There’s a Whole Lotta Green in ‘Going Green!’

County General Services Director April Heinze receives a check for energy savings from Caroline Winn, SDG&E's vice president of customer services.
October 26, 2012 | 5:01pm

The County of San Diego just received a check for $910,621 from San Diego Gas and Electric for the County Operation Center’s many energy-saving design features.

The Public Utility Commission has charged SDG&E and other utilities around the state to offer a program called Savings By Design. The idea is to reward owners and design teams for building non-residential new construction with energy-saving features that significantly exceed the California Energy Code.   

The newly built Phase 1 of the County Operations Center (COC) in Kearny Mesa certainly fits the bill. One example? The new 15,000 square foot conference center and café. General Services Director April Heinze showed it off to SDG&E officials after the recent check presentation and they marveled at the natural lighting.

“We have solar tubes with baffles in the conference room. They open and close for audio visual presentations but otherwise there is plenty of light,” said Heinze. She also led a tour to the building’s second floor which features an open air deck for dining topped with a shade canopy of translucent photovoltaic panels in one area and a garden roof over another.

The photovoltaic panels and those on the seven-level, 1,860 car parking structure produces more than 627,000 KWh of electricity annually or enough to power 105 single family homes. The campus also incorporated drought-tolerant landscaping and other water saving features.  

In all, eight structures on the 47-acre site qualified for the Savings By Design program with incentive rewards ranging from $6,862 to $250,965, which added up to the amount of the big check.     

“This check symbolizes the County commitment to energy savings and sustainability,” said Heinze. “We’re setting new benchmarks for sustainability in public facilities, leading by example and demonstrating that we’re prudent stewards of the taxpayers’ money and the environment.”

What happens to the incentive check now?

“The money goes into an energy trust fund,” said County Energy and Sustainability Manager Peter Livingston. “Those funds will be used for smaller projects to make existing County buildings more energy efficient.”    

The check presentation was just the latest in a series of accolades for the COC campus which now houses more than 2,000 employees in 19 departments together at one location. Two four-story office buildings which opened in 2010 and two similar office buildings which opened this summer all achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. The new conference center and café, which opened in August, was constructed to the platinum standard, the highest level obtainable. The campus has been recognized with several awards including an Energy All-Star Award for Outstanding Governmental Building Project from the California Center for Sustainable Energy and an Energy Showcase Award for New Construction/Sustainability from SDG&E. Earlier this month, the San Diego Architectural Foundation announced the COC had won a 2012 People’s Choice Orchid Award for architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and sustainable design.