George Mitchell’s goal for a sustainable earth advanced in 1982 with the foundation of the Houston Advanced Research Center. Now that mission has advanced further with the center’s office in The Woodlands becoming the inaugural commercial building in the state of Texas to get the amazing “Zero Energy” certification.

The designation honours buildings that create more energy than it utilises.

Mustapha Beydoun, vice president of HARC, stated that the certification from the International Living Future Institute resulted in the addition of 216 new solar panels to the Gosling Road facility funded with a $136,000 grant from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club program.

HARC attained the ILFI certification in late March and has been certified as only the second ‘Zero Energy’ building in Texas and the inaugural commercial office building certified in Texas. About 50 other offices in the state bear this certification. The other ‘Zero Energy’ building in Texas is Austin’s, said Beydoun.

Sitting on more than 18,000 square foot of office space with approximately 30 staff members, HARC has a detailed mission, Beydoun stated, researching many issues that include energy, climate change and global warming and water issues. The company is classified as a sustainability nonprofit, and Beydoun called it a continuance of Mitchell’s vision.

HARC was Mitchell’s project, the transformation of sustainability into action. The structure was designed with solar issues under consideration, so it could be installed swiftly, Beydoun added. The building is about 3 years in age. It is the only LEED certified building in the nation. When the project was completed, a lack of funds made it impossible to complete the solar portion of the project—save for solar panels.

Green Mountain Energy is an electricity provider based in Houston, said Stacy Mehlhoff, executive director of Sun Club, a nonprofit section of the company that supplies a dozen grants yearly to entities in Texas, Illinois and states in the New England area. The HARC grant amounted to $136,000, spent to buy and install 216 more solar panels.

Those 216 new solar panels joined the standing 36 solar panels at HARC which created about 11.5 kilowatts monthly. With the new panels, an extra 76.7 kilowatts of energy production were added to amount to 88.2 kilowatts of energy monthly. That was sufficient to recommend the facility for the ‘Zero Energy’ certification, she stated.

The building will save $470,00 on their electric bill over a 30-year lifespan (of the panels). The project is set to benefit the Houston area as a whole.

Grants applications are considered by a vetting committee on a quarterly schedule and, Mehlhoff stated, judged on conditions that include being a nonprofit organization with tangible projects intended to “green-up” facilities or equipment.

Projects like this save costs when completed—and the environment, through a good bit of energy preservation.


Source: Houston Chronicle