The Gaillard Center and Energy Efficiency

The Gaillard Center, located in Charleston, South Carolina, is a multi- purpose municipal complex. The Gaillard project that was completed towards the end of 2015, was partly a renovation and partly a reconstruction. Working with the original, existing Gaillard structure, the team built a new center on its framework. The majority of the structure and the skin of the existing auditorium were left in place to preserve the history of the building. Due to the sheer size of this complex in combination with the hot and humid climate of Charleston, there were many mechanical, electrical, and plumbing solutions that needed to present themselves while still remaining energy efficient. 

Downtown Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is known for their hot and humid climate for the majority of the year. The Gaillard Center in particular is located in Downtown Charleston, which is prone to flooding and hurricane winds often, as it is along the coast. All of these locational considerations needed to be taken into account when designing this space efficiently.

According to the David M. Schwarz Architects website, “the Gaillard Center began as a 1960s-era, general purpose, 2,700-seat auditorium and exhibit hall known as the Gaillard Auditorium”. In 2010, David M. Schwarz Architects were commissioned to the lead the renovation and expansion. On their website the architects stated that “the project scope included a full renovation of the auditorium, a renovation and expansion of the existing exhibit hall into a banquet facility and the construction of an office building to serve several of the City of Charleston’s departmental offices”. 

Silver Certification

The Gaillard Center was awarded LEED Silver certification in May of 2016. The center received its certification for its solutions in energy efficiency, water use reduction, sustainable site development, responsible material selection, and enhanced indoor environmental quality. In particular, the buildings use of demand control ventilation and energy efficient LED lighting solutions are, in part, largely responsible for the certification. The building is located in a high seismic zone and is susceptible to hurricane-strength winds and high-tide flooding issues that come along with being located in a coastal city. The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were designed to withstand these criteria all while being integrated into a fine-tuned, state-of-the-art performance hall. The mechanical system for the new auditorium is designed to use demand ventilation and is equipped with carbon monoxide sensors to regulate outdoor air ventilation to preserve the space temperature while using the least amount of energy possible. In highly ventilated buildings, ventilation energy costs can include of nearly 40% of total energy costs.With demand control ventilation, ventilation rates can be reduced, yielding significant energy savings. Another plus is that bringing in fresh outdoor air has been shown to improve indoor air quality, making the indoor space more comfortable and healthy for the building’s occupants. While these control systems can have significant up-front costs, they are being used in more and more buildings because those costs are paid back in a short time as a result of reduced ventilation loads and future lower operating costs. 

There are separate mechanical systems for each section of the building that were designed to optimize the different demand loads the building will see. According to the building’s engineer’s website, the mechanical systems for each area of the Gaillard Center are designed to be independent of each other to optimize the performance of the HVAC equipment and allow the flexibility needed to events on Saturdays and Sundays in the humid South Carolina summer while the municipal office space is shut down for the weekend. The part of the HVAC system responsible for this is the direct digital control panel. The DDC panel is a control system that utilizes digital processors to directly control the HVAC system. In this case, where the building has multiple zones, the DDC system communicates information from each zone from a centralized control panel. 

Fluorescent Fixtures

Another aspect where the Gaillard Center flourishes in energy efficiency is through the lighting throughout the multi- functional spaces. The lighting throughout the center used a mixture of energy- efficient LED lighting and fluorescent fixtures. These fixtures yielded an energy savings of more than 25% of the allowable lighting- power density of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code. The IECC deals with energy efficiency from several sectors, including cost savings, reduced energy usage, conservation of natural resources, and the impact of energy usage on the environment. The lighting throughout the Gaillard Center complies with these standards and helps in achieving lower energy usage and, in turn, lower costs.

LED lighting provides a long- lasting, energy and cost efficient lighting option. LEDs are a lighting technology that is a solid- state, meaning it converts light through a semiconductor. This contrasts from incandescent bulbs that generate light through a filament, creating excess waste and heat. LEDs can be as much as 80% more energy efficient and less detrimental to the environment than the competing incandescent bulbs. LED lighting is energy efficient, yields better light quality, and less maintenance because of the bulb’s longevity. 

Overall, the Gaillard Center project was awarded LEED certification for their efforts in energy efficiency; including, but not limited to, the use of demand control ventilation as well as efficient lighting solutions. This is a large, 23,300 square foot space utilizes innovative solutions to yield in reduced energy usage and lower costs throughout the space.