Utah Clean Energy Unveils the Climate Innovation Center with Bernhard’s Expertise in HVAC and Commissioning Services

Utah Clean Energy (UCE), a nonprofit leader in climate solutions, has opened the Climate Innovation Center in downtown Salt Lake City. This milestone in UCE’s mission to combat climate change showcases their dedication to sustainability and innovation. Bernhard played a crucial role in this project by providing all HVAC commissioning services, ensuring that the building operates safely, reliably, and efficiently.

The Climate Innovation Center stands as a testament to UCE’s vision and commitment, transforming a 70-plus-year-old building into one of Salt Lake City’s most high-performing, net-zero buildings. This facility not only serves as UCE’s headquarters but also as a living laboratory to educate the public and business community about the significant role buildings play in addressing climate change.

From the project’s outset, the team faced challenges in developing a solid design to achieve a true net-zero building. As the project progressed, deviations from the original Basis of Design (BoD) were discovered, including changes to the Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS). Bernhard’s commissioning team held several meetings to ensure the correct sequences were integrated into the Building Automation System (BAS) and tested in all modes of operation. They worked closely with the manufacturer’s startup technician to identify and correct issues with condensate drain lines from the Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) system cassettes, preemptively addressing potential problems.

Bernhard’s involvement didn’t end with the initial commissioning. Teams collaborated with the owner and the lighting control system integrator to ensure the lighting sequences were correctly implemented. This attention to detail exemplifies Bernhard’s commitment to ensuring the Climate Innovation Center operates at peak efficiency.

Bernhard has been a long-time supporter of Utah Clean Energy and its vision for energy efficiency and renewable energy since its inception in 2001.

Innovative HVAC Solutions

Heating and cooling represent about 41% of the average commercial building’s energy consumption, making it a critical component in achieving net-zero energy status. The Climate Innovation Center’s HVAC system, optimized by Bernhard, incorporates several innovative components:

  1. All Electric Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) with Heat Recovery : Because of the well insulated exterior, the system was able to be downsized – reducing first cost and life-long operating costs.  The VRF system also includes two heat recovery units that can share heat across the building – from south exposure to north exposure for example – through refrigerant flow.
  2. Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) with Evaporative Cooling: Provides fresh air, transfers energy from exhaust air to incoming air via an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV), and includes a direct evaporative section for pre-cooling incoming air.
  3. Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV): Pre-conditions fresh air using energy captured from exhaust air, reducing the energy needed for heating or cooling.
  4. Ceiling Fans and Passive Natural Ventilation Mode: Allows for natural ventilation when conditions are optimal, saving energy and increasing comfort.

These components work together to maximize efficiency and minimize energy consumption, crucial steps toward achieving net-zero energy certification.

Educating and Inspiring the Community

The Climate Innovation Center is more than just a building; it’s a symbol of what is possible in the fight against climate change. UCE’s founder, Sarah Wright, described the center as a “living laboratory” that will serve as an educational tool for the public and the business community. By documenting the steps taken to achieve zero energy, the center provides a blueprint for others to follow.

A Vision for the Future

The announcement event for the Climate Innovation Center included the filling of a time capsule, where attendees added notes capturing their hopes and visions for a healthy future. This capsule will be opened in 2042, offering future generations a chance to reflect on the progress made in mitigating climate change.

Bernhard’s role in the Climate Innovation Center highlights the importance of commissioning services in achieving net-zero energy goals. The Climate Innovation Center stands as a powerful example of what can be achieved when organizations like UCE and Bernhard come together to create a sustainable future.