Green Proving Ground Program Helps GSA Evaluate Energy-Saving Technologies

By Rita Tatum  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: General Services Administration's Goal of Carbon Neutral by 2030 Requires Improved Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings Pt. 2: High-performance HVAC Systems Help GSA Reduce Energy ConsumptionPt. 3: Building Controls, Smart Meters are Keys to GSA's Renovation ProjectsPt. 4: This Page

Beyond stimulus-funded projects, GSA has a variety of green efforts designed to find the best energy-saving technologies and share the results with facilities managers. One of them, the Green Proving Ground program, uses GSA's extensive real estate portfolio to evaluate the viability of emerging sustainable building technologies. The first results assess wireless sensor technology in data centers.

The study shows a potential to save $61 million annually if the technology were to be applied across GSA's portfolio by tenant agencies.

GSA and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory worked together evaluating a U.S. Department of Agriculture data center inside a GSA facility. The location was chosen because its baseline condition represented what the industry would already characterize as an efficient data center, according to a GSA spokesperson when the results were announced in early April.

Results for five other technologies currently being evaluated under the Green Proving Ground program are expected to come out this summer, according to GSA's blog in early April. In response to the 2012 Green Proving Ground Request for Information, the Public Building Service received more than 160 submissions. GSA also is expected to announce the technologies selected this summer.

8. Performance Contracting

In December 2011, President Obama announced nearly half of a $4 billion commitment to energy efficiency upgrades during the next two years to bring energy savings via energy service performance contracts (ESPCs) to federal facilities. In "Presidential Memorandum on Implementation of Energy Savings and Performance-Based Contracting" directed at all federal agencies, President Obama said performance-based contracts create jobs, offer guaranteed energy savings and come with no cost for taxpayers.

In late March, GSA announced the Deep Retrofit Challenge by offering 30 existing buildings across the country the chance to use ESPCs to achieve the maximum energy savings possible. Sixteen energy service companies are pre-approved and under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to bid on these projects. The challenge is designed to contribute to President Obama's performance contracting goals for the federal government.

Like the rest of GSA's efforts, energy savings is only part of the story. A key element of all of the agency's energy efforts is to share its experience with the private sector. That knowledge transfer promises to multiply the energy reductions that GSA achieves in federal buildings.

Rita Tatum, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, has more than 30 years of experience covering facility design and technology.

Charting Progress

A recent study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggests that GSA is making progress toward its energy-related mandates. The study, released in August 2011, looked at 22 GSA facilities. The study found that those buildings used 25 percent less energy than the average U.S. commercial building. Those GSA buildings also benefitted from 19 percent lower aggregate operating costs, produced 36 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions and reaped a 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction status.

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  posted on 6/18/2012   Article Use Policy

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