ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 3 - 05/25/2012

Case for Increasing Funding for DOE’s ‘Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge’ Program Gets Boost

By Steve Rizer


Could a recent accomplishment in the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge (BBBPC) justify the funding increases that President Obama (D) has proposed for this and other activities within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Market Barriers subprogram? After just one year’s participation in BBBPC, Legrand last week reported that it is already four-fifths of the way toward meeting its 10-year goal for reducing energy use at its facilities, perhaps making the president’s requested 75 percent increase in funding for Market Barriers more palatable for congressional lawmakers.


Through BBBPC, partners agree to do the following: assess their building portfolios to determine energy-efficiency opportunities and publicly pledge an organization-wide energy-savings goal for the next 2-5 years; announce and initiate a showcase project on one of their facilities (e.g., retrofit, retro commissioning) and develop an organization-wide plan to achieve their energy savings goals; share their experiences with energy-efficiency solutions, their organization-wide energy savings, and the energy performance at individual facilities as the basis for recognition. In return, DOE agrees to support partners with expert technical assistance and proven paths to success; connect partners with a network of allies (including financial, technology, and service organizations) that can help them achieve their energy savings pledges; and provide national recognition for achieving energy and cost savings, and applying innovative energy solutions. In February of last year, Obama unveiled BBBPC as part of the Better Buildings Initiative (ConstructionPro Week, Feb. 17, 2011, “President’s New Better Buildings Initiative Wins Trade Groups’ Praise”). So far, eight industrial partners with 297 plants have joined.


Legrand, a manufacturer of electrical and data networking products for residential, commercial and industrial buildings, last year joined BBBPC, pledging to reduce its energy intensity by 25 percent in 10 years across 14 U.S. facilities. Thus far, the company has reduced its energy intensity by more than 20 percent. Legrand achieved the reduction by making changes in lighting for manufacturing and office facilities and undertaking what the company called “simpler-but-highly-effective measures” such as fixing air leaks and installing insulation.


Earlier this year, Obama requested $31 million for the Market Barriers subprogram in fiscal 2013, $13.27 million more than the FY’12 enacted level of $17.73 million. The FY’11 budget for Market Barriers totaled $24.449 million.


In his FY’13 budget request to Congress, Obama said, “[BBBPC] will continue to grow membership… The [program] is the industrial component of a department-wide leadership initiative that calls on chief executive officers, university presidents, and state and local leaders to create American jobs through energy efficiency. ‘Challenge partners’ commit to setting ambitious energy savings goals; implementing significant, near-term energy-saving projects; and providing enhanced transparency on the innovative approaches they are taking on energy efficiency. ‘Program partners’ commit to a 10-year energy-intensity improvement target and report verified progress annually to DOE. This group is made up primarily of industrial firms that previously partnered with the program through its Save Energy Now LEADER program. DOE’s role in these initiatives is to motivate companies to reach for significant energy savings, broadly share innovative approaches and lessons learned to encourage replication, and provide limited technical assistance to help companies reach their goals.


Legrand next aims to implement a “showcase” project at its headquarters and achieve a 10 percent reduction in energy intensity there within two years. The company said it selected its West Hartford, Conn., company headquarters as the showcase site “because the 100-year-old, 263,000 square-foot, multi-use facility presents unique challenges in energy-intensity reduction, similar to those faced by mid-sized manufacturers, as well as many existing buildings across the United States.”


“Our third goal is to demonstrate to our customers, suppliers, and peers that our success is replicable,” Legrand, North America President and Chief Executive Officer John Selldorff said. “As industry leaders, we have a responsibility to reduce our own energy consumption and to show our customers how they can use our learning to improve their own energy usage.”


Selldorff described BBBPC as a “catalyst for action,” one that is driving operational improvements, cost savings, and valuable learning that will ultimately benefit Legrand’s distribution partners and their customers as well as others in the business community that can take a page out of the Legrand energy playbook.”


Selldorff credited the efforts of Legrand employees who are rallying to meet the challenge, saying, “Employee awareness and engagement is a key element of our energy-management strategy, along with evolving our internal processes and deploying the right mix of technologies.”


Legrand Spokesperson Provides CPW Additional Information


In an email interview with ConstructionPro Week (CPW), Susan Rochford, Legrand North America’s vice president of energy efficiency, sustainability, and public policy, provided the following additional information:


CPW: Your company stated that the 20 percent reduction in energy intensity was achieved via changes in lighting, fixing air leaks, installing insulation, and other measures. Could you provide some more details about these measures in terms of what brands/models of lights, insulation, and other efficient materials were installed, what brands/models they replaced, performance characteristics of those items, warranties, those types of details?


Rochford: One of our warehouses underwent a large lighting retrofit when they altered the layout of the building. Legrand hired Aelux Co., which replaced 938 400-Watt Metal Halide lamps. Those lamps consumed 456 W each and were replaced with 950 light systems consuming 147 W each.


The systems included:


4’ H – Series Fixture, Medium Beam Miro IV Reflector, 3 lamp T5 49W, 120-277V Ballasts with Normal BF, with 5000K lamps.


Additionally, we installed WattStopper 277v Twist and Lock Plugs and WattStopper Hi Bay Occupancy Sensor Modules as lighting controls. WattStopper, a Group brand Legrand, is a leading manufacturer of energy efficient lighting controls for commercial and residential use.


The warranty on the lamps is two years from the date of installation while the ballasts carry a warranty of five years.


In our North Carolina facility, a number of projects were initiated, including a parking lot lighting retrofit where WattStopper Occupancy Based Hi/Low Dimmers were deployed in select areas of the parking lot with 330W Ceramic Metal Halide bulbs to replace 400 W Metal Halide Lamps.


Air Leak Detection -- An Exair Model 9061 Ultrasonic leak detector is used by a trained associate to detect air leaks in the facility. The probe uses ultrasonic technology to detect and quantify leaks so the ambient factory noise is not a factor. It helps us locate leaks that are fixed on the spot or marked for maintenance to fix later. Savings are calculated according to the leak hole size and by referencing a PSI chart for our plant pressure.


Occupancy Sensors -- A variety of Legrand/Pass & Seymour occupancy/vacancy sensors were installed in all conference rooms, offices, and restrooms to turn off lighting. The models used depended on the applications.


Oven Insulating Paint -- The maintenance crew painted ovens with insulating paint (ICC Astec paint available at that includes silica to minimize heat loss. This paint was also used on chiller manifolds to reduce sweating and to add insulation. Surface temperatures measured were lowered by 10-20 degrees on oven applications.


Insulation Blankets -- Concord added a number of custom UNI-VEST Barrel insulation blankets from to several of our Nylon dedicated Molding Injection Machines. These blankets minimize the amount of heat lost to air and can be customized based on the machine size. The installation took less than one hour and the payback period has been less than nine months.


Many other improvements did not come from use of products or services. They were results of in-house electrical work and process improvement.


CPW: Overall, approximately how much energy was being used at how many Legrand facilities prior to the efficiency measures being undertaken? To what amount of energy was that reduced by the end of the first year?


Rochford: From our baseline energy consumption in 2009, 14 Legrand sites consumed 427,279 MMBtu. In 2011, we reduced our energy consumption to 362,727 MMBtu, producing a 20.2 percent reduction in energy intensity. The purpose of the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge is to measure energy intensity instead of absolute energy, as intensity allows a facility to measure its energy in accordance with growth.


CPW: About how much money did the company invest to achieve the energy reductions? By what year are the efficiency measures expected to pay off the investment?


Rochford: Most of the energy efficiency projects implemented within the past two years have had a simple payback period of two years or less. While the Legrand Executive Management team has provided a platform for site energy managers to present projects with longer payback periods, site energy managers have taken advantage of ‘low hanging fruit’ to accomplish the impressive energy intensity reduction of 20.2 percent.


CPW: To what extent, if any, did the federal government help defray the cost? Also, what details -- such as loan duration and interest rate -- can you provide about the financing arrangement that the company entered into to make its investment?


Rochford: The federal government has provided Legrand with technical assistance, which includes helping with the analytical aspects of tracking and measuring energy intensity. The federal government has not provided financing of the projects. Legrand has internally financed all of its energy intensity projects.


CPW: If the company achieved an overall 20 percent reduction in energy intensity, then why is the showcase project in Connecticut -- in which a 10 percent reduction is expected -- so significant? How will the reduction at the West Hartford site be achieved?


Rochford: Legrand has already achieved an 8.53 percent reduction in energy intensity in West Hartford. The 10 percent site-specific reduction that began in 2012 is additional and will require Legrand to implement more in-depth changes.


Legrand chose West Hartford partially because of its unique complexity. Parts of the building are over 80 years old, and newer sections create a patchwork of building materials and purpose. With both office and manufacturing space housed in diverse infrastructure, Legrand is uncovering the complexities of implementing energy projects and hopes to share best practices moving forward.


To achieve the 10 percent reduction in energy intensity, the energy team at the West Hartford site has created a project pipeline of 14 different projects, each with varying return on investment estimates and degrees of difficulty to implement. These projects range from installing occupancy sensors in common areas to machinery upgrades to identifying and repairing leaks in the compressed air system.


CPW: One of the stated goals of this endeavor is to set an example for comparable facilities. Besides a press release, how will Legrand go about communicating the virtues of investing in efficiency for these types of facilities to customers, suppliers, and peers? Will Legrand be asking other companies to join the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge?


Rochford: In addition to responding to press inquiries, Legrand has begun to participate in a growing number of panels and webinars discussing energy efficiency and its importance across the business value chain and the broader building landscape. We are documenting our approach and will continue to seek out opportunities to share what we have learned through our peer-to-peer groups, national and state association forums, and our supplier network. We will be communicating our progress through our website as well.


CPW: What information, if any, can you provide about what the other participants in the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge have accomplished?


Rochford: Maria Tikoff Vargas, Director, Department of Energy, Better Buildings Challenge will be able to answer your questions concerning what other participants have accomplished. She can be reached at


CPW: Other comments?


Rochford: Legrand’s commitment to the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge is a key element of our overall approach to sustainability, which we are also communicating to customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. We see our energy-management efforts as a smart investment that improves our operational efficiency and cost structure while helping to reduce our carbon footprint.


Better Buildings Challenge Director Maria Vargas told GBI that her agency has been “very buoyed by the success” of the overall Better Buildings program. She reported that almost 70 organizations have joined the program, cutting across a wide variety of facility types. Together, these partners represent almost 1.6 billion square feet of commercial and industrial office space, including roughly 300 manufacturing facilities. In addition, 11 financial allies are committing about $2 billion in private-sector financing.



A professional company always offer affordable and effective

services. When he rounded the bend and looked down the hill

he saw his roof darker than all the neighbors. Although there has been a

good amount of progress made in terms of adjusting building codes to make green and sustainable living environments more achievable there is

still a long way to go.
Posted by: Cormack - Thursday, October 17, 2013 9:06 PM


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