Bremerton, WA

Case Study: Rice Fergus Miller

Our Big Ass Fan plays a very central role in keeping our air mixed and fresh. Because of the fan, we're not building a lot of energy trying to fight heat with traditional air conditioning. Steve Rice, Rice Fergus Miller

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Contemporary architecture and design firm Rice Fergus Miller (RFM) worked with Ecotope to convert an abandoned 30,000-sq-ft (2787.1m²) auto center into a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient office. Taking advantage of the latest green technology and the mild climate in Bremerton, Washington, RFM and Ecotope created a workplace that’s four times more efficient than a benchmark building in Seattle.

RFM and Ecotope designed a passive ventilation system using a three-story open alcove in the center of the building, creating a chimney effect with clerestory windows near the roof. Moderate outdoor temperatures and a thick shell of insulation prevent extreme temperature swings within the space, ensuring thermal comfort for employees and visitors. When temperatures rise or fall beyond a 15°F (8°C) “passive zone,” the HVAC system kicks in to keep the space comfortable.


The firms opted to save cost, materials and energy by designing the space without HVAC ductwork. The move saved RFM an estimated $70,000 in material costs. To avoid ductwork, the designers installed variable-speed heat pumps and ceiling fans to mix the air. While smaller fans provided enough air movement for low-ceilinged conference rooms and work pods, a bigger fan was needed to create air circulation and supplement the passive ventilation in the main space.

Designers turned to Big Ass Fans®, installing a 14-ft (4.3-m) diameter Element fan to keep the space comfortable year-round. In summer, steady air movement from Element makes the space feel up to 10°F (6°C) cooler. In colder months, the fan gently pushes hot air that rises to the top of the three-story alcove back down to occupant level. Whether the HVAC system is in active or passive mode, the fan supplements the ventilation system year round and works silently so it doesn’t distract staff or visitors.

In addition to the energy-efficient Element, RFM and Ecotope implemented a variety of other green building technologies, including solar panels, recycled building materials, rainwater collection and, of course, reuse of an existing structure. Thanks to inventive design strategies and a unique adaptation of existing space, RFM’s Bremerton office achieved LEED®Platinum certification. With its innovative design and exceptional performance, the project was awarded first place for the 2013 ASHRAE Technology Award in the existing commercial buildings category.

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