From rooftops to landscapes, the greening of the government is slowly taking hold.
The General Services Administration has several small scale demonstrations of how federal buildings could become more energy efficient.
Kevin Kampschroer, GSA’s acting director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, says both landlords and occupants need to look at a comprehensive way to improve energy efficiency.
GSA is trying to take that large-scale and long-view approach. Kampschroer, who spoke Dec. 3 at the Green IT conference in Washington sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group, says GSA has a small scale demonstration of using solar to provide energy to a federal warehouse in Waltham, Mass.
He says solar provides more than 50 percent of the building’s energy needs.
“The roofing materials and solar panels are bonded together so two things happen: the roof lasts longer and it produces energy, and then it provides greater insulation for the building below,” Kampschroer says. “It reduces the amount of energy consumed.”
GSA also has a demonstration program in San Francisco to link sensors in light fixtures to an employee’s desktop computer. That lets the employee control the light and there is an occupancy sensor so when you leave, the light goes off, Kampschroer says.
“We’ve found in the sites we’ve done that is that the reduction is over 30 percent of lighting costs, which is huge,” he says. “We are doing this in a larger area and then will expand its use.”
GSA also is addressing how building are heated and cooled. Kampschroer says GSA is using geothermal technology in buildings in Maine and in Omaha, Neb.
Geothermal technology works by drilling wells 3-to-5 feet below the surface and running pipes down the well. He says if you run water through the pipes the steady temperature of the earth cools the water off or heats it up. And then using a pump to cool or heat the building.
“It’s a little more expensive to install in the future, but 60 percent less expensive to operate over time and reduce utility bills,” he says. “If you want to move heat into or out of a building, you can move by air or by liquid. Moving heat by water is 3,500 times more energy efficient than moving through the air.”
Another area is the greening of roofs. GSA’s building that houses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Suitland, Md., is the largest green roof in the United States–more than 3 acres. Kampschroer says the green roof insulates the building and collects storm water so GSA didn’t have to further strain the county’s wastewater system.
All of these demonstration programs come as GSA has mandated that any building it leases starting in 2010 be among the top 25 percent in the Energy Star ratings.
“Today the typical building is consuming so much energy to get to Energy Star is not that tough,” Kampschroer says. “A building owner today can be competitive without too much of an investment. But we are trying to communicate that we want the building owner to make good decisions. For every dollar of energy savings, it goes into the landlord’s pocket.”
Kampschroer adds this requirement is just for new leases. GSA also is working with landlords that hold existing federal leases on ways they can improve energy efficiency.
Part of that work is ensuring building managers understand and are trained to make buildings more energy efficient.
“Owners like GSA have not realized that it is a penny wise and a pound foolish on their insistence to pay for low cost management,” he says. “We need to get out of this rut because it is costing us trillions every year.”