Ash Awad, P.E. is the Chief Market Officer at McKinstry. Ash is responsible for McKinstry’s market development strategy and has more than 20 years experience in the industry. His extensive knowledge covers systems engineering, evaluation of sustainable ideas and development of alternative-financing solutions. During this Green Line Series, we asked Ash a few questions around collaborative energy. He will participate in the session District and Cooperative Energy | Hot Ideas + Cool Technology in the Seattle 2030 District as a part of the GoGreen Seattle program track on Sustainable Building and Design.
GoGreen Conference: We are excited to learn of McKinstry’s focus on “collaborative energy”, most recently featured in the new Amazon/Westin project in Seattle’s 2030 District. What does “collaborative energy” mean and how does this drive a more sustainable future?
Ash Awad: Collaborative energy is a derivative of the more well-known district energy concept, but instead of a central plant being the supplier of energy that is distributed to a “district” or collection of buildings, one of the buildings within that collection is the supplier of the energy. We like to refer to it as collaborative energy because a number of parties must collaborate to make it work. In the case of the Amazon/Westin project, a private building owner (Westin) had waste heat from its data centers that it was releasing into the atmosphere that the owner thought could have value as a heat source. Another private building owner (Amazon) was about to build its new corporate headquarters across the street and wanted to make that building as energy efficient as possible. Through its policies, the City of Seattle enabled these two private owners to innovate and design a system that captured the waste heat from the Westin, piped it under the street and delivered it to Amazon – thus the collaborative energy concept was born. Collaborative approaches like this are key to driving these cutting-edge outcomes.
The idea of re-using energy that’s been transformed into a different state isn’t new. McKinstry has engineered and implemented waste heat recovery systems many times before. What is new is doing it on a large scale when energy suppliers and users are different entities and the energy crosses private property borders.
Dense, energy-intensive, mixed-use environments – such as cities – are not only smart ways of using and conserving land, they are also fertile ground for recycling energy.
This renewable model turns waste heat into an asset, rather than a liability, and promises to dramatically increase the energy efficiency of cities while reducing their carbon footprint. It’s a win for energy users because it saves them money and provides them energy price certainty for a long time; it’s a win for the community because we don’t need to bring on more energy generation resources.
We hope that this project catalyzes a paradigm shift in the way communities think about energy use and policy that shapes it.
GoGreen Conference: McKinstry designs the systems to take advantage of waste heat. Can you share new developments with these systems? Any new McKinstry projects launching that will utilize this?
Ash Awad: McKinstry is working on several other energy recycling opportunities. McKinstry thinks of buildings as energy resources – not just energy users. The Westin/Amazon project demonstrates that data centers in particular, are energy-rich environments that can benefit adjacent properties and communities.
The mechanical systems that are the backbone of these types of projects are readily available and are getting more and more efficient. What’s really interesting is the role data is playing in helping us better figure out how to use waste heat. Through the use of technology, buildings are getting smarter, which allows building designers and operators to be proactive in making decisions that affect the efficiency of our built environment.
GoGreen Conference: Our GoGreen business and public sector leaders will be very interested in learning about McKinstry’s work in this area. Can small and medium-sized businesses utilize these new systems? Why should business and public sector leaders care about this?
Ash Awad: This type of system may not be right or even possible for everyone. Retrofits to accommodate this solution can be expensive, and often downright impossible. Facilities with central boilers are good candidates, but if the boilers aren’t fully depreciated or have life left in them, it can be hard to justify replacing them. Utilities or other heat providers must obtain permits and navigate other bureaucratic obstacles in order to add water pipes and other needed infrastructure.
Businesses should care about this because how their facility operates directly affects the perception that people have about their business. Increasingly, building owners are looking for ways to make their buildings more energy efficient not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is also good for business. Research has shown that a company’s environmental record impacts people’s decision to do business with them. And building owners looking to attract tenants are finding that how “green” their building is can be a huge factor in determining lease rates.
Public sector leaders should care about this kind of innovation because as Oregon-based EcoDistricts describes the promise of this idea: “With the right mix of inspired design, smart planning and skillful execution, cities can be engines of innovation full of talented and creative people who accelerate economic growth, shared prosperity and ecological resiliency.”
This collaborative-energy approach spotlights the opportunity tied up in the massive untapped productivity of energy that resides under our streets and in our buildings in this country. Focused public policies that encourage urban density and public-private partnerships that build stronger neighborhoods are the key that can unlock this potential.
Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.