MUSKEGON, Mich. - The Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC), a project designed to lead research into alternative and renewable energy solutions, has been announced by Grand Valley State University and Workstage LLC, a real estate development and design build firm. The 26,000-square-foot facility in Muskegon, Mich., is believed to be the first commercial building to receive 100 percent of its energy needs from alternative sources.

Fifty million consumers learned how vulnerable the U.S. power grid is during the 2003 power blackout. The Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center aims to research and demonstrate alternative energy solutions that would avoid such widespread outages. Designed and constructed by Workstage, the facility will produce its own energy through photovoltaics, a fuel cell, and a nickel metal hydride battery storage system. As a result, MAREC will ultimately not rely on the U.S. power grid. The building will serve as a model for property management and facilities personnel concerned with protecting their buildings from future blackouts.

The MAREC facility incorporates underfloor air distribution. This can reduce energy consumption by 10 to 20 percent because less fan energy is required, says Workstage. The conditioned air is introduced at the occupant's level as opposed to a traditional HVAC system where the air is being pushed down. Other energy savings elements include windows that bring in natural light (daylight) and sensor-controlled interior lighting. The sensors measure the amount of light in a space, turning off fixtures where daylight is sufficient. Each of these systems are helping the facility receive the Gold LEEDâ„¢ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating for green and sustainable buildings.

The building has been designed to accommodate future technology changes as well. It features a state-of-the-art operating platform, dubbed by Workstage as the "Stage", integrating HVAC, voice, data, and electrical cabling under a raised floor. Housing these systems at the floor level allows quick and easy access to all utilities, making changes in technology or space requirements happen in hours instead of days, says the company.

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Publication date: 11/24/2003