Federal Buildings Cut Energy Usage

WASHINGTON — Green investments funded by a 2009 economic stimulus package are helping federal buildings use less energy even during harsh winters, according to analysis from the General Services Administration (GSA).

The GSA looked at energy usage data from 59 federal buildings in states that were hardest hit by this past winter. All of the buildings received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which reserved $787 billion for direct spending on infrastructure upgrades, among other initiatives. Through the Recovery Act, the Energy Department investment more than $31 billion to support a range of energy projects across the country.

The GSA found that federal buildings funded by ARRA used an average of 5.5 percent less energy compared to the winter before the projects began. The buildings achieved energy savings despite the fact that their cities experienced conditions that met the definition of “harsh winter,” having an average monthly temperature of at least three degrees below the normal monthly average or a month with at least five more heating-degree days between November 2013 and March 2014, according to the GSA.

Of the 59 buildings analyzed, 20 reduced their winter energy usage intensity (EUI) by 10 percent or more between 2008 and 2014. The EUI is calculated by dividing a building’s total energy usage from things such as water, gas and electricity by its total number of square feet.

The amount of energy saved during the winter months by all of the buildings was enough to supply 640 homes with electricity for a full year. Additionally, one-third of these buildings showed double-digit energy savings.

“Even during frigid temperatures and record snowfalls, GSA’s ARRA-funded green investments are helping make federal buildings more energy efficient,” said Ruth Cox, GSA’s senior sustainability official, in a statement. “As the frequency of extreme weather events trends upward, it is important that federal buildings are able to meet the needs of occupants while also being cost-effective to operate.”

In one example, the Robert A. Young Federal Building in St. Louis, Mo., which was built in 2010, ARRA funds were used to complete a retro-commissioning study to ensure that proposed energy upgrades effectively reduced operation and maintenance costs, as well as energy demand. The building’s energy-efficiency project installed advanced metering systems to track energy consumption, repaired the building façade and windows, upgraded HVAC systems and controls and retrofitted the building with LED lighting. The project also installed a photovoltaic system on the roof.

GSA has 447 federal buildings with completed or ongoing ARRA-funded projects. These projects are expected to reduce energy consumption by 19 percent and yield annual energy cost savings of $62 million once all are complete.