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Arborilogical Services Announces New Sustainable Office

Arborilogical's new green building.
Arborilogical's new green building. Photo by Strong Group.

Published April 1, 2018 By STEVE HOUSER

 

Parking lot view (opposite street side).

Street side view.

History

In 1985, the original office for Arborilogical Services, Inc. was purchased. It was a steel building shell with no interior offices and three drive-thru bays to park trucks. Our offices were built inside the steel shell over the years to accommodate our growth.

Front of the original steel office building. Trees were later planted to surround the building and along the street views.

In 1998, another steel building was built to accommodate more trucks and expand the mechanics shop.

Similar view (as previous photo) of the original steel office building as it looks today, with mature trees surrounding it, and the second steel shop building added in 1998 in the background.

In 2003, ten open lots that adjoin our existing property were purchased by a developer/builder who installed roads, water, and sewer lines. The property was subdivided and two buildings were constructed by the developer on lots that do not adjoin the Arborilogical property. Around 2008, the economy declined and the developer/builder filed for bankruptcy. We waited for over a year and contacted the bank that owned the property to negotiate the purchase of the eight remaining lots. Since only five of the lots were necessary for future expansion, three of the additional lots were sold in 2014-2015 at an increased cost. 

In October of 2014, an architect was hired to develop the construction plans and in May of 2016, we hired a general contractor to oversee construction of the building. Around the same time, a renewable energy construction company was hired to install the geothermal system, solar panels, and a backup generator.

The employees of Arborilogical celebrating the June 24, 2106 Groundbreaking. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

Concept

The new office plans were developed to be as environmentally responsible as possible and still be attractive. Some of the “green” buildings developed in the past were not attractive, which may turn people away from building an environmentally responsible structure in the future.    

As a tree care business, it was also important to include quite a bit of wood as a primary material in the design. The use of wood was emphasized with unique and creative wood accents in various parts of the building.

  

Recycled pallet wood adds character from the downstairs viewpoints.

Details

All buildings in our industrial complex have street view parking lots in front of the buildings. We opted for parking behind the office building to make the area more attractive.

The street is south of the building and our parking lot is on the north side.

Since our tree farm property was taken completely off the grid in 2006 by using solar “trees” with trackers, geothermal air conditioning, propane for a backup generator, and back up batteries, we wanted to install many of these features in our new office building. 

Solar trees with trackers at our tree farm.

The original floor plan for our new office was slightly over 4,000 square feet, but we recognized the roof needed a 32-degree angle to optimize the performance of our solar panels. As a result, the design was modified to include an upstairs office area to utilize the additional space provided by the angle of the roof. In addition, the white roof was intentionally designed to help offset the heat island effect often compounded by a dark colored roof. For improved insulation, approximately 12 inches of sprayed foam is on the underside of the roof.

Sprayed foam on the underside of the roof.

The roof now contains (236) 90-watt solar panels and projections show that we will generate more power than the office will use, leaving additional green power to go into the grid.

Angled roof with (236) energy generating solar panels.

A view of the roof once the solar panels were installed. Photo by Axium Solar.

The office is 5400 square feet and the projected energy cost for a typical building of this size is $14,000.00 to $16,000.00 per year. Assuming an average energy savings of $15,000.00 per year, over a 30-year period, the total energy cost projected to be saved is $450,000.00!!     

The solar system was up and running as of August 11, 2017. On September 26, we earned or saved $1,743.47 in energy costs due to the energy generated by the panels. According to the energy monitoring website we use, the CO2 savings from energy we generated amounts to the equivalent of saving 197 trees or saving CO2 from a car driven 51,336 kilometers. The earnings will not be as great in the winter months, but the savings are substantial.    

The actual savings is forecast to be much higher with income generated from excess green power that we do not use. The projected income and savings will increase as the cost of energy increases over time.

A geothermal system was installed to heat and cool the building at a very minimal cost. There were 18 wells installed at a depth of 300 feet. The liquid pumped from the wells and through the lines comes into the building at approximately 68 degrees year-round. It only requires a small amount of energy to provide air conditioning and heating. Air conditioning is among the largest expenses for electricity in most commercial buildings.

 

Lines coming up from the 300-foot deep wells.

The exterior of the building is made from recycled concrete that is shaped and colored to look like stone. The siding is also recycled concrete formed into authentic looking wood-grain siding.

 

The siding and stone are made from recycled concrete. Photos by RuthAnn Jackson.

The exterior walls were formed using a “Nudura” system which includes over three inches of recycled material on the inside and outside of the walls (a foam like substance) for insulation. The center portion of the walls are made of poured concrete (including rebar) for durability and energy savings. The overall energy rating for the building is R-52!!  

     

Insulation of the exterior walls includes over three inches of recycled material on the inside and the outside of the walls. The walls are made of poured concrete and rebar.

In order to save resources and for durability, the ground level floor is polished concrete with no stains or carpeting.

                 

The upper level flooring is made of #3 grade lumber, which is considered a poor grade for flooring and is often discarded, but as seen below- it has a great deal of character.

 

The water-wise landscape is designed with low water use trees and plants that include native prairie plants, buffalo grass, wildflowers, Red Buckeye, Mexican Buckeye, Rusty Blackhaw Viburnam, among many others. The water-efficient irrigation system includes bubblers for the trees and drip irrigation in other areas. The water supply comes from two 1600-gallon, stainless steel rain water tanks in the front of the building.

 

These two pictures show the location of the irrigation water supply tanks and pond that will hold the rain water collected.The one on the left is from 2017, soon after the building was finished. The one on the right is from July 2018. Right photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

When the two water tanks are full, the overflow will drain into a small retention pond in the front of the property.

Pictured above, the soil for the retention dam is in place.

Followed by the stones being set in place for the water retention pond.

The water retention pond and landscaping in July 2018. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

Although we were told that commercial buildings should not have windows that open, we have windows that open on all sides. This allows clean fresh air to circulate on the cooler mornings and helps to save energy. All windows are commercial grade, energy efficient, and plentiful with strategic placement to reduce the need for artificial lighting and to help reduce the stress of working in an office.  

The south wall also includes an overhang that allows for more sunlight in the winter months yet limits the amount of sunlight in the summer months, for additional energy savings. 

All lighting is LED, which adds to the energy savings and reduces the environmental footprint of the building.

After losing power to our existing buildings on many occasions, we decided to add an industrial generator to be sure we are available whenever our clients need us in the future. The generator runs on natural gas as it is a cleaner burning fuel versus other potential options (gas or diesel).   

We wanted permeable concrete for our parking lot but our structural engineers were not in favor of the idea as this type of concrete works best on sandy soils.  Instead of parking bollards, we used Bois d'Arc logs as bumpers as a form of recycling and to extend the character of the building to the parking lot area.

Bois d'Arc log bumper used in place of parking bollards in the parking lot.

We were informed that as a commercial building, we needed to use a dumpster for garbage disposal. However, using a dumpster we would not be able to recycle all the materials as we have in the past. As a result, we chose to continue the use of trash cans and recycle bins, even though it is more time consuming and slightly more costly.

All office desks are made from bamboo, a very sustainable (or recyclable) material. For health related reasons, all desks raise and lower to allow working in a standing or sitting position.

To save energy and water resources, tank-less water heaters were installed. They run on natural gas and only heat water when there is a demand. 

Ecofriendly Solar shades were purchased for the windows to help reduce energy costs and provide more privacy at night.       

       

Above are views of the new building from the back side. Left photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

We hope to rebuild our original shop in a sustainable and responsible fashion. Our dedication to people, trees, and our environment is our way of leaving the world a little better place for future generations. 

Go Team Arborilogical!!

Additional photos taken in the summer of 2018 below.

Flower covered fence line. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

Double glass door leading into the conference room. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

Backside of building facing the parking lot. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

Arborilogical Services sign built out of recycled wood. Photos by RuthAnn Jackson.

Front of building facing the street. Water retention tanks and pond were dry in July 2018 when this photo was taken. Photo by RuthAnn Jackson.

About the author

Mr. Steve Houser

Mr. Houser is a Dallas native with almost 40 years of experience as a consulting arborist and expert tree climber. He is the president and owner of Arborilogical Services, “The Experts Your Trees Deserve.”®

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