UniSource opens building as model of energy efficiency

2011-12-14T00:00:00Z UniSource opens building as model of energy efficiencyDavid Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 14, 2011 12:00 am  • 

UniSource Energy Corp.'s new building was officially christened Tuesday as a beacon of downtown redevelopment and a showcase of energy efficiency.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the lobby of the $65 million building at 88 E. Broadway, UniSource Chairman and CEO Paul Bonavia called the building "the embodiment of our confidence in the future of the city."

More than 400 employees of UniSource and its subsidiaries have already moved in, but UniSource is still working to get a market as a tenant for the ground-floor retail space.

The building fulfills a company goal of bringing UniSource's local employees together, Bonavia said, noting that hundreds of employees had worked from trailers at the H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station on East Irvington Road.

"What started out as an effort to bring our company together became an energy-efficiency project," he added.

The nine-story, 232,000-square-foot building was designed from the ground up for energy efficiency and sustainability, Bonavia said, citing features like energy-saving glass, a rainwater-harvesting system with a 150,000-gallon underground cistern, and solar hot water and electric systems.

The all-electric building is being submitted for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.

"That's all going to work for the benefit of our efficiency, our company and our customers for years to come," Bonavia said.

UniSource is Tucson's biggest publicly traded company and parent of Tucson Electric Power Co., the major local electric provider, and UniSource Energy Services.

The 430 or so employees who have moved into the building are now shopping, eating lunch and taking in entertainment after work, helping to drive the local economy, Bonavia said.

The two-year construction project alone created work for about 580 people who were paid an estimated $6.7 million, with about $20 million worth of materials purchased from local suppliers, he said.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild hailed UniSource as a "pioneer in the renaissance of Tucson."

Lauding the building's "green" features as "the way we need to go as a country," Rothschild said the building's eventual mix of office and retail space is a model for future development.

"It really is going to stand as the example of what downtown's going to become, what Tucson's going to become," he said.

The retail space of the building - about 11,000 square feet on the ground floor at the corner of Broadway and South Sixth Avenue - is unsettled, but perhaps not for long.

UniSource officials are trying to court a small market for the space and are reviewing potential tenants, said Scott Rathbun, UniSource's director of corporate facilities and security. He declined to name any current prospects.

"We're doing our best to talk with local people to fill that spot," Rathbun said, adding that there may be news on a tenant by around February.

Construction impact

• About 540 construction workers and 38 design staffers.

• An estimated 375,000 man-hours of construction and design work.

• $6.7 million in estimated wages.

• An estimated $20 million in local materials purchases.

Building materials

• 28,000 cubic yards of concrete.

• 5.7 million pounds of reinforcing rebar and tensioning cable.

• 60,000 square feet of glass.

Energy-saving features

• A heating and cooling system that exceeds energy-efficient design standards by 25 percent.

• Water harvesting for landscape irrigation with a 150,000-gallon tank.

• Low-emission paints and other materials and environmentally friendly cleaning products.

• Electric-vehicle charging stations in the integrated employee garage.

• A solar water heating system and a 50-kilowatt photovoltaic array.

Arizona-built

The developer of the project is Phoenix-based Ryan Cos., with local subcontractors including Tucson-based Sun Mechanical. Davis, a Phoenix company, was principal architect, with Tucson-based Swaim Associates as design partner.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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