Better Buildings Challenge SWAP Teams With Industry For Major Energy Savings

on February 18, 2016 at 5:00 PM

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In February 2011, President Obama launched the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, a bold national program to help commercial and industrial buildings to achieve energy savings of 20 percent. Since that kick-off, the initiative has grown by leaps and bounds, and each year it attracts new leaders ready to step up to a portfolio-wide goal and to share their successes.

I’m now excited to announce that the Energy Department is launching the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP, in which two industry giants, Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market, take part in a new experiment in energy efficiency: swapping energy teams to learn from each other and produce even greater savings.

In this new web series inspired by reality TV, the two companies swapped energy teams at two San Francisco properties – Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Whole Foods Ocean Avenue.

Over a period of three days, teams identified innovative ways to save energy in a building completely different from their own — a 1.8 million square-foot hotel and a 25,600 square-foot grocery store. They experienced first-hand how sometimes a new set of eyes on a problem can help deliver a fresh set of potential solutions. Hilton and Whole Foods are not only helping reduce each other’s energy intensity, they’re also helping other companies learn from their example.

One of the most interesting results of the first SWAP is that both Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market found similarities between their energy systems, despite such different facilities. This made it easier than expected to find areas to improve energy use. Here are a few:

  • Outreach techniques that give consumers greater control over the spaces that they occupy. The Whole Foods Market team offered a potentially industry-changing recommendation to request hotel guest permission for staff to turn down thermostats when guest rooms are unoccupied.
  • The value of integrated, demand-control systems. Whole Foods Market recommended implementing integrated HVAC, lighting and refrigeration retrofits which, coupled with a demand control program, could bring in more than 35 percent energy savings for Hilton Worldwide.
  • Employee and customer engagement strategies. The “human element” was crucial for both teams — from optimizing team member engagement to learning how to conserve energy without sacrificing customer comfort.
  • The impact of proven solutions. The Hilton Worldwide team uncovered lighting fixes that could net up to 50 percent energy savings at the Whole Foods Ocean Avenue store.

Innovative efforts like this can help achieve our goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030. They also serve as a reminder that we all have a role to play in tackling the challenge of climate change, and that we will be all the more successful if we work together and learn from each other’s successes.

Our partners like Hilton and Whole Foods are showcasing cost-effective measures and proven solutions for energy efficiency. They are leading the way on how organizations across the nation can save on energy bills, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and create new jobs in energy efficiency, while preserving our natural resources for generations to come.  Learn more about the Better Buildings Challenge.