The motto of Portland, Ore.-based Glumac is "Thinking. Inside the Building," and the design team at the company did some of its best thinking in creating the HVAC, plumbing, and lighting systems for the Mirabella retirement community in Portland, Ore.

The 514,043 sq ft facility is owned and operated by Pacific Retirement Services, which operates 10 retirement communities in five states.

"This is one of my favorite projects," Mitchell Dec, senior energy analyst at Glumac, said. "It's more than just a multifamily project. There are numerous space functions throughout the facility. Getting all of the systems operating successfully took a lot of coordination. Plus, we had the added challenge of the facility being occupied 24/7."

Through a collaborative design process, Glumac leveraged energy analysis and modeling to create a roadmap for early decision-making on the MEP and architectural systems. By making the major design decisions early, the team was able to focus its efforts on fine-tuning the details.

The design emphasized holistic, sustainable features. The glass on the facades was selected to allow more natural light to enter on the north and reject heat on the south. The condenser water loop in the water-source heat pumps was balanced to reduce cooling tower and boiler run time. Low-flow plumbing fixtures were selected to maximize water conservation. Solar water heating was used to create domestic hot water in the summer.

The project is 45 percent more efficient than a code-equivalent building design and produces 3 percent of its energy from on-site renewable systems. The environmental impact is more than a 60-percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions relative to 2030 Challenge targets.

The Portland facility was Pacific Retirement Services’ first foray into Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

“Pacific Retirement Services targeted LEED Silver certification and said we’d have to demonstrate the cost and benefit impact of any higher certification level,” Dec said. “When we brought them the base design and said, ‘Here’s a good design for this building,’ that on its own merits took it to LEED Gold. With just a few small incremental steps, such as the solar water-heating option and the selection of higher-efficiency water-source heat pumps, we were able to achieve LEED Platinum.”

At the end of that process, Pacific Retirement Services realized two benefits from its LEED Platinum certification in addition to the direct financial benefits attributed to state tax credits, utility incentives, and energy savings of a highly efficient system:

The marketing value of being a LEED Platinum facility helped significantly increase the number of pre-leased units.

The facility’s low operating expenses allowed Pacific Retirement Services and Glumac to go back to the bank and negotiate more favorable financing.

“Banks often take pro forma comps to determine how much they’ll lend, and in this case the bank was assuming operating expenses of $2.50 per square foot,” Dec said. “When we showed them that we anticipated costs closer to $1.25 per square foot, the bank freed up more money, which provided Pacific Retirement Services with the capital to pursue Platinum certification. We changed the bank’s thinking and helped the owners achieve their goal.”

Dec added that the post-occupancy survey turned out even better than Glumac’s projections: 97 cents per square foot for energy and 19 cents per square foot for water and sewer, or $1.16 per sq ft for overall operational costs.

“We’re very happy with Glumac’s work on the project,” Brian McLemore, Pacific Retirement Services’ president and chief executive officer, said. “They were extremely helpful in working with us through the LEED process. We feel very good about the leadership they provided on the project and the advice they gave to us, and we’re very happy with the results and the performance.”