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Energizing a Historic Kansas City Apartment Building with District Energy

Adjacent to the KC Streetcar and within walking distance of the Power and Light District, the iconic but vacant Executive Plaza building was purchased and transformed into the luxury apartments, Flashcube. Originally served by boilers and chillers, the building was converted to Vicinity’s robust district energy system for its’ heating, cooling and domestic hot water needs.

Scope

With its abstract reflective square glass walls, the Flashcube Apartments opened in 2020, after an extensive rehabilitation. The new owners of this historic landmark opted to switch from boilers and chillers to Vicinity’s district energy system, while also implementing a sub-metering and tenant billing solution with Vicinity’s support. This has resulted in efficiency and reliability improvements, sustainability benefits, lower operating costs, significant upfront capital cost savings and better allocation and cost-recovery of tenant energy use.

Challenge

After sitting vacant for over 15 years, the new owners of Flashcube were faced with antiquated onsite boilers and chillers. This challenge became an opportunity to explore various options, and reimagine a more sustainable, reliable, and cost-effective heating/ cooling system. Additionally, a metering system was required to measure individual energy use, allowing tenants control of their carbon footprint and energy expenses.

Solution

Under the streets of downtown Kansas City, Vicinity operates a robust district energy network of steam and chilled water pipes serving the heating, cooling, humidification and sterilization needs of buildings. Powered by a highly efficient energy process called combined heat and power (CHP), district energy naturally aligned with Flashcube’s sustainability goals due to CHP’s high efficiency of up to 80%. By choosing district energy and forgoing onsite chillers or boilers, Flashcube’s new owners saw a substantial reduction in electrical infrastructure costs, while gaining the benefit of 99.999% reliability. Additionally, the condensate from the steam pre-heats domestic hot water, and is then recycled as grey water to supply the building’s toilets. Steam is also used as a snow melt system for building entryways and walkways.

Results

The owners of the newly renovated Flashcube saved significant upfront capital costs and reduced long-term maintenance expenses. By designing its heating and cooling needs around district energy, the building was able to free up space for unique tenant amenities, while also leveraging an energy source which is helping to reduce Kansas City’s carbon footprint by nearly 33,000 tons annually.

  • Cooling – Vicinity’s district chilled water connects with simple heat exchangers to tenant fan coils, which eliminates the need for complex and large chillers and cooling towers.
  • Heating – Through simple heat exchangers, district steam is used for building heat, domestic water heating, and a snow melt system, eliminating large boilers and water heaters, freeing up space and improving efficiencies.
  • Energy Recovery – By recovering the steam condensate to heat the domestic hot water supply and grey water system, this steam biproduct is saving money, energy and city water.