Across The Ranch, from new homes to office buildings owned by the Irvine Company, dozens of innovative efforts are underway to reduce electricity use and conserve water.
Conserving water, in and of itself, translates into energy conservation: Every gallon of water conserved equals one gallon less that must be pumped here from Northern California or the Colorado River.
PROGRAMS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
For a decade, a large, non-descript metal box at one of the Irvine Company’s hotels helped symbolize The Irvine Ranch’s pioneering use of promising new technology to conserve resources and lessen human impacts on the environment.
In the early 1990s, the Irvine Company and The Gas Company collaborated on the installation of an experimental fuel cell at the hotel. As it hummed quietly, the fuel cell converted hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and hot water that was used throughout the hotel. Before the cell expired and was removed a couple of years ago, it was believed to be the longest continually operating fuel cell in California.
All new homes built on The Ranch feature a host of conservation features that ensure energy efficiencies. They include:
- Dual-paned windows to keep homes cooler during hot weather and warmer during cooler weather.
- State-of-the-art furnaces and air conditioning units that more efficiently heat and cool homes.
- Expanded insulation at cracks and holes to make sure homes are sealed tightly, which contributes to heating and cooling efficiency.
- Low-flow shower heads and faucets and low-gallons-per-flush toilets.
In some cases, energy-efficiency measures offered by homebuilders on The Ranch exceed state requirements. These include installing what’s known as “Low-E” glass, where the dual glazing is coated with virtually invisible metallic oxide layers and then filled with argon gas. This type of glazing keeps homes significantly cooler in hot weather and warmer in cool weather. Radiant barrier, a foil-backed plywood roof sheathing, also is used by some builders on The Ranch, sometimes in conjunction with upgraded attic insulation, to keep houses cool. Others install high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, and completely seal air conditioning ductwork and heating units with specialized fittings to improve the circulation of air throughout the home. Meanwhile, office buildings owned by the Irvine Company have been retrofitted over the years to make them energy-efficient. Several years ago, Irvine Company Office Properties (the Irvine Company operating division that builds, owns and manages the company’s portfolio of office buildings throughout California) launched a comprehensive energy conservation program that included mechanical and electrical retrofitting of existing buildings and energy-efficient features at all new office developments.
Energy-saving measures run the gamut, from covering windows with film to keep the sun from overheating offices to replacing traditional light bulbs with fluorescent fixtures, which typically are 75% more efficient. Other measures include installing sensors in tenant suites that automatically turn the lights on when someone enters and shuts them off when an office is empty, updating “exit” signs with energy-efficient lights and replacing old air conditioning units with energy-efficient new models.