Achieving net-zero at King County Parks North Utilities Crew Shop

How do you solve a problem like achieving net-zero energy use? If you’re the King County Parks team working at the North Utilities Trails Crew Shop near Marymoor Park, you do it through solar panels, new lights and efficient heat pumps and air conditioners. By utilizing these tools they were able to solve the design and financial puzzle of achieving net-zero energy on two buildings with limited roof space available for solar power.

For their efforts the Parks team was awarded the inaugural King County Executive Performance Excellence Award in the Environment category. The awards were created to recognize projects, improvements, and innovations in departments that are driving exceptional, measurable results.

Departments were asked to submit up to two nominations in five key areas – cost, service, people, equity and social justice, and environment. Fifteen projects – three in each category – were named as finalists for the awards.

DNRP leadership met and reviewed applications from each of its four divisions and selected 10 projects to move forward. Those projects were:

Cost/Efficiency category:

  • P-card efficiencies saving over $400,000 (Parks)
  • Bollard redesign (Parks)

Service category:

  • Dewatering permit process improvement (WTD)
  • Noxious weed data automation (WLR)

People category:

  • Real estate group using lean to increase employee engagement (WTD)

Equity and Social Justice category:

  • All hands roadshow and offsite ESJ training (SWD)
  • Rainwise payments process improvements (WTD)

Environment category:

  • Gas capture, nitrogen reduction at the landfill (SWD)
  • North utility trails crew lean practices (Parks)

The King County Parks Net-Zero Energy project was announced as the Environment winner at the awards ceremony in November. The project set an example for other county agencies to evaluate their existing facilities as potential net-zero energy facilities.

In new construction, achieving net-zero energy is difficult, yet more of a design and financial problem. In an existing facility like the North Utilities Shop, the pieces had to be carefully evaluated to be certain the solar generation could fit within the energy budget. Net-zero became feasible through the installation of 200 solar panels, retrofitting all the lights to high efficiency LEDs, and installing a cutting-edge high-efficiency heat pump system to replace the heaters and air conditioners in the office and shop spaces.

“It was a challenge that our Parks team was up for. They found innovative ways to work within the constraints they had and are now setting an example for how other County facilities can achieve net-zero status,” said Katy Terry, acting Parks Division Director.

The facility successfully achieved 12 months of zero energy operation in November.

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