EPA’s Biggest Energy Loser Wins Big…Can You?

Battle of the BuildingsBy: Alena Hutchinson

A few weeks ago, EPA announced the winners of its 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition. For the third year in a row, we were blown away by the results. Out of more than 3,000 competitors, all of the top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 30 percent. In addition, more than 85 buildings in the competition had a 20 percent reduction. Altogether, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 3 billion kBtus of energy and $50 million on utility bills.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

So, who won? Demarest Elementary School in Bloomfield, NJ, emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by more than half and achieving a whopping 52 percent reduction in one year. And they did it mostly through no- and low-cost changes, like turning off and unplugging equipment when it wasn’t in use and practicing “toast and coast” heating — the turning off of boilers once the building had reached outside temperatures on nice days.

While the big savings numbers always get the most attention, perhaps even more impressive is what the average competitor accomplished. Buildings that reduced their consumption during the competition saved an average of nearly $25,000 and reduced their energy use by 8% from the previous year.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, which was the inspiration for this competition. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes everyday that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join the fun next year. Sign up by May 31!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2013 competition. The fourth season brings all new twists, including new ways to win and more ways to compete. Perhaps the biggest change this year is that tenants can compete! So whether your organization occupies all of a building or part of one, you can compete to become the next biggest energy loser.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

Alena Hutchinson is a member of the Commercial and Industrial Branch for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. 


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