In honor of Energy Efficiency Day 2017, Freddie Adom, the Department of General Services' Energy Manager, provides a window into how his work supports energy efficiency and conservation on a daily basis.
Energy is defined simply as the ability to do work. Computers use energy to run programs for users to create documents. Light bulbs use energy to emit light that helps building occupants see their environment. HVAC systems use energy to keep us warm inside of buildings during the winter, and cool during the dog days of summer.
Energy consumption, however, comes at a cost. Energy for facilities is typically purchased through utility providers, which can be expensive, especially for larger facilities. Also, the harvesting and conversion of natural resources into useful energy comes at a cost to the environment. From excavation and deforestation to the production of greenhouse gas emissions, the need for energy has led to environmental impacts observed across the globe. The need to reduce energy consumption is evident; however the need for comfort inside the building should not be dismissed. Comfortable environments allow building occupants to perform their work without distractions, and ensure that customers have a pleasant experience.
As Energy Manager for the Department of General Services, I would like to take the opportunity on this Energy Efficiency Day 2017 to give an insight into what the department does to manage energy use -- and promote energy efficiency -- in our facilities.
Energy data is recorded and stored for every General Services'-managed facility. This includes energy use from our electricity, natural gas, and water utilities. Along with knowledge of building operations, we are able to take the data and determine the energy efficiency of the building. Entering the utility data into EnergyStar's Portfolio Manager allows us to quickly calculate the building's Energy Use Intensity (EUI), which shows the amount of energy used per square foot over the course of a year. This metric helps General Services determine which buildings to focus on in our energy reduction efforts. For our LEED-certified buildings, General Services uses the energy data to develop the department's annual High Performance Building Report. This report contains energy data for the LEED buildings and compares usage to facilities of similar size and building type.
Table 1. Energy use for the Clifford Allen Building
Over the course of time, building equipment becomes less efficient. Bolts and fan belts loosen up, filters become clogged with dirt, and valves become more difficult to open. All of these scenarios cause HVAC equipment to use more energy than normally required. If left unattended, the building energy use can increase significantly, because the HVAC system needs to work harder to get the same results. Of course, let's not forget to mention that these inefficiencies can lead to equipment failure over time. To combat this, General Services employs a practice called preventative maintenance. Building equipment, such as boilers, chillers, and air handler units, are serviced every quarter. Technicians have a checklist where they verify the condition of the equipment. Maintenance is performed on the equipment, and parts are replaced when they are identified to be in poor condition. Technicians then verify that the system as a whole and its components are operating smoothly. This practice not only keeps equipment operating efficiently, it also extends the lifetime use of the equipment, and possibly the entire facility.
Energy management is also conducted through the use of building automation systems (BAS). BAS allows the building equipment to be controlled and operated through computers. The BAS systems for over 35 General Service’s buildings are pulled in to the Center of Responsible Energy (CORE), located in the Howard Office Building. BAS controls HVAC, lighting, and generator systems for our facilities. In these programs, the desired operating conditions are set into the program, and the program operates the equipment at these settings. The settings for these systems have a strong influence on how much energy is consumed by our buildings. BAS controls activities such as the scheduling for lighting and air conditioning throughout the day, temperature settings for specific parts of the building, and keeping rooms at an appropriate humidity level. Another example would be exhaust fans turning on in the garages of fire stations in order to expel fumes when carbon monoxide levels reach a certain point. As we gain further information about a building's energy use, settings may be changed in the BAS to improve upon the facility's energy efficiency. These systems also track the performance of individual components; that way we can look into that piece of hardware before it causes further problems.
During extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter months, facilities all across TVA's electrical grid use more energy to cool and heat their buildings. In order to prevent the grid from overloading, TVA, through EnerNOC, offers facilities the opportunity to enter into their demand response program. In this program, TVA sets aside a number of hours (typically around four) and asks participants to curtail their energy use during this time period. General Services has six facilities that participate in demand response. Power consumption is reduced in these buildings without compromising comfort for occupants. Engaging in this program helps keep the TVA grid strong and resilient, especially as more and more people move into Nashville and the middle Tennessee area.
One of the most important ways to reduce the need to purchase electricity from utility providers is to have a sustainable, regenerating energy source. Fortunately, the Sun is an abundant supplier of energy and solar photovoltaic systems are a great way to harvest that energy for homes and buildings. General Services has eight facilities that feature roof-mounted solar panels. Seven of these facilities are under the Green Power Provider's agreement with TVA and NES, where the solar panels are supplying clean energy to TVA's grid. The other facility, Fire Station #19, which is under the Dispersed Power Production agreement, uses the electricity generated by its solar panels directly, and purchases the remaining need for energy from Nashville Electric Service. Depending on the time of year, 13%-16% of Fire Station #19's electricity use is provided by its solar panels.
As a team, we strive to improve our buildings and make sure that everyone (building occupants, customers, employees, and the Nashville community) is placed in the best environment. To do this, we have to take into account many factors, with energy being a key component. Thankfully, I work with a great team of people who work diligently, are very knowledgeable, and are always willing to share thoughts and opinions. No one person can do this on their own, especially with the number of buildings that we operate and manage. To manage energy effectively, takes knowledge and understanding. With our staff, I am in a great place to do so.
Freddie Adom is the Department of General Services' Energy Manager.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has developed an initiative called “Shrink Your Dorm Print,” which aims to encourage incoming college freshmen to save money while saving the planet. To achieve this goal, the ACEEE has developed a list of steps that can be taken to ensure that you moving into a new dorm doesn’t lead to polar bears moving out of their homes. Besides checking ACEEE’s recommendations, here are some other ideas from Socket:
School supplies: You would be surprised with how many cool, usable supplies you can now find that are made from recycled materials right here in our country. Look for recycled notebooks, planners, and even pencils and rulers. If you buy your school supplies at a store near you, don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags!
Textbooks: Why buy a textbook that you will use for only a few months? Take advantage of the opportunity to rent your books for an entire semester for very reasonable prices. Check out this website that allows you to compare prices from different rental companies. Pro tip: always read reviews on the companies to ensure they are reliable.
Laundry: If you weren’t a laundry expert before arriving at college, don’t worry. Socket guarantees you’ll become one in the next four years! With laundry, there are a few important things to consider for sustainability. First, wash your clothes with cold water; your clothes will come out just as clean and you’ll save 90% of the energy consumed by your washing machine, which goes towards water heating. Second, buy eco-friendly detergents - here is a list of potential options to make it easier for you to go green while going clean. And last but not least, many of the laundry machines you will encounter in college do not have a setting for choosing different load-sizes. So make sure you pile up a good amount of stuff before running your laundry cycle. You’ll help save water, energy, money, and time!
“New” furniture: If you think you need to buy more furniture pieces than your dorm will offer you, think again! Do you really need an extra night stand, for example? If so, try to purchase a reclaimed one from a vintage shop, garage sale, or flea market near you. In this way, you’re reusing someone else’s furniture and cutting down on waste.
Personal hygiene: Nowadays, it’s easy to fine personal care product-lines that also promote the health of our environment, so you can keep yourself and our planet feeling clean and fresh. Look for environmentally-friendly shampoos, conditioners, and other body care products that are biodegradable and/or organic. There are event toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups! Many companies now use renewable energy and other ecologically-sound business practices, so read labels before you buy. Finally, keep your showers short and sweet; 5 minutes should get the job done.
Personal health: Maintaining your personal health and planetary health go hand-in-hand. The notorious “freshman fifteen” is real. Avoid packing on the pounds by filling your plate with fresh foods and healthy plant-based options. Also, drink lots of water from your own BPA-free reusable water bottle. Lastly, avoid driving. Instead, try walking or biking your way around campus. This way, you’ll burn calories instead of fossil fuels. Don’t have wheels? Nashville has a great bike share program called B-cycle where you can easily rent a bike from 36 stations around town.
Avoid food waste: Only take what you need. Don’t get extra food just because your meal-plan has already been paid for and you therefore feel like the food is free. In case you do end up putting more on your plate than you can handle, carry a food storage container with you so you can save the rest of your meal for later.
Coffee: College can sometimes become overwhelming and many students rely on coffee to get through the day, especially when midterms and finals come around. Although there are healthier ways to keep yourself awake than by drinking coffee, if you just love it too much, make sure you purchase a reusable coffee mug for your daily pick-me-up.
As you head to college this fall, remember Socket’s tips for shrinking your eco-footprint and staying healthy and happy. Now, hit the books!