Episode 9 | June 19, 2018
Reagan Redfern of Redfern Management Corp. explains how business acumen and creative expression came together in green energy retrofits on the two West Lake Hills office buildings he manages. He shares with hosts McKay Proctor and Sherren Harter the details of these projects, including thermoplastic olefin (TPO) white reflective roof, solar panels, LED lighting, upgraded HVAC, smart thermostats, low flow toilets, and a well system for irrigation.
Reagan Redfern is from a large family with joint passions for business and music. He plays a key role in both, managing two Westlake Oaks office buildings totaling 22,000 square feet and singing and playing music professionally, including at the Austin Opera. Reagan believes that a “balance of work and expression helps you become a more well-rounded individual.”
Office Building Energy Upgrades
The buildings he manages are thirty (30) years old and have a lot of original fixtures. Reagan faced an issue with a leaky roof that caused issues every time it rained. He thought that if it had to be replaced, it might as well be with a thermoplastic olefin (TPO) white reflective roof, which would also reduce electricity costs.
Reagan worked with ABM Building Services on the new roof, which expanded into a larger project with a twofold purpose of reducing electricity consumption and offsetting half of the remaining usage with solar power. The energy efficiency upgrades included installing the TPO roof, replacing the original HVAC, and upgrading to LED lighting.
The commercial solar power system included 216 SunPower solar panels on one building and 144 panels on the other building, for a combined 117.7 kilowatts (kW) of production capacity. The system will produce more than 167,200 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy every year, which is like planting 3,200 trees.
The projects made financial sense because of Austin Energy rebates worth about $130,000 plus the federal tax credit.
Operational Efficiencies and Water Conservation
Beyond these large-scale projects, Reagan also strives for efficiencies in his day-to-day operations, including the ongoing, active control of the smart thermostats.
Water conservation is also a focus. He has already installed low-flow toilets and is now implementing an underground well system to handle all of the buildings’ irrigation needs. The wells will be 800-900 feet below ground with a pump and storage tanks, and the project will pay back in under five years.
Technology and People
Reagan noted that transitioning people to new technologies can be a major component to a successful retrofit. The office tenants initially resisted the change to LED lighting, generally viewed as a superior technology to CFL, although they adjusted after a couple of weeks.
He has also faced challenges solving the other major contributor to the buildings’ energy usage – summer sunlight entering the all-black-glass buildings. Solar blinds, insulating blinds, and honeycomb style blinds are all effective but block the views to the outside, which are important to office building tenants.
Reagan is expanding his business enterprises in Texas and California, and he continues to pursue his musical career at the same time. You can check him out in the Austin Opera chorus when the new season starts in the fall.
What is his advice to people who are thinking about retrofits in the future? “Don’t wait and don’t talk yourself out of it– it’s really worth it.”
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