Used auto oil fuels radiant heating, project wins green building award
Leed the way.
If the Prius set a new expectation for energy efficiency and innovation, the same could be said of the new Koch 33 Toyota Dealership in Easton, Pennsylvania.
One of the first new Toyota prototype dealerships in the state, it was named a 2018 U.S. Green Building Council Central Pennsylvania Leader Award recipient — receiving the commercial project of the year award for its design build. The project also is awaiting LEED certification.
The 56,765-square-foot dealership includes a showroom, state-of-the-art service area, parts room, training center, waiting lounge and a coffee bar. Looking under the dealership’s hood, so to speak, reveals a system of radiant heating powered by used automotive oil boilers. The radiant network keeps the floors warm and the winter elements from accumulating on the pavement outside. The building’s energy model predicts it will operate 35% more efficiently than a building built to conventional standards, according to Trane Trace 700 modeling software used by Mowery, the project’s design-build contractor. Over the next year, the team will track its actual performance to confirm expectations and to compare with original projections.
Mowery knows its way around a dealership. It has worked with more than 20 different auto brands, in addition to building full medical facilities, distribution centers and high-performance office buildings.
With its in-house design-build capabilities, it’s able to tailor the customer’s specifications and vision to local code compliance. Coming off another recent Toyota dealership project, Mowery combined its knowledge of the brand’s requirements — the automaker recently announced that all new dealerships will be LEED certified — with its own experience designing energy-efficient systems that meet the high standards of LEED.
“It starts with our team and each project you do — you add to your lessons learned,” says Bill Sutton, vice president for business development at Mowery. “Each brand that we work with has its own way of doing things. When we come to the table early in the design, we’re able to offer those valuable lessons learned and avoid mistakes by bringing our experience to the process.”
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Once the owner put together the project requirements and benchmarks for efficiency, subcontractor HB McClure Mechanical Engineer Adam Shamenek, P.E., got to work picking the best systems for the job.
“First of all, it’s a car dealership, so what do they have a lot of? They have a lot of waste oil,” he says. This provided an excellent opportunity. “We’ve seen a lot of success in the other dealerships with waste oil boilers. They’re doing oil changes every day, so they reuse that oil which is at their disposal. It’s a great reuse of a resource. The oil doesn’t have to be disposed of, it can be used for heating.”
The used oil fuels four Clean Burn boilers that heat an intricate radiant-heat system under the service bay, drive-in and showroom floors, in addition to an exterior snowmelt system under all the sidewalks and exterior car-display areas. It practically heats the entire facility.
The design also dovetailed snowmelt systems extending about 10 feet out from the front and rear entrances of the car service area.
“In the middle of winter, they’re not sludging through sleet and rain,” Shamenek says. “We also tied in several rooftop units. We have hot-water coils in those systems as well that are tied into that system. They’ve seen very inexpensive operating costs based on using the waste oil boiler systems.”
All told, the radiant system heats water through 12 Uponor manifolds encompassing three interior zones — the main showroom, the service drive-thru area and the service garage. The exterior snowmelt system was completed in two zones with an independent glycol loop and two dedicated manifolds.
There are three different dedicated heat exchangers from the boiler to the radiant loops. That includes two heat exchangers and two Bell & Gossett pumps for the interior and one heat exchanger dedicated to the exterior glycol loop with a standalone pumping system from Bell & Gossett, explains Wayne Howe, director of MEP services at Mowery.
There’s a significant increase in planning and components required for a waste oil system compared to a standard gas boiler system. In the summer, when the facility is not using heat, the dealership will store the extra waste oil in an 8,000-gallon double-walled storage tank outside, complete with a leak detection system, a high-low pipe and low-level alarm system. The large storage tank then pumps into the day tank inside the facility which feeds the boilers.
“We had to coordinate, plan and figure out the best place to put these tanks underground,” Shamenek says. “And we’re running snowmelt off the same system, so we did have to add some flat-plate heat exchangers so we can exchange hot-water boiler heat to the glycol side so it could be pumped outside under the sidewalks.”
Snow shovels and snow blowers have gone the way of the dinosaurs at the new facility, thanks to the automatic snowmelt areas. Surface temperature detectors trigger the Tekmar control system when outside temperatures hit 35° F. Radiant heat then maintains a temperature of 32° continuously in order to avoid any reoccurring ice, and to immediately melt snow or freezing rain without a long startup.
“The snowmelt areas have never and will never see a shovel,” Howe says. “The second we get down to the correct temperature and there’s moisture on the sensor, it comes on automatically.”
Inside, Tekmar sensors maintain a flat 78° temperature. Unless the outside ambient temperature drops down into the 20s, seldom do the heating units ever fire, Howe says. “We’re actually heating that building basically with the radiant flat.”
Air quality, recycled materials
and other green options
Mowery stresses indoor air quality during both construction and after occupancy, meaning responsible usage and storage of construction materials, education of the workers and ensuring there is proper ventilation and filtration during construction.
The project also scored points with USGBC for using products that incorporate recycled content, and for using 100% LED lighting both inside and out.
“That’s a huge energy driver for a project like this,” Sutton says.
They also purchased green power for the facility, earning more points from USGBC. Another point of emphasis, and important for USGBC, is the use of low-flow fixtures for plumbing. They chose Sloan flush valves and Kohler fixtures.
Local awareness and ROI
The Easton, Pennsylvania region is “open” to sustainability, Sutton says, and it generally understands the benefits. But that does not always mean a focus on LEED certification. When a national brand or major developers have a project, often it arrives with benchmarks that allow the contractor to go for certification. For more local projects without multinational brand benchmarks driving certification, Mowery often builds to efficiency levels that could quality for LEED honors, even though the owner doesn’t apply for official certification, due to cost.
Explaining the cost-benefit analysis and philosophy of LEED building to customers is an educational and holistic process that encourages looking at the building as a total system, Sutton says. It’s important to see the big picture.
“We try to educate our customers,” he says. “Their buildings are a long-term investment, and the construction cost is only about 5% of the cost of the lifespan of your facility. We feel the best way to spend their money is making their facilities more efficient and comfortable for their occupants.”