Facilities Toolbox: Sustainability Tools
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What can be done to upgrade energy efficiency?

Hundreds of things can be done to improve energy efficiency. Cost effective energy-efficiency improvements for existing buildings are explained in the Energy Audits, Retro-Commissioning, Equipment and Systems, Lighting, Building Envelope, and Building Materials sections of Incrementally Greener—Improving Sustainability Over Time Through Operations and Maintenance (Optional link for FSweb users). Another source of information about energy efficiency improvements is the U.S. Department of Energy's Energysavers Web site.

Energy-efficient design of new buildings is best handled as part of an integrated design, as explained in Is sustainability affordable?. No matter the design, some energy-efficiency measures are always a good idea, and those measures are mentioned below. Other measures will depend on the climate, location, and type of building. Experienced architects and engineers can work together with the building owner to create a design for optimal energy performance.

Photo of a programmable thermostat made by TRANE.

Programmable thermostats
assure heat and cooling isn't
wasted on an empty building.

Unit: National Advanced Fire and
Resource Institute

The first consideration in energy efficiency is configuration and orientation of the structure. Building orientation should be site specific to take advantage of such things as allowing solar heat into buildings in cold winter areas, keeping solar heat out of buildings in hot summer areas, and allowing desirable breezes to flow through the building. Buildings with optimum building configuration and orientation need smaller HVAC systems that use less energy.

The importance of adequate insulation and weather seals in both hot and cold climates can hardly be overstated. Don't forget the importance of energy-efficient windows and doors when considering insulation.

Buildings that receive little use during evenings or weekends should have programmable thermostats. Programmable thermostats can be set to ensure that the heating and air conditioning are reduced when not needed. Override switches allow employees working outside standard hours to engage full heating and cooling while they are in the building.

Appliances and equipment should be energy efficient. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo. Information on ENERGY STAR rated equipment and appliances is available at the ENERGY STAR Web site. Water heating, building heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment are generally the biggest energy users, and also have the most potential for energy savings.

There are many methods of reducing lighting energy use and costs. Check out the Lighting section of Incrementally Greener—Improving Sustainability Over Time Through Operations and Maintenance (Optional link for FSweb users), Shedding Watts While Shedding Light, and the Lighting Handbook and Retrofit Guide for measures that are cost effective in both new and existing buildings. A lighting engineer who is an expert in energy efficiency can design cost-effective, energy-efficient lighting, both indoors and outside. The Lighting Design Lab provides inexpensive or free education and consultation to Federal agencies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana through partnerships with the Federal Energy Management Program and local utilities. Similar programs may be available in other parts of the country.

For information about financing options for energy improvements for Federal agencies, see Distributed Energy Resource Financing (website available only to FS and BLM employees).