Energy Management and Lighting, Green Building, Heating and Cooling

Save Energy and Money: Join DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge

As a facilities manager, are you looking for ways to improve your building’s energy performance and decrease operational costs but aren’t sure where to start? Joining a campaign in the Better Buildings® challenge may provide you with the resources you’re looking for.

Sustainable energy city concept

Moomusician /

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Better Buildings initiative in 2011 with the goal of making commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings at least 20% more efficient (and saving U.S. businesses an estimated $80 billion) by 2021. The Better Buildings challenge manages several campaigns that invite participants to make specific upgrades to their facility to lower energy usage and save on their electric bill.

Campaigns are free to join, and in exchange, participants receive support through every step of the process. Participants have access to resources, expert technical assistance, and the support of a community where best practices are shared among peers. In addition, your facility can earn DOE recognition for superior energy performance.

Joining a campaign takes fewer than 10 minutes, but access to these resources can save you hours over the course of a project. There are currently four campaigns that you can join today.

Facilities managers can join one campaign or all four, depending on which campaign’s goals align with your own sustainability and operational cost-saving goals. With access to information and technical support, participating in a campaign can help you get started and implement your strategies effectively to see real operational cost savings.

Advance Rooftop Unit Campaign (ARC)

According to the DOE, an inefficient commercial rooftop unit (RTU) can waste up to $3,700 per year. This can add up to a lot of cash for facilities with multiple units, hurting their bottom line. However, installing newer technology can yield a 25%–50% reduction in energy usage compared with RTUs that are 10 years old or more.

Whether an RTU should be replaced or retrofitted (or whether you should even undertake this project) depends on the unit’s condition, size, and remaining useful service life. You should completely replace an existing RTU if it uses R-22 refrigerant, it is more than 10 years old, it is in poor operating condition, or improved humidity and comfort control is desired.

Facilities managers who pledge to replace their RTUs with newer, more efficient units or retrofit existing units with advanced controls can become ARC participants. There are many ARC tools to help facilities managers through the upgrade process, including a preliminary screening worksheet, a field evaluation checklist, and measurement and verification guidance. ARC also maintains a database of incentives and financing programs—an available program in your area could mean big savings on project costs.

Recently recognized ARC participants include Walgreens, McDonalds, and H&M. ARC is organized by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

Interior Lighting Campaign (ILC)

In a typical commercial building, lighting represents 15%–20% of the electricity usage. Troffers are one of the most common lighting fixtures in commercial buildings and surprisingly account for an estimated 1% of all energy consumed in the United States. Installing energy-efficient lighting leads to lower energy consumption and saves businesses money on their electric bill.

Facilities managers who pledge to replace existing interior fluorescent lighting with high-efficiency lighting (usually LED) can become ILC participants. These participants are encouraged to make upgrades to high- and low-bay lighting, linear suspension lighting, and troffers. But just because a light bulb is efficient doesn’t mean the fixture is efficient—energy can still be wasted. Therefore, upgrades often go beyond replacing bulbs/lamps and include installing a retrofit lighting kit, an entirely new fixture, or advanced controls. By following the ILC specification for high-efficiency troffers, you could see energy savings of up to 50% (or as much as 80% with advanced controls).

There are additional benefits to replacing fluorescents with LEDs. LEDs emit less heat than fluorescent bulbs, which may reduce the costs of running the air conditioning. In addition, the lifetime of LEDs can be several times that of fluorescents, and with less frequent replacement, you’ll save on maintenance costs.

Recently recognized ILC participants include Life Time Fitness, MGM Resorts, and Target. ILC is organized by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Stacked Logs, energy recycle concept

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Smart Energy Analytics Campaign

Do you want to uncover hidden energy savings in your building’s energy performance without major upgrades? According to the DOE, companies can realize savings of 10%–20% through the power of data and analytics.

Today, there are many technologies available to monitor, analyze, and control building systems’ energy usage. These Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) tools include benchmarking and utility bill tracking software, energy information systems (EIS), fault detection and diagnosis systems (FDD), building automation systems, and automated system optimization (ASO) Tools.

The options may seem overwhelming, but you can join the Smart Energy Analytics campaign to receive a consultation with technical experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to help you get started. There may also be incentive and financing programs to help you implement an EMIS in your commercial building (check the database here that is maintained by North Carolina State University). Participants in the Smart Energy Analytics campaign must pledge to: (1) implement an EMIS in their facility; (2) implement a process for analyzing EMIS data; (3) implement at least one energy-saving measure; and (4) report on progress annually (these data will remain confidential with the campaign’s organizers).

Recently recognized participants include Sprint, Hewlett Packard, and Kaiser Permanente. The campaign is organized by IFMA; the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA); the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA); and ComEd, an electric service provider serving Illinois.

Green Lease Leaders

If your company is a landlord or tenant, you may be eligible to join the Green Lease Leaders campaign. This program encourages green leasing practices that result in energy and cost-savings and drive innovation in sustainability. Green lease measures may include energy sub-metering, energy-efficiency fit-outs, and a sustainability contact.

Participants in the Green Lease Leaders campaign pledge to complete a lease assessment and, in return, gain access to one-on-one technical assistance for updating leasing practices, webinars, and a strong peer network. Participants may also apply for tenant or landlord recognition and can receive support through collecting and submitting the required documentation.

Recently recognized participants include USAA Real Estate, Ivanhoe Cambridge, and Morgan Stanley Investment Management. The campaign is organized by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).