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A Convenient Truth

November 15, 2007 By:
Frank Rosci, JE Feature
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The first office building in South Jersey to go "green" by going solar for its day-to-day electrical energy needs debuted last month.

Kevon II, the office center conceived and developed in Pennsauken by Philadelphia-based real estate developer Ken Kaiserman, is up with a solid plan in motion to book tenants, and with expectations to be running on environmentally friendly technology powered solely by the sun by early 2008.

"A lot of thought went into the development of this property to accommodate office tenants of various sizes, while the architects, Eric Hafer & Associates (Laurel Springs, N.J.), were sensitive to our vision and our goals," said Kaiserman, president and founder of the Kaiserman Company, Inc.

"It's a building that will not only meet energy demand, but will produce energy because of the solar panels on the roof," he continued, "and provide a comfortable environment for tenants. Beyond that, the environmental benefits of going solar and eliminating certain waste products, such as carbon dioxide, will be good for our children, our children's children and for generations to come."

Rather than create a draw on the electrical grid and contribute to global warming through the burning of fossil fuels, meeting the electrical needs of Kevon II's tenants will be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, noted Kaiserman.

As the first office building in South Jersey to rely on solar power, immediate and long-term environmental benefits will be significant, according to Brigitte Hoey, director of operations at N.J. Solar Power, LLC, the company that installed Kevon II's solar panels and one of New Jersey's pre-eminent installers of solar-power systems. "Over the next 30 years, the environmental benefits of the system will be the equivalent of planting 1,734 acres of trees, of taking 1,158 cars off the road and of not driving 14,148,972 miles."

Also, over that time, the production of 5,876 tons of carbon dioxide (Co2), 37,723 lbs. of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 60,295 lbs. of sulfur dioxide (So2) will be avoided, she stated.

Kaiserman readily admitted that there was a "lot of risk" associated with the construction of the 50,000-square-foot, one-story structure, as there was in the construction of Kevon I, a 100,000-square-foot, four-story office center located directly across McClellan Boulevard.

"Both were built as speculative buildings on land purchased in the 1960s, because they were built without financing and without tenants. But we felt encouraged to proceed because of the strong demand that existed and still exists in South Jersey," he explained. "Today, Kevon I, built in the early 1970s, is 100 percent full, and we're optimistic that Kevon II will be also, as word of the new building spreads."

Still, noted Kaiserman, Kevon II might not have wound up as a solar structure if not for the availability of federal and New Jersey State funds totaling $1 million that paid for the solar panels. Construction costs for the building itself were slightly more than $100 per square foot, he reported.

'A Positive Example'
The name Kevon, Kaiserman acknowledged, is a tribute to his father Kevy, whose apartment houses, built in Wynnefield in the 1930s, were called Kevon.

Kaiserman said that there's plenty of interest from potential tenants in the building's space, which are three separate sections that total 50,000 square feet under one roof. It could be that one tenant will take the entire space, he said. If not, tenants can rent spaces as small as 4,000 square feet, he added.

"We expect that potential renters will want to be part of the 'green' movement," he remarked, stating, however, that he has no immediate plans to develop other solar-powered buildings.

Hoey explained that Kevon II's "very clean, completely safe, no-emissions" system is comprised of 1,392 solar panels and is capable of producing 392,611 watts of power per year.

"The solar power is tied into conventional lines and supplements existing electrical power," she said. "If the solar system produces more than the building consumes, the meter spins backwards and stores the credit with the utility. But if the building consumes more electricity than the solar panels produce, the meter spins forward and uses power from the utility."

The system's expected financial benefits will be a first-year savings of $47,110 in electrical costs, an annual green-tag payment of $170,000, total energy savings of $7,400,000 over 30 years and a permanent cost per kilowatt hour of 6 cents over 30 years, according to Hoey, with the costs break-even point set at four years.

"The panels have a 25-year warranty that states they'll operate at a minimum of 85 percent of efficiency after 25 years," she said. "The life expectancy should be well beyond that."

Installation of the panels began in mid-June and was completed in September.

Over at the Camden County Improvement Authority, Jeffrey Swartz, executive director and CEO, talked enthusiastically about the Kevon II project and shed light on CCIA's master plan of development: "For Camden County and, in particular, for Pennsauken Township, Kevon II means the first fully solar-powered building constructed, as the county and many municipalities within Camden County look for alternative 'green' methods to deal with our global dependence on oil, as well as environmental issues. This type of building is a positive example to address those issues."

Kevon II is part of more than $2 billion dollars of ongoing development in the county that includes a $72 million urban business park, in conjunction with Campbell's Soup; multimillion dollar expansions of educational and medical clusters in Camden, such as work under way at Cooper University Hospital; in addition to new recreational areas, roads, retail, residential components and more office space.

 

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