The Better Buildings Challenge Swap Involves Organizations Swapping Energy Teams to Uncover New Energy Efficiency Strategies

Both teams realized the power of the “human touch” in increasing energy savings. Hilton San Francisco Union Square holds daily employee huddles with most teams. We joined their twice-weekly huddle with hundreds of housekeepers, where water and energy efficiency are a regular discussion topic. These housekeepers are on the front line for the hotel: They are in all 1,901 guest rooms and have the ability to turn lights off, report leaky faucets, adjust the heating and air conditioning based on the time of year, and report any door seals or window seals that are leaking. Their engagement is essential to implementing energy- and water-saving measures, such as HVAC and towel service.

Hilton San Francisco Union Square holds twice-weekly huddles with hundreds of housekeepers, where water and energy efficiency are a regular discussion topic.

Hilton San Francisco Union Square holds twice-weekly huddles with hundreds of housekeepers, where water and energy efficiency are a regular discussion topic.

Inside the SWAP: Partner Perspectives

“The most interesting lesson we learned throughout this process is how many similarities there were between our two operations, from lighting opportunities such as LED installation to controls and managing air balance. Another reminder was how critical the human element is when it comes to saving energy,” says Max Verstraete, Hilton Worldwide vice president of sustainability and ADA compliance. “We may install a new piece of technology but if the employees are not engaged, the effectiveness of that equipment is lost—automated systems are only as powerful as the person working behind that control.”

“It is incredibly helpful to have a different set of eyes to look at what we’re doing and tease out the energy-saving opportunities. It’s easy to come through and skim the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ but when you do that, you oftentimes miss the chance to achieve deeper economic opportunities,” says Aaron Daly, Whole Foods Market global energy coordinator. “If you can accomplish both the easy fixes and those bigger-picture improvements, the limitations on costs can be moved aside, because then you’re really able to take on that deep energy retro t we’re all seeking.”

Nearly halfway to its Better Buildings goal of 20 percent energy reduction by 2020, Whole Foods Market has employed a range of strategies to advance environmental stewardship. The grocery chain utilizes sub-metering and monitoring to measure the performance of newly designed and replicated energy-efficiency and climate-protection initiatives in new and retrofitted stores. During the SWAP, the Hilton Worldwide team uncovered simple lighting fixes that could net up to 50 percent energy savings at the Whole Foods Ocean Avenue store.

Hilton Worldwide has made significant progress toward reaching its Better Buildings goal of 20 percent energy reduction by 2020, having reached 14 percent during the past six years–equivalent to powering 81,000 houses for one year. The company requires each of its hotels to set annual targets for measurable energy reduction. As a result of the SWAP, the Hilton World- wide team has already started implementing several recommendations, including LED lighting upgrades, door gasket replacements and the phase-out of less efficient appliances within refrigerated containers at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Although very different, both teams worked together, learned from each other’s innovative approaches and found ways to save more energy at both properties.

Although very different, both teams worked together, learned from each other’s innovative approaches and found ways to save more energy at both properties.

A Successful SWAP

Both companies, on their own, are incredibly good at energy efficiency. However, this experience shows that leaders can always do better and do more when it comes to saving energy. And they can do that with- out eavesdropping. As the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP demonstrates, we can open the doors to productive dialogue and share energy-saving solutions early and often. Because commercial and industrial buildings are responsible for 50 percent
of the nation’s energy use, reducing the carbon footprint in these sectors is an urgent shared goal. Organizations can’t afford to not learn from their peers on important technical and behavioral solutions. Through the SWAP, DOE is hoping to show how easy and fun it is to change the culture among those who literally hold the keys to energy-efficiency implementation, so that professionals realize they don’t need to eavesdrop.

Learn More about the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Energy currently is exploring what industries and organizations might be good candidates for the SWAP’s second round, which could be released next year. If current Better Buildings Challenge partners are interested in participating in a SWAP next year, they should contact their DOE leads.

The Better Buildings Challenge SWAP includes a web series with three episodes, interview videos, technical videos, a podcast and blog posts at the Better Buildings Challenge’s Solutions Center website. Follow the conversation on social media with #SWAPPED16.

About the Author

Maria T. Vargas
Maria T. Vargas is director of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge.

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