Chris Brey – Cytokinetics
- Written by: Mary Raitt Jordan
- Produced by: Davis Cox
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Living in a developing country like the Dominican Republic will change you, Chris Brey says. He’ll never forget how people got by with so little, and how much waste he saw being created back in the United States.
Two years in the Peace Corps left a lasting impression on him, making him want to have a positive effect on the world. As a senior director of facilities at California-based Cytokinetics in south San Francisco, he has his chance. Mindful of the effects of global warming, he’s doing his part by implementing two energy saving projects to reduce the carbon footprint left by Cytokinetics, a biopharmaceutical company that develops muscle activators and inhibitors.
“I believe one can do the right thing for the environment and improve the bottom line of a business. They are not mutually exclusive pursuits,” Brey says.
Think green, save green
When Brey came onboard in 2017, he encountered an ailing building management system for a 50,000-square-foot research facility.
His first option was to replace an existing system—a $90,000 proposition—to allow it to function as it always had. Or he could install a different set of controls and work with a team of engineers to focus on optimization. While costly at $130,000, Brey opted for the latter, choosing to work with Alan Pong, president at Comfort International in San Jose, to conduct the overhaul.
“I met him 10 years ago at a different company and recognized he specialized in energy efficiency. I did a big project with him, had a good experience and was impressed,” Brey says.
Using Pong’s KMC Controls to better regulate the HVAC system, Pong’s team of engineers found a way to save energy and still deliver the air exchanges needed to keep a laboratory safe. Through the team’s analysis, they discovered one of the air handlers had an economizer—a mechanical device intended to reduce energy consumption—that was inoperable.
The new system will also draw outside coastal air into the building to help with cooling, further reducing energy consumption.
“Our abilities as a company got Chris utilizing a much lower energy output, a significant ROI, and provides him with a more open and non-proprietary system for repairs and parts,” Pong says. “We are like the Penske racing team of commercial buildings … pushing the level of performance to the highest level.”
Started in April, the project is scheduled for completion late this year. Once fully humming, the new system will save an estimated $75,000 annually in energy costs and Brey anticipates additional savings in maintenance costs, as the new equipment can run at slower speeds.
“In science you have to maintain proper conditions; if you lose temperature control or have inadequate ventilation you can do serious damage to research and create unsafe working conditions,” Brey says.
A second, smaller project will involve swapping out old fluorescent lights in a 15,000-square-foot facility.
The old lights will be replaced with energy saving LEDs, dropping the watts per fixture from 100 to 26. The move, Brey says, will save the company $2,000 annually.
“Not only are we saving money, we have better light quality. We have the same lumens light intensity, but operate at a cooler temp with less heat load in the building,” Brey says. “In the fight against global warming, there are plenty of resources who can provide information on how to achieve greater energy efficiency, and to draw inspiration for initiatives to help the planet.”
From California to the Caribbean
Growing up in California, Brey always had an interest in the environment, earning a degree in fisheries biology from Humboldt State University in 1987 before enrolling in the Peace Corps in the Caribbean, where he worked to promote aquaculture. He received a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of San Francisco in 1997.
Upon his return to the states in 1989, he worked as a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Bering Sea and later managed a salmon hatchery near Seattle, Washington. In the mid-90s, while in graduate school, he became involved in facilities operations for numerous companies, including DNAX Research Institute (Schering-Plough); CV Therapeutics; Gilead Sciences; Élan Pharmaceuticals; Groupon; and Ardelyx in Fremont, California, before landing in his current role at Cytokinetics in 2017.
Many of his project ideas are inspired by a desire to support the environment and reduce consumption and he often draws inspiration from organizations such as The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (Brey is a board member of the Northern California chapter); the nonprofit San Mateo Energy Watch; and Pacific Gas and Electric, an investor-owned utility that provides rebates for energy projects.
“I think if every owner and manager did a little project like we’re doing across the world, if multiplied, would create a huge decrease in energy consumption,” Brey says. “If we can make things better we should.”
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