Case Studies

Point Energy Innovations

Driving the construction industry into a new phase on innovation and sustainability

Founded in 2014 by Peter Rumsey, Point Energy Innovations (PEI) is a mechanical engineering firm comprised of leading professionals and emerging talent in the built environment space.  Located in San Francisco, California, PEI specializes in the front-end mechanical design of buildings to create energy efficiency. “We are focused on innovation and pushing the industry toward energy efficient, Net Zero projects,” says Alexis Karolides, principal and sustainability practice leader. “We take a holistic approach to design for efficiency.”

Karolides honed this holistic approach during 15 years as principal at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in Colorado, where she frequently retained Rumsey to participate in RMI’s integrated design projects. “Amory Lovins touted Peter as one of the world’s most Point Energy Innovationscreative and innovative mechanical engineers, and I really enjoyed working with him on those groundbreaking projects over the years,” says Karolides. “When he told me about founding a new company to reimagine green design and engineering, I jumped on the opportunity to join forces.”

PEI’s business model is to create an innovative conceptual and schematic design and then transfer it to design-build contractors to see it through to documentation. “It’s an industry-leading approach that increases efficiency and keeps costs down,” says Karolides. “We do the early design and then coach and advise the design-build team who will efficiently and cost-effectively produce the construction documents.”

Because the Bay Area is a hotspot for pushing the boundaries of green design and technology, PEI stays busy right in its own back yard. However, the company will occasionally travel all over the country for the opportunity to be involved in innovative projects. “We have done projects internationally as well,” Karolidas explains. “Our metric for taking on a project is based on how innovative the project is striving to be.”

Going to Greenbuild

PEI will be present at the 2015 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Washington D.C. Karolides will be speaking at the conference on Net Zero energy projects, including classifications of Net Zero energy buildings and their societal implications. Karolides, along with Scott Jacobs, CEO of Landbank, a commercial real estate development company headquartered in Menlo Park, California, will be discussing a project in which the two companies have collaborated, which involved the redevelopment of an 18-acre site at the intersection of Central Expressway and Wolfe Road in Sunnyvale, California. The site will provide a creative and innovative campus for Silicon Valley’s leading edge technology companies and could end up with one of the lowest net energy usages for any speculative office complex in the country.

The 777,000-square-foot project, slated for a LEED Platinum rating, features sustainable efforts such as the elimination of surface parking through the use of under-building podium parking and a standalone garage. By eliminating surface parking, 53 percent of the 18-acre site area will be preserved as open space, while also including 90,000 square feet of rooftop gardens. Recycled water will be used to irrigate all this landscape and for toilet flushing. Designed by HOK, the project’s elegantly curving facades will be shaded with large, cantilevered overhangs, protecting the building from glare and overheating, while occupants enjoy views and ample daylight, with LED lights dimming in response to the daylight. These very features that enhance well-being, will also produce a highly energy-efficient building, likely to produce much of its energy with rooftop PV arrays.

Karolides and Jacobs will be talking about this project at Greenbuild to spark the conversation of the possibilities and challenges of developer-driven multistory office buildings achieving Net Zero energy use. As a free-market speculative office building, Central & Wolfe faces different challenges than owner-occupied corporate or nonprofit headquarters buildings would.

“I think people will be excited to see the achievements of Jacobs and Landbank on this project,” says Karolides. “The fact that it is a 777,000-square-foot office building targeting LEED Platinum certification is certainly intriguing. I also want people to see the road that has to be traveled for spec office buildings to reach Net Zero. It will be beneficial for everyone in the industry to take a look at the gap in the marketplace today for spec office buildings achieving LEED Platinum and Net Zero and what incentives could be put in place to help developers do so.”

Driving the industry

As far as the direction the energy efficiency market is heading, Karolides is expecting to see the continuation and increase in building integrated solar energy. With the cost of solar power decreasing dramatically, this renewable energy source has become profitable for both developers and tenants. “You can actually price its upfront cost and put a figure on what it will generate in savings,” she says. “I think that will be a major realm that will push sustainability and green building in the next few years. But there’s a catch — without super-efficient building design, there’s no way you’ll get a multistory building to Net Zero with rooftop solar alone, but those energy-efficient designs have to multitask; they have to enhance comfort, well-being and beauty. Ultimately, it’s hard to sell energy efficiency just for the savings — buildings are really about people,” Karolides says.

As a company that is constantly striving for innovation, the integrity of the team at PEI is what gives Karolides the biggest sense of pride. “When it comes to innovation and green projects, we are really all about pushing the industry,” says Karolides. “Every single team member here has that personal commitment and dedication to moving the industry forward for a more sustainable future.”

While PEI is still a brand-new company, the innovations and technologies the company is implementing will generate a strong future for the company. As it continues to drive the industry to a new standard of sustainability, Point Energy Innovations will remain a leader in integrity and customer satisfaction.

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Spring 2018



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