The Petroleum Building Has Gone Green

05.26.20

    Modworks is located in the historic Petroleum Building. Thinking back to 2014 when we were honing in on a location, it was hard to argue with the prime location the corner of 16th and Broadway offered. Close to shops, restaurants and public transport it was a no brainer. The one and only hesitation was the name of the building… The Petroleum Building. It is no question that Petroleum can be seen as a dirty word these days. Although still a vital part of the economy it has become synonymies with the past. So, it came as a great surprise to find out that the Petroleum Building is actually one of the greenest existing commercial buildings in the city.

            The current owners purchased the building in 2004. At the time the building still operated on antiquated pneumatic controls and was even tied into city steam for heating. It was the goal of the ownership to reposition the building as a viable and environmentally friendly option so they hatched a strategy to do so. In 2013 they achieved Leed Silver Certification by performing a vast array of enhancements four years in the making. These included disconnecting the building from city steam and shifting to high efficiency boilers, retrofitting all the lighting from t12 to t5 bulbs and automating the entire heating and cooling system with computer-controlled valve actuators. At the time this constituted a 1.2-million-dollar investment. And saw over a 20% reduction in the buildings overall carbon footprint.

            Fast forward to 2018 and the original cooling tower and chillers were finally on their last legs. It was time for a change. In collaboration with Trane the ownership sunk a further 1.3-million dollars into the building. Replacing the cooling tower and chillers with the latest and greatest as well as further implementing automation techniques. The retrofit proved difficult as these old buildings were never truly designed to replace some of the larger equipment. The chillers had to be completely disassembled and lowered down a small portico one piece at a time before being reassembled in the basement. It was a task that was arduous in nature and took months to complete. This most recent retrofit has seen the building enjoy a further carbon foot print reduction of 17%. By implementing these changes, they won the Energize Denver award for high efficiency existing buildings and the honor of showcasing their extensive work at the Denver Sustainability Conference last year.

            When asked why the ownership elected to invest that significantly into the operations, they cited a number of reasons. One being economic of course, they save greatly by lowering energy costs over the lifetime of their ownership but they also recognize the impact that a building of this scale has on the environment. This in conjunction with wanting to improve the overall tenant experience was the driving force behind the improvements. The irony is not lost on us that the Petroleum Building is actually exceedingly efficient. We asked them if they ever had any intention on changing the name. “Why change History.” Was the response we received. “We know this building has a history, everyone knows it as the Petroleum Building so we don’t want to change that and confuse anyone. Plus, we like the surprised looks on people faces when we tell them that the building is actually Green.” I will say that we at Modworks certainly enjoy knowing that we are housed in an environmentally friendly location with an ownership that wants to take accountability when it comes to their impact. We can’t wait to see what the next improvements to the building well be. Rumor is a complete lobby renovation as well as an A-class fitness center.

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