Ann Arbor business works to achieve net-zero energy building

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In the last year, the office of Meadowlark Design+Build Ann Arbor reduced its energy usage by nearly 40 percent. CEO and co-founder Doug Selby says they’re not done yet.

“We’re working to bring [our building] to net zero,” Selby said.

Meadowlark Design+Build is one of the hundreds of building entries to compete in Michigan’s 2016 Battle of the Buildings, an annual energy efficiency competition put on by the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Meadowlark Builders’ significant energy reduction earned first place in the 2016 “office buildings” category, and largest overall percentage of reduction in the competition.

How do you make a building energy efficient?

The Meadowlark Design+Build team has been working in phases over the last 6 years. According to Selby, phase one was the “small stuff.”

“We started by getting basic insulation, efficient lighting and installing a heat pump in lieu of replacing a natural gas furnace,” Selby said.

Phase II began in 2015, rebuilding a damaged roof structure and replacing it with a high R-value airtight roof. Windows and skylights were replaced, and the roof had 18kW of solar panels added. In 2016, they transitioned into phase III, adding a geothermal heating system and replaced worn-out and faulty equipment that created vampire loads. They’ve also begun monitoring the building’s energy use to optimize its power consumption.

When asked what advice he has for other businesses, Selby says to bring in an expert.

“This is all just math. Hire someone to do the math for you, and make a plan. You will save money in the long run,” he said. “Years from now we’ll be making a lot of money on these retrofits.”

The 2016 Battle of the Buildings competitors saved more than 22,000 metric tons of CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, an internationally recognized unit to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and reductions. To put it into perspective, this is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions an average passenger vehicle would emit if you took a road trip from New York to LA… 19,000 times. The financial result? More than $2.4 million in avoided utility costs.

Meadowlark Design+Build and other 2016 Michigan Battle of the Buildings ‘biggest losers’ were recently recognized at the 2017 Energy Summit & Award ceremony on April 19. This full day event brings leading building owners and operators from across the state to hear different approaches Michigan companies are taking to reduce energy costs while maintaining occupant comfort and increasing productivity. Learn more about the annual competition at michiganbattleofthebuildings.org.