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Energy Crash Diet Nets Center Top Honor

Thursday, December 20, 2012

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Slashing its energy usage by more than 50 percent in one year, an Interior Department research facility has easily captured this year's Better Buildings Federal Award.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently named the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, NM, as the winner of the competition, which challenges agencies to achieve the greatest reduction in annual energy intensity, or energy consumed per gross square foot.

Interior Department - BGNDRF
Images and photos: DOE

The Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (left), in Alamogordo, NM, cut its energy consumption by 53.6 percent. The Army's Boatwright Maintenance Park Building slashed a respectable 43.8 percent.

The New Mexico facility, which opened in 2007, reduced its energy use by 53.6 percent between September 2011 and September 2012, representing a 232 Btu per gross square foot reduction in energy intensity, DOE said.

How They Did It

The research facility is a focal point for developing technologies for the desalination of brackish and impaired groundwater found in the inland states.

As part of a comprehensive effort launched in 2011 to reduce energy use and save money, facility operators altered the building's HVAC control settings and adjusted landscape lighting durations, 24-hour lighting, and indoor night lighting to minimize energy use during unoccupied hours, DOE said.

The initiative was coordinated by Steve Holland, the facility's electronic technician.

"Through these actions, the facility cut its energy use by 53% in one year," according to DOE.

That was good enough for the facility to make a come-from-behind showing and overtake the Army’s Boatwright Maintenance Park Building 2770 in Fort Knox, KY. The Army building, boasting a new spray foam roof with an R-13 rating, led the competition at mid-year and finished at No. 2, having shaved its energy consumption 43.8 percent.

Top Dogs

Eight finalists competed in this year's race to reduce their building's fiscal year 2012 energy intensity; almost all  registered double-digit percentage reductions in energy consumption. Other participants included facilities managed by the General Services Administration and the Departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy.

DOE Better Buildings Chart

An interactive timeline allowed the public to track the savings and the Better Buildings Federal Award competition.

Rounding out the top five winners, their energy reductions, and their energy-saving highlights:

The Neal Smith Federal Building (Des Moines, IA) cut its consumption by 35.7 percent with advanced energy and water metering, high-efficiency transformers, and permieter radiant-heat units.

Sandia National Laboratories' Building 753 (Albuquerque, NM) notched an 18.7 percent reduction with new occupancy sensors for its office lighting and building automation system and its HVAC system.

The Frank Carlson Federal Building & Courthouse (Topeka, KS) cut its consumption by 15.1 percent with rooftop solar panels for preheating domestic water, energy and water metering, and other measures.

The Rest of the Pack

In addition, DOE reported that one entrant—the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt Avery Street Building in Parkersburg, WV—actually increased its energy consumption by 18.1 percent over the year, despite the introduction of window tinting, energy-efficient light bulbs, and occupancy sensors. The increase was not explained.

Finally, two entrants each reported decreases of 20.2 percent in energy consumption, but DOE said incomplete data had been provided by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Fort Hood, TX) and the Sam Nunn Atlanta (FA) Federal Center.

Neal Smith Federal Building Bureau of Public Debt

The GSA's Neal Smith Federal Building cut its energy use by 35.7 percent. But the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt inexplicably increased its energy usage by 18 percent in one year, DOE said.

When selecting finalists, the Energy Department's Federal Energy Management Program considered energy efficiency measures deployed in each facility and best practices in energy management and building operations undertaken by facility personnel, as well as organizational programs and tools to encourage broad sustainability efforts.

2013 Finalists

The Energy Department has also announced the 12 finalists for the 2013 Better Buildings Federal Award competition, which will run through Aug. 30, 2013.

The head-to-head competition will field these facilities from these agencies:

Department of Army:

  • B65 Picatinny Arsenal, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ
  • Bldg. 1506 White Sands Missile Range, White Sands, NM

General Services Administration

  • Richard Bolling Federal Building, Kansas City, MO
  • Wichita U.S. Courthouse, Wichita, KS
  • Charles Evans Whittaker Courthouse, Kansas City, MO
  • Robert V. Denney Federal Building and Courthouse, Omaha, NE
  • FDA Wiley Federal Building, College Park, MD

Department of the Air Force

  • Tinker Air Force Base Bldg. 3333, Tinker AFB, OK
  • Goodfellow Air Force Base Bldg. 3323, Goodfellow AFB, TX
  • Hartinger Building—HQ AF Space Command Bldg. 1, Peterson AFB, CO

State Department

  • Columbia Plaza, Washington, DC

Department of Energy

  • Argonne Information Center Bldg. 224, Argonne, IL.


Tagged categories: Contests; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Government; Roof insulation; Spray foam; U.S. Department of Energy

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (12/20/2012, 8:17 AM)

Interesting. I suppose overly tinted windows could have triggered occupants to turn on more lights, then leave them on all day.

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