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Close-up: Zachary Pannier

New president of USGBC San Diego working to change minds, values

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As the new president of the U.S. Green Building Council San Diego Chapter, Zachary Pannier plans to use his construction expertise to increase public awareness about sustainable construction practices.

As a nine-year veteran of DPR Construction, Pannier feels obligated to take action to curb climate change and ensure his 8-month-old daughter can enjoy the same quality of life as the previous generation, he said.

"We in the construction industry are the No. 1 contributor of global greenhouse emissions," Pannier said.

Contractors must educate people about simple modifications that can greatly reduce energy consumption, he said.

"We can change people's outlook on what they can do to change their way of life," Pannier said. "We can change their minds and values."

With nearly all of the company's work in the private sector, DPR educates clients that building green makes business sense. Energy-efficient facilities are cheaper to operate.

DPR plans to demonstrate its commitment to green construction with the company's new green office building. The contractor is retrofitting a recently purchased 37,000-square-foot, 1970s-era building.

The project will allow DPR to use its offices as yet another educational tool.

"You can get another 30 years of life out of a building that was really only designed to have 30 years of life," Pannier said.

When complete, the facility will be the first entirely owner-operated net zero office building in San Diego County, Pannier said.

The offices of Architects Hanna Gabriel Wells in Ocean Beach became the first net zero office building in the region last year. Net zero buildings produce as much energy as they require, consuming no additional power from the grid.

Located on Shoreham Place less than a quarter mile from DPR's current location, the single-story office building will incorporate passive cooling, with an innovative solar chimney system. Air will enter the building through windows on the north side and exit on the south side through a vent in the 17-foot high ceiling. Every third window will be operable and doors roll up, allowing increased airflow, Pannier said.

In addition to fresh air, employees will enjoy natural light. Solar tubes that collect and magnify the sun will supply 100 percent of the building's lighting needs. DPR will install screens reminiscent of sails under each of the 36 solar tubes to diffuse the light.

The building also incorporates large fans, solar water heating and a 64-kilowatt photovoltaic energy system on the roof. A traditional heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system is also present to control the temperature on exceptionally hot days.

The interior incorporates a variety of recycled and sustainable materials. Wood palates, commonly used to transport construction materials, will be visibly incorporated in the base of walls, doorways and exterior rectangular arches. Such structures will also include recycled steel plates used to cover open trenches during road construction. In addition to reducing construction waste, the materials will help create a beach boardwalk theme.

Flooring will include stained concrete and 100 percent recyclable carpeting with a "completely random pattern" that follows the "biomimicry" principle -- emulating the non-repeating patterns found in nature.

DPR's use of such materials reflects growing interest in "finding ways to recycle, reuse, repurpose and break the cradle to grave cycle (of materials)," Pannier said.

Eventually the goal is to change the way resources are bought and sold. Materials, such as carpet, should essentially be leased so that when they've fulfilled their usefulness they are taken back by their owner and recycled, Pannier said.

The idea of "restructuring the way that we operate in this economy" falls in line with the ultimate goal of the USGBC, Pannier said.

Through implementation of Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design (LEED) standards, the group aims to change the way building is done. The standards are the means for quantitatively comparing sustainable practices in construction and continuing to push green building further.

"LEED is the vehicle," Pannier said.

There are currently 70 LEED-certified buildings in San Diego County and 300 registered projects. The number of certified buildings is expected to increase significantly in the near future, Pannier said.

Approximately 85 percent of DPR's recent projects achieved LEED certification, and nearly every request for proposal the company responds to includes green elements.

Unlike the rest of the hard hit construction market, green building has not been impacted by the recession. Retrofit projects have been increasing despite economic conditions, Pannier said.

With increasing interest in green construction, the USGBC plans to add more LEED Accredited Professionals and volunteers to its ranks. Over the next five years, the group plans to double its volunteer base from the current 600 to 1,200 and grow its staff to incorporate four to five employees. The chapter is currently hiring an executive director to be the sole staff member, Pannier said.

The larger group will focus its efforts on increasing public awareness in addition to the current focus of improving the awareness of the community.

"Green building is here to stay," Pannier said. "I don't believe it's a fad that will fade away."

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