By Cassandra MainieroAugust 28, 2013
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (August 28,2013) -- The main entrance into Picatinny Arsenal's Building 65 is like any average lobby, complete with chairs for visitors and a directory list, except for one main difference: its Energy Star plaque.
The Energy Star was recently awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to Building 65 for its superior performance in protecting the environment through energy saving efforts.
It is the first Picatinny building to receive this award. It is also now recognized as being in the top 22 percentile for buildings of its type.
"I didn't think we'd make a noticeable difference," admits Gary Pacella, the Division Chief of Building 65. "But I was pleasantly surprised."
The Energy Star is a certification awarded to an energy-efficient top performer that saves money without sacrificing performance.
The certification process uses a statistical database, known as Portfolio Manager, to track a building's annual electric and gas consumption. It also compares this information with the data from other buildings nationwide with similar characteristics, such as the number of computers or employees.
The EPA then scores each building on a scale of 1 to 100. If a building's energy score is 50 or below, it indicates a median energy performance and that it's more energy efficient than 50 percent of similar buildings. Yet, if a building's score is 75 or better, it represents a building that is eligible for the Energy Star.
Building 65 became eligible in April 2013.
However, earning the Energy Star was not the primary goal for this organization.
Instead, the prospect of earning an Energy Star became possible only after Nicholas Stecky, an efficiency consultant for Picatinny, approached Building 65 managers to join the Federal Energy Management Program for the Federal Better Building Competition.
The Federal Better Building Competition is a year-long, nationwide competition among the federal government's highest-performing buildings.
It challenges organizations to reduce annual energy consumption through energy saving efforts, such as reducing the amount of electricity used. The building that achieves the greatest percentage of energy savings for that year wins the Federal Better Building award.
Similar to the Energy Star certification, it uses the Portfolio Manager database to track each organization's monthly energy use. It then compares a building's data with the previous year's information, graphing the differences.
MAKING ENERGY SAVING EFFORTS
This year, 12 federal buildings are competing. While the data is not currently updated, Picatinny has been in fourth place since February.
"We have a great opportunity here [Picatinny Arsneal] for energy awareness and getting people to turn stuff off," said Stecky, who approached Building 65 in October 2012. "Building 65 is a decent candidate because it has good electricity usage, interested employees, and "utilities metering," a way to measure electricity used.
Initially, though, Pacella and James "Jed" Douglass, Building 65's building manager, were skeptical when Stecky approached them about the competition.
They questioned if Building 65, with about 300 occupants, could reduce energy usage and remain an efficient organization.
But Stecky's dedication to making energy-saving efforts persuaded Pacella and Douglass otherwise, conceding reducing energy consumption is not simply a need for ecology-friendly equipment, but also includes changing human behavior.
"He [Stecky] was willing to work with us and we said 'Yeah, why not?'" said Pacella. "If we can save energy and make our building better, why not?"
Still, there were challenges. A major concern in Building 65 was how to cut back on the amount of electricity used.
For example, when an overhead light , was turned on in Building 65, the ceiling lights would turn on in other rooms as well, regardless if anyone was in that office.
To remedy this issue, Building 65 installed lights with motion sensors. The building also disposed of unused refrigerators and replaced the spotlights in the conference room with LED lights, which turn off after 15 minutes if the room is vacant and emit a brighter, longer-lasting light.
Heat and air conditioning, though, was more of a challenge.
Since heat cannot is controlled by the service contractor, employees often have very little control over the heating and air conditioning systems. Thus, what Building 65 had to do to distribute the heat more evenly was install fans that push air to other areas in the building.
AN ENERGY SAVING FUTURE
Perhaps the biggest change, though, came from the employees.
As employees who supported saving energy, they made sure to turn off devices that were not in use, such as printers, copy machines, and computers. They also often used their cubicle lights to do work in an effort to reduce electricity usage.
"Well, every week, especially now, we constantly send out emails that remind people every Thursday and Friday turn everything off," said Douglass. "If you're not using it, turn it off. If it had a green light on it and you're not using it: turn it off!"
For these reasons, since 2012, Building 65 reduced power usage by 20 percent.
So, why doesn't every building start making energy-saving efforts?
"It's a lack of awareness," said Douglass. "Everybody is thinking the same thing 'oh, what is that little bit going to do? But it makes a huge difference.'"
The difference is also true at Picatinny Arsenal. While Building 65 is only the first organization to earn an Energy Star Award, Douglass and Pacella strongly suggest implementing the energy-saving efforts to the entire arsenal to lower costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
"Don't think it won't make a difference because it will," said Pacella.