EHS Management

Reducing Energy Consumption: Get In the Game

By Timothy P. Fagan, BLR Air Expert
tfagan@blr.com

The 2012 National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings features over 3,200 buildings, representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, vying for “green” in the form of energy cost savings.

Why compete?
According to EPA, commercial buildings are responsible for about 20 percent of the nation’s energy use, resulting in an aggregate energy bill of over $100 billion.  That kind of expenditure is incentive to improve energy efficiency and keep some of that cash in the company’s/organization’s pocket.  Such improvements are typically accomplished through:

  • Changing how a building is operated and maintained;
  • Changing the behavior of the buildings’ tenants; and
  • Upgrading technology.

The Rules of the Game
Any commercial building was eligible to be nominated for the competition, but in order accepted into the game, buildings were required to submit energy usage data for the calendar year 2011.  The participants were then placed in one of 30 categories of commercial buildings.  Once the competition began, the buildings use EPA’s portfolio manager to monitor, record, and report monthly energy consumption, and to document the improvements being made.  To level the playing field, a competitor’s progress is evaluated in terms of energy use intensity, which is calculated by taking the total energy consumed over the competition period and dividing it by the total floorspace of the building.

Getting on the Podium
At the end of the year, the building with the greatest percent reduction of energy use intensity will stand on top of the podium and be recognized by EPA as the winner of the. Others finishing on the podium and garnering recognition from EPA include the top performer in each building category, and any building reducing energy use by 20 percent or more who wishes to be recognized.

You Don’t Need to Compete to Play the Game
While competition often inspires people to perform their best, you do not need to take part in the Battle of the Buildings to get in the game of reducing energy consumption.  Any building can get started by using EPA’s portfolio manager to track energy consumption and evaluate performance. 

However, not all energy saving efforts need to be so analytical.  Taking actions to promote awareness of the little things tenants/employees can do during the day to save energy will pay off too (e.g., shutting down computers and monitors at the end of the day; turning off lights in empty rooms).  The improvements may not happen as quickly or be as dramatic as those realized by the buildings in the 2012 National Building Competition, but every little bit helps.  

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Timothy P. Fagan is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental publications, focusing primarily on air quality related topics. Mr. Fagan has covered environmental developments with BLR since 2000. Before joining BLR, he spent 5 years in environmental consulting and was responsible for air quality permitting and compliance for a broad range of industries in both the private and public sector. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Villanova University and a Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.