Part 1. Buildings: Energy Efficiency

Cross-posted from the Davis Enterprise, April 13, 2014

Each year Cool Davis recognizes “Eco heroes” – Davis residents who model how to incorporate sustainable practices into their work, civic, and everyday lives. Acting out of personal conviction, they are just doing “the right thing” for themselves, our community and our planet.

The Cool Davis Climate Solution Awards go to local businesses, groups, or organizations for exemplary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As they model ways to reduce their environmental impact, they become leaders in creating options to conserve resources, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and stabilize the climate.

In its efforts to work with our community on greenhouse gas emission reduction and sustainability issues, Cool Davis focuses on three topics: Buildings (energy efficiency), Transportation (helping our community shift to non-fossil fuel vehicles and modes of transportation) and Consumption (reducing consumption and waste of food, water, landfill, etc.)

Our 2014 Eco Hero award in Energy Efficiency goes to Kristin Heinemeier for her work on the science of energy efficiency, while Hallmark Properties receives a Climate Solutions award for retrofitting its buildings with energy-efficient, up-to-date technology.

Kristin Heinemeier, Eco hero 2014
Interview by Claire Black-Slotten

I found Kristin at the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center, located in the new West Village community on the UC Davis campus, to ask her a bit about her life and work. Kristin is a mechanical engineer and mother of two whose work is to look at energy efficiency in cooling systems, working primarily on policy issues, as well as technical lab and field studies.

One of Kristin’s favorite areas of research is looking at the impact of both homeowner and builder behavior on energy use. One aspect of this is an investigation of building codes and the practices and traditions in the building trades. Also, she is working with PG&E and the California Energy Commission to find ways to encourage efficient purchases and installation/maintenance practices.

In the community, she is a leader of the GreenFaith Action Team at the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, where they are undertaking a renovation including taking steps to be more energy efficient and to educate the congregation on energy efficiency. She is also a volunteer for Cool Davis, and has canvassed neighborhoods to get the word out about a Cool Davis-sponsored attic retrofit program, and is helping to develop and implement a survey of Davis residents’ green activities and attitudes.

Kristin is committed to energy efficiency at home and has put her money where her mouth is – she has recently installed a high efficiency furnace and water heater, as well as rooftop photovoltaics to generate electricity. A reclaimed redwood floor (salvaged from old California barns) rounds out the low resource-use picture at home.

When Kristin isn’t working or renovating, she is busy raising her 14 and 11 year-old sons to be good stewards of the environment. You may have seen the picture of them in a recent Cool Davis newsletter at the February anti-Keystone Pipeline protest in San Francisco. On the train on the way to the San Francisco, she helped them make rally signs, one of which read “Don’t Mess Up The Planet (I Need It)!” Kristin says, “My children are my primary motivation for environmental work.” Making sure there is a future for them is her passion, which she lives out every day in a number of different ways.

Reed Youmans, center, watches as Chris Soderquist, director of RePower Davis, replaces inefficient fluorescent light fixtures with energy-efficient lights at Hallmark Inn. Looking on is Maggie Aguirre. Sue Cockrell/ Enterprise File Photo
Reed Youmans, center, watches as Chris Soderquist, director of RePower Davis, replaces inefficient fluorescent light fixtures with energy-efficient lights at Hallmark Inn. Looking on is Maggie Aguirre. Sue Cockrell/ Enterprise File Photo

Hallmark Properties, Cool Solution Award 2014
Interview By Chris Soderquist, Director, RepowerDavis

Reed Youmans called me last week. His tone was firm, his question terse: “What the hell’d you get me in to this time, Soderquist? I’m a conservative, not an eco hero.”

Reed may not look in the mirror and see the reflection of an eco hero, but his family business, Hallmark Properties, has done more to green its properties than any property owner in Davis.

Reed and his family own and operate the Hallmark Inn and three Davis apartment communities: The Drake, Anderson Court and The Lexington. Without a doubt, Hallmark Properties deserves a 2014 Climate Solution award. The past few years, they have opportunistically upgraded their properties with energy- and water-saving measures and instituted myriad sustainability programs. A few highlights:

– Installation of the largest solar system (56 kW) powering a market-rate apartment community (Anderson-Drake) in Davis.
– Replacement of more than 400 water-guzzling shower heads with low-flow products.
– Replacement of all toilets with low-flow toilets.
– Replacement of inefficient fluorescent light fixtures with energy-efficient LED, CFO and fluorescent fixtures, along with smart controls and sensors.
– Installation of HVAC energy management sensors in each room at the Hallmark Inn.
– Institution of a linen program at the Hallmark Inn, reducing washing and drying of bed linens and towels.
– Participation in the City of Davis’ commercial food scrap collection program.
– Donation – to various local nonprofits – of slightly used in-room items, such as linens, coffee makers, cups, unused toiletries, etc.

Efficiency, through Reed’s lens, is not about compromise or expense. “Conservatives, naturally, conserve,” explained Youmans. “If we can do more with less, we do it. If we can save money, we do it. And, our tenants and patrons subsequently save, while enjoying living spaces with better amenities. I’d rather conserve and keep money in our community versus paying PG&E.”

“If it’s not profitable, it is not sustainable.”