Mar 30, 2020


by Sarah Curtis

High Performance Retail Banking

First Citizens, a family-owned bank with over 500 branches, came to us with an opportunity to work with them on a branch in Boca Raton, FL. When we first began our partnership, the bank was fully committed to investing $100,000 in upfront cost for a Geothermal system that would result in 41% energy use reduction. A 41% energy use reduction isn’t bad, right? Our team knew, however, we could do better. But first, we needed to convince First Citizens to take a step back and be open to a new idea – a more holistic approach to their entire building – an idea that could save them upfront costs AND reduce their energy use even more.

We started taking note of and assessing the design’s overall pain points. Engaging early on with the general contractor helped us determine that the geothermal system not only had large upfront costs, but also imposed scheduling delays due to the sheer amount of space needed for installation. Wells were also an issue, both with location placement due to the fixed nature of the site, and with maintenance. Maintenance was a documented issue for the bank. The contractor indicated how maintenance of the wells was required frequently, as leaks at existing branches were regular occurrences.

We took stock of the pain points and aligned on four focus areas: upfront cost, maintenance cost. scheduling implications and building footprint rigidity. In setting out to solve for these, we knew we didn’t have an endless supply of time or budget to find the absolute perfect answer to each and every one. But by leveraging a “whole building approach”, we could comprehensively optimize the design from every angle; making a much stronger final product where these original issues would be rendered as obsolete.

We researched terms like Efficient Variant Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system, Plasma Ion Filtration, Phase Change Material, and studied methods like Improved Glazing Assembly and Electrochromic Glazing.

To make our case, Little’s Center for Building Performance performed a very deliberate, very detailed comparison between First Citizen’s go-to geothermal system – and a more holistic approach that included a more efficient HVAC System (VRF), improved air filtration, a high-performance envelope, and improved glazing. With this, the integrated team was able to provide a breakthrough solution that would save First Citizens $20,000 in upfront cost and raise their energy efficiency from 41% to 52%. Through this evaluation, we gained the trust of First Citizens that allowed us to move forward.


Sarah Curtis

Sarah Curtis, AIA, CDT, LEED AP ID+C, is the studio principal for the Service Retail practice group at Little. She works with clients to design spaces that foster relationships, conversations, and services. When she isn’t designing buildings, she loves to coach her daughter's softball team.

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