In Balance Green Consulting - 10th Anniversary!

As the In Balance Green Consulting team, we are celebrating! It has been ten years since our Principals Andy Pease, Architect and LEED Accredited Professional, and Jennifer Rennick, Architect and Certified Energy Analyst, launched our firm.

 Andy in 2010

Andy in 2010

 Jen in 2010

Jen in 2010

Before joining forces a decade ago, Andy and Jennifer’s paths first crossed years prior while working on an energy improvement project. A few years later they were working independently, Andy focusing on green building and Jennifer on energy modeling. During that time, they would informally collaborate and share insights regarding green building practices, LEED, and energy performance. Over time, they began hiring one another for projects or pursuing projects together, taking turns on who was prime. Soon they realized that their skill-sets complemented one another, as did their passion for a balanced approach, both in life and in architecture. In spring of 2008 the two formalized their partnership by establishing In Balance Green Consulting.


“The words ‘In Balance’ bring powerful images for us,” says Andy. “Balance applies to the natural world, to your work/home life, and to the reality of having projects move forward. You can’t be so focused on one aspect that a project is no longer economically feasible, for example; there is always the triple bottom line.” Andy and Jennifer created this business as two women who both had young kids and wanted a balance of career, family, helping the community, and making the planet a better place. Those values remain key.

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The company has grown over the years to include new team members and expanded services. Andy reflects on this growth, “We needed to bring on qualified staff, professionals who also understood the LEED process and whole building energy performance. Once we hired staff it triggered our next milestone, moving out of our living rooms into an office. We sub-leased space in the beginning and eventually moved into our own office here at the Soda Water Works building.” 


Our diverse portfolio includes winery, office, hospitality and retail, residential, government and education projects. Jennifer recalls the excitement of being awarded the first big projects. “One of the first wineries we worked on was Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles. The client saw the benefit of high performance and daylighting, which was very exciting. Not everyone working on the project understood all the implications of daylighting, whereas now it’s much more understood. This was one of our first clients to move forward with LEED certification.”

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Over the past decade we are fortunate to have been involved in a wide variety of successful projects. Along with celebrating the past decade, we are also looking forward to what the future holds. Andy summarizes our vision, “One of the things that drives us forward is how to be most impactful. We love working with organizations that want to take big steps to reduce their environmental footprint and improve quality of life for their building occupants. At the same time, we are excited to provide services to clients who are just getting up to speed with the concepts of green building and want to explore how far they can take them.”






Monterey Street Mixed Use Achieves LEED Certification

The new Monterey Street Mixed Use complex, located in the heart of San Luis Obispo, has received LEED certification. The project provides close to 70,000 SF of commercial and residential spaces. Three existing qualified historic buildings were combined with new infill shell buildings to create a two- and three-story complex with retail stores, restaurants, a pedestrian plaza and 60 studio and 1-bedroom apartments.

 Monterey Street before the restoration

Monterey Street before the restoration

 Monterey Street in 2018

Monterey Street in 2018

“We are proud to build sustainably in San Luis Obispo,” says owner Copeland Properties architect Mark Rawson. “We understand the importance of sustainability globally, and we are committed to doing our part locally. This infill project brings housing and other important uses to downtown while preserving our historic heritage.”

Monterey Street achieved LEED certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions to achieve high performance in the following areas:

Site: The infill site supports community connectivity and alternative transportation with a location that provides access to multiple local services.

Materials: 90% of the existing buildings were reused for the project.

Water: A 31% reduction in indoor water use was achieved through the use of highly efficient plumbing fixtures.

Energy: The project is expected to use 12% less energy compared to similar buildings. A rooftop solar electric array offsets the energy use of the shared public spaces.

Regional Priority credits: Monterey Street achieved four regional priority credits, the maximum available to projects. These priorities emphasized on-site renewable energy and a site selection that integrates new construction into existing infrastructures.

Congratulations to the project team!

·      Owner: Copeland Properties

·      Architect: Mark Rawson

·      Associate Architect: Rea & Luker Architects, Inc.

·      Contractor: J.W. Design & Construction

·      LEED Consulting: In Balance Green Consulting

·      Geotechnical Engineering: Earth Systems Pacific

·      Civil Engineer: Above Grade Engineering

·      Structural Engineer: Ashley Vance Engineering

·      Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Brummel Myrick & Associates

·      Electrical Engineer: Power and Communications Engineering

·      Landscape Architect: FIRMA

·      Renewable Energy Provider: Pacific Energy


Grouping Retrofits to Gain Efficiency

Rather than build new facilities, many companies are finding their best bet for reducing overhead is to relocate to existing buildings or simply stay where they are and focus on maintenance and retrofitting. Either option creates an opportunity to combine needed upgrades with an analysis that can optimize efficiency for your building.

Roof repairs needed?

A leaky roof can’t be ignored, but a straight replacement may leave out a big efficiency opportunity: removal of the old roof and adding rigid insulation underneath it. In addition, if you use a ‘cool roof’ combined with the added insulation, your air conditioning loads can drop 30% or more, depending on your climate.

While we’re on the roof…

Replacing or retrofitting a roof is a great time to add solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. In fact, PVs generate more electricity when mounted on a cool roof than on a dark, hot roof.  

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Take a look at daylighting

Another upgrade that dovetails with roof work is adding skylights or suntubes. Adding daylight to interior spaces reduces the amount of electric light needed and provides better quality of light for employees, which reduces operating costs and increases productivity. By planning for PVs and suntubes at the same time, the PV panels can be spaced for maximum efficiency, ensuring they don’t shade each other or the suntubes.

Photosensors on lighting

Once the daylighting has been added, it’s important to adjust lighting controls so that the electric lights shut off automatically when there is sufficient natural light.

Electric lighting


If your electric lights are more than 10 years old, an upgrade will likely pay off. Sometimes a lamp and ballast replacement is enough; sometimes new fixtures and a new layout are needed. Combining suntubes with a lighting upgrade at the same time will simplify the layout and reduce interruptions due to the ceiling retrofit work.

Energy Audit

A whole-building energy audit will help identify other high-impact improvements that are possible for an existing building, such as mechanical equipment, insulation, windows, pumps, indoor water use, or even irrigation.

Retrofit Analysis Services

At In Balance Green Consulting, we work with engineers, suppliers, designers, and commissioning agents to develop the best balance between long-term planning and near-term implementation in grouping retrofits for commercial buildings.

·       Preliminary Energy Analysis: We use energy modeling software, such as EnergyPro, to model the energy performance of a comparable standard building (or the existing building prior to upgrades) and compare it to the proposed energy efficient building, identifying the highest-impact improvements.

·       Daylight Modeling: We use IES software to develop a daylight model, determining the size and spacing of skylights and/or suntubes to achieve the most appropriate light levels.

·       PV Solar Analysis: We provide system analysis, including sizing, expected energy savings, and a payback pro forma.

·       Follow-through: Working with the selected contractor and/or design team, we help define the total project scope and provide technical assistance and expertise throughout implementation.

Combining deferred maintenance items and energy upgrades can lead to construction cost efficiencies and increased ROI for commercial projects.  

Contact us to get the conversation started.

Highlights from the Zero Net Energy Series

Our four-part series on ZNE strategies, presented with Allen Construction and the Central Coast Green Building Council, opened last month to a sold out crowd.

For those unable to attend, here’s a glimpse at some of the highlights:

ZNE Compliance – Jennifer Rennick:

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A common definition for ZNE is that a building produces as much energy as it consumes.  While that is the case for “operational ZNE”, California’s Title 24 code will require projects to comply via one of two methods.  The performance method will be based on the Energy Design Rating (EDR), while a prescriptive method will use conditioned floor area (CFA) and a Dwelling Adjustment Factor to determine compliance.

What a difference sealing an attic can make – Scott Nyborg:

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Using measured data from a renovation project in Los Angeles, the effects of air sealing and insulation on attic temperature were shown to be dramatic.  While indoor temperature initially fluctuated in sync with outdoor air temperature (OAT), as measures were put in place the variability was reduced from 20 degrees to 5 degrees in a 24-hour period.

For more information, see the Central Coast Green Building Council's website.



Strategies for Collecting and Using Rainwater - Residential Edition

In a winter season that seems set to bring more sunshine than rain, it is easy for rainwater collection to drop to the bottom of anyone’s priority list.  Yet, long periods of warm dry weather punctuated with short intense storms make smart water use - especially if you have irrigation needs - all the more important. 

Depending on how, and how much, irrigation water you use, several capture options can make sense.

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Small (50gal) free standing rainwater tanks: Typically connected via a diverter from a residential downspout, these tanks or “rain barrels” are inexpensive and easy to move from one collection location to another.  They can fill up quickly (roughly 0.1 inches falling on a 1000sf roof) and are handy to use for watering nearby plants, pots, or a tree.

Large (5000gal+) tanks:  More expensive and requiring much more room in a yard (about 8 ½ ft diameter), they also need to be plumbed, filtered and maintained.   That said, they can be connected to each other and to pumps, which for large properties may offer more bang for the buck especially through dry summers.

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Portable water pillows/bladders: A relative newcomer to the market, these flexible flat “balloons” made of material similar to that used in rubber rafts come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Several manufacturers now make them with price tags that can vary widely. 

The innovation here is that they lie flat, so they are well-suited for crawl spaces or under decks, thereby freeing up yard space.  DIY hookups and pumps make the water available for landscape use.  They can also be drained and rolled up for storage in the dry season.

For winters that bring rain via frequent small storms, the smaller tanks or barrels can work well to water during the gaps and then let them refill with the next rain.  For years like this one (and likely future ones?), with infrequent larger storms, storage systems with large capacities become more important (and useful) to make it through even the “wet” season.  Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction regarding permitting requirements.

As water rates continue to move toward reflecting the real cost of provided water, the benefits (for plants and for your wallet) of capturing rainfall become more evident.  The important thing is to get started!


Onsite Water Reuse Takes a Another Step Forward

Ever wondered what tertiary treatment really means?  Interested in graywater for toilets but don’t know where to start?  Looking for ways to move your project closer to net-zero water (and energy for that matter)?

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The long-awaited “Onsite Non-Potable Water Reuse Practice Guide” was recently released by the William J. Worthen Foundation.  Following years of research on and advocacy for bringing water reuse strategies to the public, the practice guide offers readers specifics on how and why reuse may be right for your next project.

With chapters on “The Right Water for the Right Job” and “Can I Get this Thing Permitted?” as well as detailed information on how to build a system that works for you, the 87-page guide comes complete with references, additional resources and case studies. 

It's a great read for practitioners and the general public alike.  The downloadable .pdf is available on the Foundation’s website.

And Now for Some Good News on GHG Reductions

We often talk about the "energy-water nexus", recognizing that pumping, cleaning and treating water is a significant contributor to energy use. In 2015, water conservation programs in California reduced water use by more than 20%, but the energy savings and subsequent GHG reductions weren't quantified, until now.

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In a new study of the California drought, researchers show that "the decrease in water usage translated into a significant electricity saving of 1,830 gigawatt hours (GWh). Interestingly, those savings were around 11 percent greater than those achieved by investor-owned electricity utilities' efficiency programs over the same period."

The study goes on to note that the water-saving strategies are similar in cost to programs that directly target energy reductions, so we will likely see more integrated energy/water conservation programs in the future. And that's good news!

Modeling Suntubes to Design for Daylight

The benefits of natural light within the built environment have now been researched, written about and accepted as a fundamental design characteristic in successful architecture. Creating a connection to the outdoors provides the stimulation required to regulate our circadian rhythms, which can result in improved comfort and productivity. In addition, increasing natural daylight in our homes and work environments decreases the demand for electric lighting and therefore, electricity consumption.

While traditional skylights can provide a good visual connection to the outdoors, suntubes are better insulated, are more efficient at distributing daylight without glare, and don’t have the ‘thermal liability’ of a skylight. Suntubes, Solatubes, SunTunnels, Solar Tubes - whatever brand or label you choose - all are products we often recommend in our projects that have proven to be a real asset to daylighting design. Although they are often located in a project using ballpark guidelines, computer daylight modeling provides more opportunity for strategic placement.  Below are two of our recent projects with examples of how the products were used, lessons learned, and best practices.


Lompoc Transit Center

The Transit Center was built with four large commercial bays that included fleet maintenance spaces, a bus wash station, office space, support and storage space. The client’s experience at other facilities was that the bay doors were being left open to bring daylight into the spaces which caused issues with wind, dust and glare. Rather than closing the doors and installing high bay electric lighting, we were brought onto the team to investigate suntubes as an alternative solution. We ran daylight simulations comparing light levels for different times of the year, with the bay doors open and closed, with different quantities of tubes, and an option of Kalwall systems in certain buildings.

A sample comparison below shows daylight levels on a summer day with eight tubes (left) versus sixteen tubes (right):

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The suntubes were very effective in bringing highbay light into a space without using any electricity.

One complication for this project was when we began designing the roof top solar arrays. CalFire requires a 4-foot clearance around all openings, including suntubes, and at the eaves. In our effort to properly daylight the spaces that could not be effectively reached using side lighting, we were also carving out roof top area that would be unavailable for solar modules.

A solution that emerged was moving some of the planned solar PV panels to the canopy over an adjacent work area.  This allowed some of the electricity generation to be assumed by a concentrated installation, while freeing up space on the main building for daylighting mixed with a smaller PV footprint.


Financial Building

This project comprised a three-story multi-use building with significant glazing on all orientations, using a spandrel glazing system. We assisted the design team in improving the building’s daylight by making suggestions such as glazing performance specifications, altering the footprint shape and rearranging interior spaces to increase the depth of daylighting.

Through modeling, we demonstrated that a thinner footprint provided greater opportunity for daylight and had improved energy performance. The architects - Arris Studio Architects - were then able to create a building with great perimeter daylighting. We then focused on improving interior spaces such as common work areas of the third floor. We recommended a “shared light” strategy where suntubes were placed throughout the corridor, and the interior office doors were changed from solid to glazed, creating more consistent light levels on the top floor from the perimeter to the core.

Initially the owner group also wanted a large skylight in the lobby area but after modeling different scenarios, we suggested multiple suntubes that would still provide ample daylight but reduce glare, prevent UV-light from fading the furniture, and reduce heat gain that would have occurred with a single large skylight. You can see in the image below that four suntubes were located in the interior rectangular space directly in front of double doors to bring in light for occupants deep in the space, while single suntubes provide daylight to both the corridor and the adjacent interior spaces (through glazed doors).


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Suntubes, interior glazing, a thinner footprint, and coordination with roof-mounted solar panels are all strategies to achieve a high performance building that is a great place to work. To achieve all that, daylight modeling is a great tool for effective design decisions.