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Santa Monica’s Extremely Green City Services Building Project to Require Nearly Six Figures for “Enhanced” Oversight


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 10, 2018 -- The City of Santa Monica’s extremely green $77 million City Services Building project will require a special level of “commissioning” to ensure all environmentally ahead-of-the-curve systems work efficiently.

The “Living Building” -- one that will have no water or electric bill because it produces the energy and water it consumes on site -- needs the extra set of eyes to help assure the systems are “coordinated, installed, calibrated and perform as intended,” a report to the City Council said.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the council is expected to accept staff’s recommendation that Syska Hennessy Group, Inc., a California-based company, perform commissioning services for the CSB in an amount not to exceed $95,189, including a 10 percent contingency.

Cost of the services is already included in the project’s total budget, staff said.

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The 50,000-square-foot annex to the original City Hall built in 1938 would be the greenest structure in California history.

It is designed to attain the status of the International Living Future Institute's "Living Building Challenge," or the most environmentally stringent standards that now exist.

"Because the CSB includes unique high-performance building systems, staff is recommending enhanced commissioning services, which are encouraged by California Building Code and the LEED Rating system for energy savings,” Susan Cline, who heads City public works, said in the report.

“For building owners that intend to operate a building through its useful life, investing in enhanced commissioning increases life-cycle cost savings,” she said.

The cost for the services is included in the overall cost of construction for the CSB, which was approved by council on August 8 of 2017, the report said.

It also approved Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company for a “Guaranteed Maximum Price” for construction services not to exceed $70,600,507.

It also voted to issue $76,760,000 in bonds to finance the project ("City of Santa Monica Prepares to Bond Nearly $77 million for Greenest Building in California History," August 4, 2017).

The CSB’s design includes methods to achieve net-zero energy (NZE) and net-zero water (NZW) performance.

The council was heavily criticized by neighborhood associations and watchdog organizations for approving a project they deemed too costly ("Council Rejects Appeal of $75 Million Santa Monica City Hall Annex," January 26, 2017).

They said the City -- known for its environmental consciousness –- really wanted the building for bragging rights.

According to the City, the CSB will centralize city services now scattered in leased office space, saving as much as $10 million annually.

If the project’s targets are met, “the City will benefit from never paying for energy or water utility costs, which are expected to escalate over time,” Cline said.

The contract with Syska Hennessy Group, she said, will focus on the project’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC); automated operable windows; photovoltaics (PV) systems; sub-metering and data collection; lighting controls; occupant pre-settings and timers; plumbing including heat pumps, potable water treatment system, greywater system and composting toilets.

Due to the complex building systems in the CSB, the City also wants commissioning to design an operations and maintenance plan for the building, and to provide ongoing “commissioning of energy systems after the building is operational to ensure the Living Building Challenge Net-Zero Energy Certification is met,” Cline said.

She said such services can’t be provided by the project’s contractor “for quality control purposes.”

“The commissioning agent is required to observe the construction process with frequent site visits and inspections. Site visits may be necessary on short notice to keep the project’s construction schedule on track.

It is to be finished by 2020.


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