The Greening of the Presidio

October 7, 1994

By Diane LaMacchia,

As a former Army post, the Presidio of San Francisco is a symbol of the shift away from military conflict to a united international fight on behalf of the environment. Now that the Presidio is a national park, there are plans for it to become an international environmental center, focusing on sustainable design.

"Sustainable design means that what you do today doesn't have a negative impact on the future," says mechanical engineer Dale Sartor of the Energy and Environment Division. To champion energy programs at the Presidio, Sartor took a year's leave of absence from LBL to serve as a technical advisor to the Presidio Council, a planning group set up by the Golden Gate National Park Association.

Sartor focused on the energy management of the Presidio itself, working to make it exemplary of the ideas that will be fostered by the park's environmentally-oriented tenants. Now Sartor has been named to head a new Applications Team in LBL's Energy and Environment Division. The "A-Team" will employ the talents of engineers from the Facilities Department and researchers from E&E to increase the use of energy-saving and environmental technologies.

"We're going to help federal agencies and others meet energy savings goals by applying the knowledge and expertise of the national labs," Sartor says. "The Presidio's going to be a flagship project for the A-Team."

On September 24, Vice President Al Gore officially launched the Presidio's transition to a national park and announced that it will serve as a model of new environmental technologies, featuring energy-efficient buildings and clean transportation systems. Several multi-agency agreements were announced, including the establishment of the Energy Efficiency Training Center. The center's creation was largely initiated by LBL scientists Mark Levine and Stephen Wiel (see Sept. 23, 1994 Currents).

In the spirit of getting their own house in order, the Department of the Interior signed a joint resolution with DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Federal Energy Management Program for the "Greening of the Presidio." The parties agreed to work together to make the Presidio a showcase of energy efficiency and environmentally-sound energy practices.

"Western countries have to take some leadership not only to clean up their own act but to encourage sustainable development throughout the world," Sartor says. "It's much easier to point to the Brazilians cutting down their rain forests than to look at what we do here."

The Presidio contains a large number of buildings--many of them old and energy intensive--amounting to a some six million square feet of space. It is an ideal site for energy-efficiency demonstration and research projects.

"The Presidio has everything a small village has: a post office, bank, gas station, store, movie theater, bowling alley, golf course, burger shack, and 1,200 residential units," Sartor says. "This allows for research at a community scale."

Sartor says his biggest accomplishment during his year with the Presidio Council was the Park Service's signing of a contract with Pacific Gas and Electric for the utility to provide significant financial incentives for an energy management program. This is the first such contract signed in California.

"As the Park Service implements conservation, PG&E will pay for measured performance over a 10-year period," Sartor says. "They will pay for negative watts--worth about $10 million to the Presidio."

The conservation measures Sartor has recommended include lighting retrofits and the installation of lighting and heating controls for buildings.

One of the Presidio's first tenants will be the Tides Foundation, an environmentally-oriented philanthropic organization that will occupy 75,000 square feet of space with its new Thoreau Center for Sustainability. Organizations participating in the Thoreau Center will include the Energy Foundation and the Exploratorium's Learning Studio Program.

"They want the building to be indicative of the concepts they're talking about," Sartor says. The A-Team will identify opportunities for lighting retrofits, temperature and lighting controls, window treatments such as tinted glass, and high efficiency heating systems, while balancing cost, efficiency, and historical preservation.

In addition to its work with the Presidio, the A-Team is developing work with other agencies. It already has a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration to look at airport control towers, beginning with the Houston airport. The team will characterize the tower from an energy-use standpoint, and identify possible energy-saving technologies and applications and bring them together.

Evan Mills, assistant head of LBL's Center for Building Science, and E&E's Bill Carroll were instrumental in creating the A-Team.