1970, which was totally energy-inefficient. Our exterior walls were 2-by-4 walls, not very well insulated, so we had to address all those types of things.”By revamping everything in the 1970 unit from bottom to top, Sullivan Construction secured the Platinum LEED rating – the supreme sustainability score that the U.S. Green Building Council awards – in April 2010.”What’s somewhat unique about that (rating) is not only the energy savings, but a lot of the different types of products that we use throughout the building – the flooring, the ceiling,” Sullivan said.The floors, composed of cork and bamboo materials, are made of rapidly renewable products that are also durable, Sullivan told Shaheen.”What we were trying to do was create something that people could kind of come touch and feel,” Sullivan said. “People hear about LEED, but they don’t really know what it is. So we have here all different types of products you’ll see as you go through.”From low-flow toilets in the restrooms, to an 11-zone energy recovery system that allows Sullivan Construction to satisfy a variety of temperature tastes, Sullivan said the energy-efficient improvements to his facility benefit the employees, as well as the environment.”It’s very easy to regulate, easy to follow,” Sullivan told Shaheen standing in the company attic. “For every two offices, there’s thermostats that are easy to control.”He said the system “mixes the air we’re exhausting out of the building, with the air we bring in, so it’s tempering it. If we’re heating or cooling, depending on the season, the air we’re utilizing is from inside the building.”The result, said Sullivan, is that the system “allows us to have less HVAC equipment.”Two-year paybackThe road to a Platinum LEED rating still did not come easily – or inexpensively – Sullivan explained.”Getting value for the improvements that we put into the building (was a challenge) because there were really no comps that appraisers could use that would give us the value for the extra energy efficient types of things,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s getting a little bit better now because there are more comps available and different things, but it’s still challenging. We really had to work hard through that.”That’s where Shaheen hopes her Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 will make the difference.”One of the things the legislation would do is set up an evolving loan program and expand the daily loan guarantee program to hopefully make more funding available to businesses,” Shaheen said. “It also sets up a program that’s based on what the New Hampshire Electric Co-Op has been doing through their SmartSTART Program, which would allow co-ops around the country to make microloans to customers and then pay those back through their utility bills.”Sullivan said his company realized the costs of energy-efficient improvements in about two years.On her tour, Shaheen called the immediate success of Sullivan Construction’s energy efficiency “fascinating.”She said the building “is indicative of what can be done with some additional cost, but as you heard, a lot of what was done has already paid for itself.”Shaheen also said the aesthetics of the Sullivan building were not compromised by sustainable energy efforts.”You can see that so much of it is in the systems here, the HVAC and the lighting, and if you look at the materials,” Shaheen said. “I talk to people who say, ‘Well, some of the energy-efficient materials are not as pretty,’ but I think this tour belies that concern. It really is a great model for what can be done and hopefully what our legislation can do to give many more businesses the opportunities to make these kinds of changes in their buildings, which will save energy.”Sullivan said the energy-efficiency systems also contribute to the work environment’s positive feel.”It is much better because we have so much better control over our work areas,” Sullivan said, adding: “The benefits have been much, much greater than I would’ve anticipated.” — THE TELEGRAPH