The United Nations World Summit on Social Development identified three core areas that contribute to the philosophy and social science of sustainable development- economic development, social development and environmental protection1 Duke Realty is laser focused on all three of these. Since 2019, we have pursued LEED certification on 100 percent of our new development projects. In 2020, the Duke Realty Research Committee, of which I am a member, set out to determine what a “smart” building would include, and I am proud to say that we currently have our first smart building under construction.
What makes a building smart?
This is something that our internal committee worked very diligently to research. Beyond the building design and energy and data management, it was important to take into consideration our tenants and their employee needs. We want to help our tenants create healthy work environments where employee perks and comfort can lead to increased productivity. So, we looked at functionality, technology, building materials and artificial intelligence — and ultimately landed on what we call our smart building. This smart building is the first of our facilities and the first in the industry designed to be energy efficient with the possibility of ultimately getting to net zero energy consumption. Our goal throughout this process is to partner with our tenants to learn from the features we implement, to help us continuously improve.
For nearly a decade, Duke Realty has invested heavily in tier one coastal markets and we decided that Southern California, Irwindale to be specific, would be an ideal location for our first smart building. We had the land and were starting from scratch on a warehouse facility.
Building and Land Design
In designing the building, we looked at how we could create a futuristic and functional space. Southern California is known for its sunny and temperate climate making it an ideal location to add operable windows to a commercial building allowing our tenant’s employees to control the natural ventilation in their workspace. Adding BAS (Building Automation System) allows tenants to access and operate the temperature controls in the office and lighting throughout the building remotely. We looked at special building materials, healthy building products and equipment that help reduce the spread of viruses and bacterial illnesses such as filtration systems, ionizing units and no touch plumbing fixtures and hardware. Additionally, we wanted to better control utility costs with xeriscaping which limits maintenance costs and saves water.
Energy and Data Management
To achieve our goal of net zero energy consumption for this Irwindale facility we needed a way to monitor and reduce energy usage. A smart metering system helps us collect energy consumption and power quality information from the lighting and mechanical systems. A BAS helps better manage the use of equipment throughout the facility reducing costs while providing a portal into the smart building systems. Dock sensing devices collect data on dock operations including loading and unloading times, truck positioning, dock locking safety and weight of loads going in and out of the facility. LED lighting monitoring sensors not only monitor building lighting use but can determine when daylight can supplement internal lighting, adjusting for brightness and helping to limit and optimize energy use.
Additionally, installing solar panels and ESS (Energy Storage Solution) batteries allows for the reuse of solar energy at optimal times to reduce peak energy demand charges and operational expenses. The ESS batteries also provide redundancy with backup power systems. Equipped with these energy sources, the Duke Realty smart building in Irwindale will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 800,000 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year when compared to an air-conditioned warehouse powered by traditional electrical energy sources.
All information from the various data sources will be analyzed to help the tenant find savings on personnel time, energy consumption and equipment repair and replacement. By gathering and interpreting the data, we can learn our tenant’s operational trends and costs to help them optimize efficiency. These systems also provide insight to accumulate information on how they are meeting their own ESG goals.
Our tenants are challenged to find and retain top talent. We know that providing a desirable work location with amenities is key to attracting workers and fostering employee loyalty. That’s why we work closely with our tenants to accommodate any amenities they may offer like fitness, health and wellness and food services. The Irwindale location also lends itself to year-round use of outdoor amenities for employees such as roll-up doors for outdoor lounges, an employee garden and food truck parking. Walking paths and a garden make for an enjoyable work environment which in turn helps our tenant’s employees feel valued. Indoor basketball is also provided for those days when the weather is not as agreeable.
Thermal comfort of the warehouse is provided through the high efficiency design and thermal massing strategies, which is how the building absorbs, stores and releases heat. At Irwindale, we are insulating the warehouse space, using reflective roofing materials and installing high efficiency air conditioning units for thermal comfort in the office space of the warehouse. With the use of these strategies and the high efficiency design, the maximum indoor temperature will remain below 87 degrees for most of the year without utilizing supplemental cooling systems.
At Duke Realty, we realize the impact we have on the communities we serve and the world in which we live. Thoughtful, sustainable practices — environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and responsible corporate governance — are not just good manners, they are great for business. While Duke Realty remains committed to building energy efficient, sustainable facilities, it is with the help of our tenants that we can continuously improve. We want our tenants to be our partners —working together to share information, ideas and results. We promise that with our tenant’s support, this smart building at 13131 Los Angeles Street in Irwindale, California is just the start. We look forward to learning, advancing and implementing smart features in future development projects.
Visit the environmental page under Corporate Responsibility on our website for more detail on smart building features.
1 United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 September 2005
2 Duke Realty press release issued December 9, 2020: Duke Realty Boosts Total Investment in Southern California Market to ~$2B