Johnson Controls, Inc. : Los Angeles Superior Court Building Transformed into Model of Energy Efficiency

09/13/2012 | 05:35pm US/Eastern

Downtown landmark demonstrates energy savings, increased value and environmental protection

LOS ANGELES – September 11, 2012 – Commonwealth Management put the final touches on a $4.6 million efficiency upgrade at its 19-story Superior Court building in downtown Los Angeles this summer. Energy upgrades at multi-tenant office buildings create modern buildings that are more marketable with strong financial and environmental returns.

“We are able to provide our tenants with a quality environment they can be proud of while saving energy and ultimately increasing the value of the property,” said Richard Blech of Commonwealth Management.

Johnson Controls, the global leader in delivering solutions that increase energy efficiency in buildings, designed and implemented one contract that included upgrades to the central chilled water plant, air handling units and building controls. The project is expected to reduce annual energy costs by over $95,000. This represents a cost reduction of 11 percent from the 2011 electrical budget.

A second contract included upgrades to lighting technology, which could escalate the overall savings to as much as 20 percent, according to Commonwealth Management.

“Billions of square feet of inefficient office buildings could be catapulted into money-saving, job-creating and greenhouse gas emission-reducing engines of the economy if they followed this model,” said Chuck McGinnis, director commercial energy solutions, Building Efficiency, Johnson Controls. “Comprehensive energy upgrades, such as these retrofits, have a big effect on energy use and the bottom line.”

Forty percent of U.S. energy is consumed by buildings,according to the Department of Energy. In dense urban settings, like Los Angeles, commercial buildings account for up to 75 percent of energy used and 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

ECO Corp, Environmental Corrections Organization LLC, a California-based provider of customized and holistic energy efficiency project services, acted as the owners’ representative on the project. ECO Corp coordinated contractor selection, technical review and financing to reach the project goals.

“Green isn’t green unless it is in the black,” said Tor Ewald of ECO Corp.

The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angles is the major tenant at the 357,000-square-foot building located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Commonwealth Avenue. According to occupants, the new system has created an improved work environment for judicial officers, staff and litigants.

Built in 1971, the Superior Court building was the first all-glass structure east of New York City and has unobstructed views of the city of Los Angeles. Other building tenants in include the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and the departments of Health Services and Child Support Services.

About CommonWealth Management LLC

Commonwealth Management LLC provides commercial property management for The Superior Court Building, a 357,000 square-foot, 19-story Class A building located in Los Angeles, California .

About ECO

In an era of increasing building operations costs, California-based ECO-Environmental Corrections LLC provides commercial building owners customized and holistic solutions in energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy generation projects. ECO brings the technologies, expertise and financing solutions to reduce building portfolio operating costs and risk, while minimizing environmental impacts and improving tenant satisfaction.

About Johnson Controls

Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Our 162,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful. In 2012, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #5 company in its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list.


Kari Pfisterer

+1 414-524-4017

The Stark Reality of Climate Change? Rolling Stone Takes It On.

by George Danellis

Bill McKibben wrote perhaps the first book of the modern era about climate change aimed at the average person. Today he is active in work through his to educate and motivate people and government’s to take action about a problem he says is a lot bigger and pressing than is commonly reported.

McKibben has just published an article in the August 2nd issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, an article that had been shared a remarkable 90,000 times only 5 days after it’s release. Considering climate change doesn’t make for the most uplifting reading that’s an impressive number. In the article, McKibben shares both the more recent scientific data and projections, as well as what he believes to be the key obstacles (and solutions) to effectively addressing climate change. The newest projections, what he calls “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, show that the tipping point is much closer than previously reported and that “rapid, transformative change” is required to avert climate melt-down. He asserts that we have the technology but what we lack is the will. McKibben points to Germany as an example of what is possible: “on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders.” So what gives?

Environmentalism has failed. Individual actions won’t get it done in time. The US government has made important but only incremental advances. And companies whose business models are reliant on the fossil fuel still buried in the earth sure as heck plan on getting it out. But according to McKibben if they get even a small fraction of it out we’re beyond cooked.

So what can we do? McKibben lays it out in stark detail. Read and let us know what you think: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.


Water Purification – Reverse Osmosis

by George Danellis

There are several methods available today to purify water. Filtering uses various types of membranes to strain unwanted elements. Distillation is a method to separate components with different boiling temperatures, and is commonly associated with the oil and alcohol industries. Reverse osmosis is a purification method used for the removal of salt and other substances from sea and brackish water. It is used for both household and commercial applications and has experienced significant levels of adoption since it was first developed in the 1970’s. RO, as reverse osmosis is commonly known, has its strengths and weaknesses as a water purification method. Here is a summary of these pros and cons.

Reverse Osmosis works by using pressure to force water in the opposite direction of osmosis; that is, from the stronger concentration to the weaker. Often UV lamps or ozone are used in combination to kill microbes that escape filtering by the RO membrane.

  • It is commonly used on a small scale for people living in rural or coastal areas without clean water supply, and as a solution for travelers on longer boating and camping trips.
  • The marine aquarium industry uses RO to remove many substances in common tap water that are detrimental to sensitive marine environments.
  • Car washes often employ RO water as its low mineral content reduces spotting and thus reduces the use of blowers or other drying systems.
  • The maple syrup industry has found RO the most economical solution to remove water from sap, and is likewise used for other food-liquid concentration purposes.
  • Larger applications of RO include wastewater purification, the production of bottled and supplied drinking water, and mobile military water purification. The minerals in wastewater at power plants are removed by the Reverse Osmosis process, improving efficiency.  With roughly 21,000 seawater desalination plants worldwide RO is now a common solution to desalinate seawater or brackish water to produce drinking water in water constrained situations.
  • The US military has invested heavily in RO systems for the portable purification of water, including on the battlefield and in training. In addition to purifying seawater, their Mobile Water Purification Units can also, impressively, purify water that has chemical, biological and radiologic contaminants. One of these units can produce between 12,000 and 60,000 gallons of water in a 24-hour period. For this to work there must be a 4-hour maintenance period to check and clean various parts of the system.


Although there are many useful applications for RO; as a water purification method Reverse Osmosis also has its weaknesses.

  • The size of the holes in the membrane block salt, but many contaminants are smaller and thus escape filtration by RO. Secondary filtration or light sterilization must also be used in these instances.
  • Household units use a great deal of water due to the lower water pressures available.
  • There is the challenge of waste: most of the salt from RO desalination is pumped back into the sea as brine, which is twice as salty as normal seawater and full of toxic chemicals.
  • RO removes many healthful, naturally occurring minerals from the water, leaving it highly acidic and corrosive and must be neutralized with “liming” agents to make to it safe for pipes and for people. Some countries restrict the flow of RO water into the system as it corrodes copper pipes. Similarly it can corrode steel storage tanks, and lead to contamination of water. There is a growing scientific consensus about the acidity of RO drinking water, that when it is consumed regularly causes loss of electrolytes and trace minerals as well as increasing acidity since Carbon Dioxide in the air reacts with RO water to become acidic.
  • In most applications, RO is not particularly water efficient with much wastage often occurring.
  • Reverse Osmosis operations require significant maintenance, which can drive up the cost.
  • Mineral scaling of the membranes is common, especially with Calcium and Magnesium, rendering the membrane ineffective.
  • Energy requirements are large – pumps must work at more than 800 psi to push the saltwater through the membrane. This can be compared with distillation which requires a heat source, but is much less energy intensive than RO and it could be argued without many of its other negatives.


Reverse Osmosis is a water purification solution that can provide clean water and contaminant removal in a variety of situations. But its efficiency of production and health impacts are ammunition to its detractors. It has also been noted that one of the challenges with a changing climate (access to fresh water) is being addressed with an approach that most often creates enormous GHG emissions (Reverse Osmosis). This certainly bears some thought when looking at methods for purifying water in our modern world.


Water – The Precious Commodity

Water. When readily available for personal or business use, it’s perhaps the most taken-for-granted benefit of living in the developed world.

More than a billion people today live without access to clean drinking water. If current trends continue, by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will be susceptible to water shortages. We’re simply using water at rates that nature cannot support.

For most households, businesses and communities, even in places where there seems ample supply today, in the future water will be both more costly and scarce.  This has enormous implications for people meeting their basic needs, on economic prosperity, and for geo-political stability.

Watch this short video for a primer on water. And let’s keep talking about this important subject.

Reducing Energy Consumption Through Behavioral Change

by George Danellis

Perhaps the lowest cost way to reduce energy consumption in a building or workplace is through small behavioral changes.

For the most part this element of a greater strategy to save money on heating, cooling and electricity has been given short thrift in favor of high tech systems and their seeming greater reliability: take the human out of the equation and you get better results. Who among us doesn’t want our buildings automatically and efficiently managed by building controls? But buildings are occupied for the most part by human beings so there remain significant benefits to addressing behavior in order to more greatly reduce energy consumption.

It is certainly true that getting building occupants to act can be challenging. Likewise the size and condition of the building are key factors in successfully changing behavior for energy savings, as is the nature of the activities in the building. But even in hospitals with their strict mandate to ensure public health, operations are saving a lot of energy by reducing the brightness of lighting at night. In turn people speak in hushed tones – just what you want during nighttime hours.

Jennifer Cross, a sociology professor at the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins has been studying how mindfulness of our surroundings can be used to help organizations reduce energy consumption. Her work with the City of Fort Collins and the Poudre Valley School District has proven that it can work, and organizations are taking notice of the impressive results and her methods. At the Rocky Mountain High School campus electricity consumption was reduced by a whopping 50%. District-wide the Poudre Valley Schools reduced expenditures on energy by 37% per square foot in a 12-month period.

Dr. Cross asserts that the key to success is mindfulness.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindful as, “Taking thought or care, heedful: being conscious or aware.” In the context of building energy use being mindful means becoming more aware and curious of what is happening in our environment in this present moment. It is characterized by intentional action, versus the mindlessness of running on autopilot, in an unconscious routine for example.  Dr. Cross’s work seems to suggest that shifting people’s mindset even a little bit towards greater awareness of the indoor environment is enough to make a significant difference to both the bottom line and emissions related to energy use.

What needs to happen for this behavioral approach to work:

A commitment is required.

  • It must be communicated to occupants that this is not a “see if it works” approach but one that is expected to create results.
  • Openly perform an energy audit to baseline usage. This is both functionally and psychologically valuable.

A Culture shift needs to be developed.

  • Steps must be taken to integrate conservation values.
  • Behavioral expectations must be set through policy.
  • Encourage the examining and questioning of routines.

Leadership must be strong, even charismatic.

  • This need not be only at the top level. It is helpful to have leaders on a given floor of a building or in a department.
  • Encourage creativity – solutions are everywhere.
  • Empower the masses by devolving control and decision–making to the people who will be most responsible for the success or failure of the effort.

Communicate Progress

  • What are the organization’s values and how do they align with this effort?
  • Set some basic sustainability goals that include energy consumption.
  • Develop and share the chosen, concrete strategies for this effort.
  • Communicate progress. Use comparative feedback rather than simple data. In order to get people engaged they need to know where they started and how far they’ve come. When people know they are making an impact, they are inspired to do more.
  • Track and report daily energy use to provide more immediate feedback about performance.

While not as direct an action as upgrading lighting or HVAC systems, developing strategies to reduce energy consumption in buildings through behavior change can be a cost-effective and high ROI part of a greater effort to reduce resource consumption in buildings.

Taking A Holistic Approach To Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

by George Danellis

The case for commercial building portfolio owners to address energy resource consumption today is undeniable, including reduced costs, cooling towershealthier indoor environments, and staying a step ahead of regulatory compliance issues.

But this doesn’t mean that owners are always effective in upgrading building systems on ways to immediately reduce costs. A recent report at the Sustainable Operations Summit showed a pent-up demand to act on energy efficiency, and that much of the inefficiency evident today is based on weak operational choices, like lighting being on outside of working hours or poor temperature regulation. In Johnson Controls recently issued fourth annual Energy Efficiency Indicator they report that 52% of building executives and managers are planning to make operating budget expenditures in energy efficiency programs in the coming year. But 38% report that limited capital availability is the main barrier to taking action.

Additionally many building owners and managers are not experts in the energy systems that run their buildings or the solutions available to them. While there are a myriad of well-known benefits for acting on energy efficiency, building system upgrades are often chosen that that fail to deliver solid ROI. In today’s financial environment this lack of expertise means capital projects often fail to get funded.

However when whole building measures are determined based on ROI and higher rate-of-return solutions the likelihood of gaining funding improves dramatically.  These measures need to be based on the size of each building and its complexity, utility and government incentives, as well as the unique state of energy systems in the building – for example the age and condition of particular HVAC plant and lighting.

Lighting remains the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency, with training of staff/occupants also showing good ROI based on low investment and quick return. Investments in HVAC and the right building controls are a play that can justify greater expenditure as can upgrades to windows. Heating and cooling systems that operate more efficiently save money daily and lead to reduced maintenance costs. While cost reduction is still the number one factor for most decision-makers to move forward, improving brand image and building valuation are also key drivers to act. And many building owners and executives are looking to get ahead of expected regulations related to energy efficiency and carbon-based emissions.

Ultimately building performance will benefit most greatly when buildings are viewed as unique, whole units, and decision-makers tap the appropriate expertise to assess both their buildings and their intentions before developing and acting on an energy efficiency plan.

Heavy Lifting at The Los Angeles Superior Court Building – Civil West

This past week saw some significant work on our LA Superior Court Civil West Building project in Los Angeles.

Our partners on the project Johnson Controls, along with Hill Crane, executed some major lifts at this 20-story building that houses the LA County Superior Courthouse.

The cooling towers and associated plumbing were removed, followed by the removal of the old chillers, or air conditioning units.

Subsequent to the removal of these pieces of equipment and their related plumbing, brand new units from manufacturer York were installed. In addition to being more reliable, these units are approximately 25% more energy efficient than the units they replaced and as such are a big part of cost-effectively improving both the energy efficiency of the building, as well as the comfort of building occupants.

We congratulate the crews involved as all of the lifting work was successfully, safely completed in one day, minimizing cost and impact to the area from traffic restrictions associated with crane operation. We send our special appreciation to the staff at Hill Crane, who really showed why they are a leader in their area.

Earth Day Reflections

by George Danellis

It was Earth Day this past Sunday and I’d like to share a bit about the origins of the day and what it means to us here at ECO.

Earth Day commemorates the beginning of the era when as a country, the US began to more accurately recognize the value of the natural world for the wellbeing and prosperity we seek. Before 1970, a factory could spew toxics into the air or dump hazardous waste into a nearby stream (and many did), and that was perfectly legal. There were few legal or regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the environment and the impacts on people. The trigger for this new approach to regulating the state of the environment came after Rachel Carson chronicled the problems caused by pollution, particularly synthetic pesticides in her epic book, Silent Spring (1962). This book for the first time brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.

The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970 as a national celebration of the earth and in support of environmental protection. Amazingly, 20 million Americans demonstrated on that day in different U.S. cities, galvanizing Congress to pass critical legislation, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.  Three years later, the Environmental Protection Agency was established with a mission to protect human health and the environment.

Today we continue to celebrate Earth Day and remember that it is not just a moment in history, but a movement in which we can participate every day. The Earth Day message to “think globally and act locally” as environmental stewards has never been more timely or important. Resource depletion, climate change, overpopulation, and other critical issues necessitate that we share the responsibility to do as much as we can to steward the planet’s finite natural resources while seeking opportunities for the world’s inhabitants. This is the essence of sustainability.

At ECO Corporation we believe that by acting in this way it’s possible for us to enjoy a wonderful quality of life, and to avert the greatest of the adversity that results from ignoring the state of natural world. In addition to taking individual action to see that we live within the biosphere’s limits, businesses can benefit greatly when they become self-actuated and develop a sustainability mindset, to become more resource-efficient and to recognize the impacts they have on people and the communities they live in. This is what we call living the SolarRain Lifestyle – a holistic philosophy that draws upon the natural order of things as a guide to leading healthy, happy and prosperous lives. (More on that to come….)

Happy Earth Day!

SolarSea’s First Delivery

We are pleased to announce that ECO Corp affiliate Sea Water Solutions recently fulfilled its first delivery of SolarSea, its natural, concentrated ocean water, to Custom Aquatics in Vista, California. Custom Aquatics will use SolarSea in their own aquariums and package it for its salt water aquarium customers in one and five gallon containers.

SolarSea is the byproduct of making SolarRain water and an example of The SolarRain Lifestyle.

What is ECO Corporation?

By George Danellis

So this marks the first post on this new blog for ECO Corporation, or ECO Corp as it is also commonly known.

And I am sure some of you are thinking, “Great, another blog.” And a “green” one at that. Well, I’ll offer that what you read hear, and what gets communicated by our bloggers as well as those who participate in the conversation, might be a bit different than what you are used to. Yes, we are a business (a suite of businesses to be more exact – you can read more about that below) so of course we’ll be talking both about our own businesses as well as others in our areas of activity that we think might just matter. But at ECO Corp we are in business to do well financially by doing things in a way that might just make sense for people in the longer term. A way that leads to profitability while also working to better address environmental and social impacts and to be a part of the transition to a clean energy economy. One where prosperity is about the well-being of people and all the things that support it. We believe that it’s possible and rewarding to live a sustainable life.  Even in the corporate world.  The technology is here, and sometimes the intention.  We can power our vehicles,  feed our people, breath good air and drink good water without undermining the conditions on which these rely.  But we need to be honest with ourselves, and truly embrace a lifestyle that promotes that kind of living and thinking.

Now we’ve heard a lot about this approach to business over the past several years, and thankfully some progress is being made. There’s been a lot of bluster is too – it’s often called greenwashing. And that has made it hard to discern who’s doing what and in what manner.

What we aim to accomplish with this blog is to be authentic about what we are doing, and what others are doing to be more “sustainable”.  I’ll say right now that you’re going to read some things in posts that you’ll take issue with. Great! Let us know what you think by commenting at the end of posts. Let’s have a discussion that makes us all more effective. And if it’s at all possible, let’s adhere to the old maxim that suggesting problems without offering solutions doesn’t do us a lot of good. Please share your reasoning for why you disagree with something written here, or with a suggested approach , and then give us your suggestions for righting it. Because at ECO Corp we are 100% sure that we don’t have all the answers – we’re just doing our best to figure out how to do good things, for our owners and for stakeholders up and down the value chain. And we want our activities to inspire and inform others to do the same.

So what does ECO Corporation do? ECO is a company that identifies waste where it either is not seen or is mis-perceived, and turns that “waste” into something valuable. Another way to look at it is that we extend the life-cycle value of existing products and services. In the case of the performance of the built environment  we act as owner’s representatives for energy efficiency-based commercial building retrofits. Currently we are working on the 20-story building that houses the LA County Superior Courthouse. Together with our carefully selected partners, we are modernizing their building to improve tenant health and satisfaction while increasing its value, and simultaneous reducing energy and other utility costs and pollutant emissions.  ECO Corporation is involved in several other businesses as well. While we’ll share much more in the coming weeks here is a snippet:

  • One of ECO’s companies has developed a thermal powered desalination system capable of using waste heat or solar generated heat,  that with almost no electrical energy can turn sea water into delicious and healthy drinking water. This same technology can clean waste agricultural water, and more.
  • We also have a natural skin care line that uses pure salts and water that are byproducts (known formerly as “waste”) of this solar distillation process to create remarkable skin care products.
  • The solar still technology is the first one to be developed by our Research and Development Company and can be used for various applications.
  • The brine that is left after the distillation of the sea water is used as a high quality, natural solution for the commercial aquarium industry. One that eliminates the need for synthetic products and massive freighting of sea water from the coasts. Our sea water solution is roughly 1/5 the volume of sea water and can be re-constituted on site.

I’ll stop there for now, but I hope gives a picture of what we are about at Eco Corp. We’ll share more in the future but know that at ECO we are committed to activities that encourage a lifestyle and a way of doing business that is healthy and rewarding, that more accurately accounts for natural and human capital in this resource constrained world, and that leaves us with a greater sense of well-being.

We don’t harbor any illusions that the road to a more sustainable world is marked with potholes the size of Ford Expeditions, but we are pretty sure that if our collective energy and spirit is truly aligned with finding solutions, then we will. And we’ll even make money doing it.

Until next time…..