News / USA

US Businesses Challenged to Cut Energy Waste

Buildings consume 40 percent of American energy

The electronics department at a Sears store in Glen Burnie, Maryland, managed energy from rows of plasma screen television sets and video games to help the store cut energy by 31 percent, capturing second prize in the EPA challenge.
The electronics department at a Sears store in Glen Burnie, Maryland, managed energy from rows of plasma screen television sets and video games to help the store cut energy by 31 percent, capturing second prize in the EPA challenge.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

In its first ever National Building Competition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenged teams from across the nation to cut wasteful energy use in buildings in which they live and work. Residential and commercial buildings together consume 40 percent of U.S. energy and the Obama Administration is eager to show how that load  can be reduced.

In recent remarks at Pennyslvania State University, President Barack Obama promoted a plant that could help commercial buildings achieve greater energy efficiency.

"Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America," he said.

Obama toured Penn State research labs where scientists are working on new technologies designed to cut energy waste in commercial buildings. Stores like the Sears department store in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which took second prize in the contest, are already using some of those technologies.

The Sears store sells everything from appliances and automotive supplies to clothes and consumer electronics. As manager, Ed Maunz walks the floors all day long, not just to check on staff, but to see how building systems are working. "The building is running 24 hours a day. And, certainly a building this size can consume a lot of energy if there are not efficiencies to keep it in check"

Maunz calculates that 80 American homes could fit comfortably inside his store. And as in any private home, lighting, heating and cooling are the big energy users. He says air conditioning is very demanding, especially during the region’s intense summer heat and humidity.  

"This building has 24 rooftop units. There can be times when they are overworking, under working and certainly they can drain the energy consumption if not working properly."

15,000 light bulbs switched out

As part of the store’s bid to cut its energy use, every one of those rooftop AC units was checked and repaired. Every light bulb - all 15,000 of them - was replaced with a more efficient one. And motion sensors were installed to shut lights off in offices and storerooms when no one is around.  

Maunz says even escalators were put on a schedule to save power. "We are disciplined in that we don’t need the escalator on until the customer gets here and that’s approximately five minutes before the customer gets here and we turn it off five or ten minutes after the customer leaves."

Taken together, these changes helped the Sears store reduce its building energy consumption by neary one-third and cut electric bills by $46,000. Maunz says Sears’ employees like  23-year-old electronics salesman Jonathan Boushell were essential to the success of the plan.

Boushell works among banks of plasma TV sets and video-game systems. He figures they consume more energy than any department in the store and says he had to alter some routines during the year-long contest to control energy use.

"We made sure that all the TVs would be off by a certain time. We were just mindful of that and just to all around to conserve where we could, where it helped."

What the Sears employees did can easily be replicated elsewhere, at little or no net cost, according to Jennifer Amann, the director of the Buildings Program for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

"In the current economic climate many companies are a little reluctant to make those large capital investments. So looking at your operations and maintenance is a great opportunity for tweaking the system, maybe changing out some of the components in the system that can really lead to energy savings without a huge financial investment."

In first place in the National Building Competition, the University of North Carolina team reduced energy use at Morrison Residence Hall by 36 percent in just one year and saved more than $250,000 on energy bills.
In first place in the National Building Competition, the University of North Carolina team reduced energy use at Morrison Residence Hall by 36 percent in just one year and saved more than $250,000 on energy bills.


Building energy diet

Office buildings can also achieve impressive energy savings. The tenants of a 12-story complex in Arlington, Virginia, managed to cut the building’s energy consumption by 28 percent as part of the EPA competition.

They did it with more efficient office lighting, an upgrade in heating and cooling systems and on-going computerized monitoring that allows building engineer Stan Hunt to know how efficiently energy is being used. "You can monitor all of your temperatures of your areas, as well as all the mechanical systems that support the areas. If somebody calls to say they are cold or they are hot you go in and look at the unit and see that servicing that area and make adjustments if necessary."

Those measures helped shave $250,000 dollars from the building’s annual energy bills. Mike Williams, regional vice president for Glenborough, the real estate company that owns and leases the building, says updated building systems can only go so far. "The technology that we implemented was one thing, but a significant part of it was just changing the attitudes of people and how they viewed energy."

The Arlington, Virginia office tower is used by government and commercial tenants, a supermarket and three levels of underground parking. The Aluminum Association is one of the companies leasing space in the tower.

Its president Steve Larkin says the EPA’s energy challenge mirrored the way his employees already work and use energy at the office. "That means: turning off lights. That means turning off computers when we’re finished. That means closing the blinds to keep the sun out or opening the blinds on a cold day when we need the sun in."

Low-cost solutions

Whether it’s an office building or a department store, a school or church, the EPA energy challenge showed that there’s always room for improvement, says Jennifer Amann with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. "It really shows that there are always opportunities, lots of un-mined potential in our buildings. It’s not a project that you do once and you forget about. It is something that you do over time and you maintain it as part of your strategy."

A building strategy, Amann adds, that makes sense both for the pocket book and the planet.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid