Going green pays off for business park

Vancouver's Park Plaza receives $136,000 rebate on HVAC system upgrades thanks to Clark Public Utilities program

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Going green has earned Vancouver's Park Plaza Business Park more green, in the form of a $135,760 rebate.

Clark Public Utilities issued the refund for the business park's new energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. The money not only covered 70 percent of the $193,000 system's cost, but the project delivered a few other payoffs as well, according to landlords of the six-building office park off Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard. The 17-year-old complex now uses 30 percent less energy with an HVAC system that entices new tenants and helps persuade existing companies to stick around longer.

Park Plaza now maintains a high rate of occupancy in an otherwise soft leasing market, said Monique Still, asset manager for E.P. Properties, which owns the business park.

"We are at 82 percent (occupancy) right now, and not getting even a quarter of the heating and cooling complaints we used to get," Still said.

Installed by Trane, the new system replaced an outdated relic that gobbled up energy at every change in outdoor air temperature, said Scott Vale, Park Plaza's maintenance manager.

That's no longer a problem because the new system's software calculates the amount of time it will take to heat up or cool down the buildings, and then runs accordingly.

"It will see when it needs to start up," Vale said. "It doesn't take as long to get to 71 degrees."

The new system heats and cools 350,000 square feet of office space at a savings of nearly 1.4 million kilowatt-hours annually.

"That's enough to power at least 98 houses for one year," said Debbie DePetris, a Clark Public Utilities key accounts manager who worked with managers of Park Plaza to administer the rebate.

The utility refunds large-scale energy savings because it's more cost effective than buying a new source of power, DePetris said. The rebate is part of the utility's custom commercial projects program, which, after recent changes, currently refunds no more than 50 percent of the project cost, depending on the energy savings.

"Each project is scrutinized by multiple parties" before the work begins, she said.

E.P. Properties' contractor performed the initial analysis on Park Plaza's system, which was then reviewed by Clark Public Utilities' commercial and industrial program manager. The project was then forwarded to officials at the Bonneville Power Administration for review and approval.

"Their engineers make sure it's realistic," DePetris said. "Any business that's a Clark Public Utility customer is eligible as long as their project has verifiable electric energy savings."

Other building repairs that are eligible for business conservation programs are lighting and security systems. Both are on the "to do" list at Park Plaza, Still said. The refund, which came several months after the project was completed, has helped keep costs down for the business park's office tenants.

"We did this, of course, because we want to save them money and energy. Those costs often get passed on to tenants," she said. "This way our tenants don't have to absorb it."