Energy Experts

When President Bush, in September 2005, signed a presidential directive instructing government agencies to conserve natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel to the maximum extent possible, the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Energy Center of Expertise, originally established in 1997, became even more important for federal agencies and non-profit organizations.

By Robert L. Buckley, Public Buildings Service & Karen Curran, CEM, Senior Mechanical Engineer General Services Administration, Washington, D.C. April 1, 2007

When President Bush, in September 2005, signed a presidential directive instructing government agencies to conserve natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel to the maximum extent possible, the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Energy Center of Expertise, originally established in 1997, became even more important for federal agencies and non-profit organizations. (For a discussion of the more recent energy-efficiency related Executive Order 13423 signed on Jan. 24, see “The Latest Executive Push,” p. 34.)

As a result of the directive, GSA, the public agency responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of thousands of federally owned facilities, came up with an initial action plan:

  1. Internal Public Building Services (PBS) facility operations and projects withquick payback.

  2. Customer outreach initiatives to reduce energy consumed by building mechanical and lighting equipment.

  3. Suggested workplace practices for tenants.

Within the GSA, the Energy Center of Expertise offers strategic energy management programs to increase net operating income and enhance the asset value of properties. By sharing its energy management strategies and success stories, the center has proven to be a valuable mechanism for honoring GSA’s commitment to protect the environment, conserve natural resources and ensure a quality workspace for the federal community—the nation’s largest single energy consumer.

For its projects, GSA determines payback in years by dividing the total project cost by the annual savings in dollars. Energy prices for simple payback calculations are based on the current price the site pays for the various forms of energy. When the life-cycle cost analysis is performed, the actual rates are entered and the escalation of prices is built into the National Institute of Standards and Technology program that is used to perform the analysis.

In addition, a major GSA focus in recent years has been to serve as a role model, with a benchmark energy program that encourages energy efficiency by using sustainable design principles, cost-effective utility purchases and renewable energy for the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and leasing provisions of all federal buildings.

Take, for example, GSA’s consideration of opportunities for solar and other renewable energy in its building design and retrofit programs. The Facility Standards for Public Buildings, commonly known as P100, establishes design standards and criteria for new buildings, major and minor alterations and work on historic structures for GSA’s PBS. P100 is maintained by the GSA Office of Chief Architect, and is reviewed and revised approximately every two years. A wide range of areas of expertise contribute to recommended revisions, and the committee decides which are to be included. P100 incorporates language for solar and other renewable energy sources.

A look back

GSA’s overall energy program actually began much earlier—back in 1973. Since that time, cost-avoidance and energy-conservation measures have produced more than $2.25 billion in savings. But looking back into the not-so-distant past, GSA has played a significant role in implementing the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and former President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order, “Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation at Federal Facilities.”

PBS has reported to the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), as of FY 2006, energy usage has been reduced, in BTUs per gross square foot, 4.7% from the new 2003 baseline established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Looking into the future, this act also requires more solar energy systems, energy metering and an overall energy consumption reduction of 20% per sq. ft. in federal buildings by 2015. In fact, Executive Order 13423, signed by President Bush on Jan. 24, consolidates all the earlier EOs on the environment, and goes even further than EPAct 2005 by requesting a 3% annual reduction in energy consumption of federal buildings, or a 30% reduction by the end of fiscal year 2015.

How did the Energy Center of Expertise begin? The center was the result of a competition among the GSA regions to seek out the strongest energy program. The winner was the Heartland Region—serving Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—which then officially became the Energy Center of Expertise.

The only problem was that maintaining offices in Kansas City, Mo., didn’t bode well for integration of the center with PBS, so the decision was made to relocate the program to Washington, D.C. Another factor in this decision was the National Capital Region’s (NCR) success in the area of energy, which was anticipated to have national implications as a result of its extremely large inventory of buildings and the fact that D.C. is by far the biggest GSA energy user in the country.

In addition to providing national expertise for all GSA regions, the center also serves NCR, where GSA’s public utilities professionals are now housed as well, so that the energy supply and demand specialists are physically located together. This has proved beneficial in closing the loop on energy investment decisions and developing future market strategies.

How it’s done

So just how does GSA manage to achieve such significant energy savings? Through a number of established programs, the center’s energy expertise and resources are leveraged to GSA facilities, providing them with the tools to competitively procure energy, effectively work with public utilities, track energy use, manage energy and water data andexecute life-cycle cost studies. Program highlights include:

• Competitive energy procurements. Federal facilities are provided with strategies for energy commodity procurements in deregulated markets. GSA’s energy experts develop procurement strategies for natural gas, electricity and green power to achieve the best competitive price, concurrent with the facility’s organizational goals, which may include budget stability, energy reliability and security.

• Utility negotiations. To negotiate the best rates, GSA awards large public utilities area-wide contracts for electricity, natural gas, steam, chilled water, and water and sewage services that are regulated by either public utility commissions, utility cooperatives or municipal utility companies. In many cases, these contracts allow for demand-side management services, which include alternative financing for energy projects. In addition, the center provides leadership in developing contracting vehicles, allowing end users to meet multiple federal energy requirements.

• Energy tracking. Through the administration of a comprehensive energy usage and analysis system, energy consumption in every GSA-owned and leased facility is carefully tracked. This system allows GSA associates from multiple disciplines determine the status of energy trends as they relate to past or future building actions related to leasing, design, project management, planningand operations.

• Energy and water management data. This program is responsible for utility use and cost data in all GSA-managed buildings nationwide. The center’s staff reviews approximately 5,500 utility billings and payments as part of its administration of the energy usage and analysis system, or EUAS.

• Energy efficiency. GSA continuously conducts energy audits and retro-commissioning studies of its inventory to identify life-cycle cost-effective energy conservation measures, such as cutting-edge lighting controls, HVAC efficiency upgrades, BAS improvements and distributed generation projects. These measures are then funded through dedicated energy program funding, regional repair and alteration budgets or financing mechanisms, when appropriate.

Through its programs and resources, the Energy Center of Expertise has successfully helped numerous facilities make significant dents in their energy usage. For example, New York’s Binghamton Federal Building is the nation’s first federal facility powered by 100% renewable energy. The power flows from a new wind turbine installed at the Fenner Wind Farm in Fenner, N.Y. (shown on p. 32).In addition to achieving energy independence and environmental stewardship, the project spurred economic growth of a new industry in a small community economy.

Yet another boon for renewable energy was the GSA’s awarding of a contract to Pepco Energy Services, Arlington, Va., to supply the National Park Service’s Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with electricity generated from 100% wind resources. The three-year contract will supply approximately 28 million kW-h of renewable energy to the two landmark sites. Through this procurement, GSA and the National Park Service were able to demonstrate environmental leadership and generate a significant amount of positive interest in the purchase of renewable energy.

In the area of energy and water management, GSA’s Charles E. Bennett Federal Building in Jacksonville, Fla., was recognized with a DOE Federal Energy and Water Management Award for its holistic redesign effort. With the A/E team and GSA staff working side-by-side to evaluate energy saving merits of various design strategies—including energy- and climate-responsive HVAC systems and web-based automation systems—post-renovation building energy consumption for FY 2005 dropped more than 60%, as compared with its last year of operation prior to vacating it. Usage was reduced by 23,781 million British Thermal Units (MMBTUs), compared to 2002, which is enough energy to power 208 homes for one year.

Also in the southeast region, the John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville, Tenn., successfully attained an Energy Star rating of 94 and qualified for LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Through the execution of a comprehensive building recommissioning and installation of a new building control system, along with lighting upgrades and motion sensors, this resulted in savings of approximately 1.7 billion BTU in FY 2005, exceeding FY 2005 energy reduction goals by 33%. The restrooms also were retrofitted with water-saving equipment, and new secondary meters were placed on water supplies to reduce water sewage and runoff charges, saving 400,000 gallons of water on a yearly basis.

In addition to renewable energy projects, building controls and lighting upgrades, the center has also helped federal facilities with sustainable technologies such as geothermal installations and combined heat and power (CHP) projects. For example, the U.S. Custom House in Portland won an Energy Efficiency/Energy Program Management Award for upgrading its HVAC system with a geothermal heat pump. This turned out to be an ideal approach for the facility, because it helped maintain the building’s historic architecture, save energy and address the site’s environmental and indoor air quality issues. As a result of the geothermal installation and an electrical service upgrade, energy consumption in FY 2003 decreased 49%—by more than 1.1 billion BTU. Furthermore, health risks posed by the original HVAC system were eliminated and carbon emissions at the historic site were reduced by almost 250,000 metric tons annually.

And when it comes to implementing CHP systems, the Food and Drug Administration Office in White Oak, Md., is an ideal case study. GSA worked with Sempra Energy Solutions to implement an energy savings performance contract to install a 5.8-MW CHP facility as part of the first phase of the campus build-out. As a result, in FY 2003 GSA saved more than 37 million kW-h, $1.4 million in energy costs and $2.1 million in annual operation and maintenance costs. The plant provides reliable, uninterrupted on-site electricity generation capability for three facilities on campus—a laboratory, office building and multi-use facility. Heat is recovered from the generating process to produce hot water and chilled water in absorption chillers, further increasing the thermal efficiency of the plant by 30% and significantly reducing pollution emissions. Furthermore, planned expansion of the CHP system will support 100% power generation for the entire campus after the remaining build-out is complete, keeping the local utility from having to accommodate the 25-MW load that would otherwise be required.

The bottom line

While looking back at successful projects is certainly encouraging, the most important thing is that GSA’s Energy Center of Expertise continues to proactively work with its facilities to find more and more ways to save energy and act as good environmental stewards. From the construction of a new federal building to utilizing alternative energy sources to installing energy-efficient building systems, the goal remains the same—to conserve natural resources and operate energy-efficient facilities.

Successful Statistics

As a benchmark of its effectiveness in reaching out to federal facilities, the U.S. General Services Administration’s Energy Center of Expertise:

• Reduced the overall energy consumption of its federal inventory, as of 2006, by 4.7%, as compared to 2003, in response to goals set in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The agency achieved this reduction by directly investing in energy and water conservation opportunities with paybacks of 10 years or less.

• Completed the deployment of an advanced metering analytical software program to give GSA the ability to monitor all advanced meters in their inventory from an enterprise-wide web-based tool.

• Over the last four years, GSA has purchased a total of 949,984 MW-h of energy from renewable sources through competitive power contracts and through the use of green power programs offered by local distribution companies.

• In FY 2006, GSA received an estimated 3,285 MMBTU (million British thermal units) in energy use from self-generated renewable projects. Approximately 543.7 MW of the total came from GSA’s 12 solar photovoltaic installations, 600 MMBTUs from GSA’s two solar thermal projects and 830 MMBTUs from the one completed geothermal project.

• In FY 2006, GSA funded two new PV systems. The first is a 40-kW array at the Trenton Courthouse Annex in New Jersey, and the second is a 300-kW building-integrated PV system at the National Archives and Records Administration facility inWaltham, Mass.

The Latest Executive Push

Executive Order 13423, signed by President Bush on Jan. 24, consolidates a number of earlier EOs on the environment: 13101, 13123, 13134, 13148 and 13149. Entitled “Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” it requests a 3% annual reduction in energy consumption of federal buildings, or a 30% reduction by the end of fiscal year 2015, compliant with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The earlier EPAct 1992 had called for 20% energy-efficiency improvements by 2015.

Other new developments leading to EO 13423 include a new agriculture law that encouraged development of biobased products, and memorandums of understanding, including an MOU on green building in the federal government. In addition to the 30% energy reduction by 2015, EO 13423 requires federal agencies to achieve numerous other performance goals, including the following:

• Reducing water consumption intensity 2% a year through 2015

• Building or renovating government buildings in accordance with sustainability

• Expanding purchases of environmentally preferable products

• Making at least 50% of current renewable energy purchases from new renewable sources.

A New Era of Energy Efficiency

Designed in the 1960s as part of Cleveland’s urban renewal project, the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building exterior has held up well, but inside, the 32-story building was beginning to show its age. The HVAC system was not only inefficient, but uncomfortable. Tenants complained that the fan coil units, located in offices around the perimeter of the building, were disruptive and provided ineffectual heating and cooling.

Cleveland-based Westlake Reed and Leskosky, the same firm that originally designed the building, forty years later assessed the building’s mechanical systems to determine how to improve costs and tenant comfort. “Because of the sheer volume of the units to be replaced—4,640—we specified a customized unit that would both simplify the renovation and create a comfortable, energy-efficient work space,” said Mitch Lyles, P.E. “This included having the piping, controls and insulation all in one box, as well as custom cabinetry.”

The designers chose custom-designed fan coil units from Minneapolis-based McQuay International. “Everything was built for efficiency to streamline the installation process,” Lyles said. On each floor, four-pipe fan coil units supply zoned heating and cooling to offices on the perimeter of the building. The four-pipe system (hot and cold water supply and return) allows some units to be in heating mode while others are in cooling. It also allows for reheating of cold dehumidified air before it enters the work place. Depending on room size, each office has four, six or eight fan coil units. Air-handling units located in the basement circulate conditioned air to central spaces throughout the building. Chilled water for the system comes from an off-site, central chilling system operated by Cleveland Thermal Energy.

The project was registered in Dec. 2006 for LEED certification under the Existing Buildings, Version 2.0 program.