Nov 25, 2020 | Trends, Sustainability, Industry

DOE Better Buildings, Better Plants Program

On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published the results of their Better Buildings, Better Plants program. Partners in the program worked with DOE experts to set energy efficiency goals and implement solutions. The DOE supports partners by providing technical expertise, connecting partners for meaningful peer-exchange, and providing access to successful solutions and innovation. Similar to the ENERGY STAR Program, firms register to be partners with the DOE and report their energy data.  Since its inception, partners in this program have saved more than $8 billion in energy costs and 1.7 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) according to the DOE announcement.

While the results are exciting and motivating, the best feature of the program is that partners commit to sharing their solutions and best practices. The program now has 49 Better Plants Challenge partners that have shared 83 showcase projects, implementation models, and “solutions at a glance” on their website.

For instance, Iron Mountain Incorporated, a data center, and colocation services provider, surpassed its Better Buildings challenge goal by achieving a 25% reduction in non-IT energy intensity. The organization used geothermal cooling and infrastructure innovations such as air and water-side economization to accomplish this.

Another showcase project is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) enterprise data center.  The 5600 square foot center began hosting high-performance computing (HPC) clusters which increased overall power usage. The solution involved upgrading equipment to ASHRAE A2 allowable equipment, using active rear doors with larger heat exchangers, removing some of the CRACs, and rearranging space use. LBNL developed a master plan that outlined the steps which would guide the data center to meet the increased demand efficiently using the existing infrastructure. The master plan had the added benefit of more resiliency and reliability for the overall system. The upgrades enabled more computing capacity and reduced the likelihood of downtime due to cooling inadequacies.

DWS, a commercial real estate investment company, became a Challenge partner to improve energy performance in existing building stock that were not eligible for ENERGY STAR or LEED certification. These poor performing buildings did not meet the minimum energy score required for certification. The solution involved evaluating property energy performance across their whole portfolio, selecting the least efficient, and identifying energy conservation measures. Measures included no-cost operational improvements and low capital investment renovation. DWS reported the average ENERGY STAR score increased from 52.5 to 59.2 and the average reduction of consumption was 16.1 kBtu/SF. DWS targets its lowest-performing buildings which provide the largest opportunity for savings with the smallest investment.

The Better Buildings Solution Center website is a wealth of usable information that comes directly from partners who have implemented measures and have proven results.  It contains up to date information on Renewable Energy solutions, Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) technologies, Plug Load Management (PLM) technologies, HVAC unit best practices, wastewater management, smart energy analytics, and much more.

To join the Better Buildings Challenge as a partner, an organization commits to reduce energy usage by at least 20% over 10 years. Leading U.S. companies recognize the value of making such a commitment to the longevity of their building stock and financial strength of their company.

Albireo Energy can support CEOs, Energy Managers, and executives to meet and surpass the challenge. More than 370 organizations are partnering with DOE and have reported saving enough energy to power nearly 7 million homes for one year. This is a worthy endeavor and Albireo can put its wide range of expertise and services at your fingertips to reduce energy costs at your company and make joining these commendable Building Challenge Partners a reality.

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