OFHPB Newsletter: Rethinking Building Energy Efficiency Metrics

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August 2017 • Issue #6

How efficient is your work location?


The Advisory Committee proposed measuring the energy Federal office workers use to commute to work in the same units as EUI (see main article) to easily compare the energy we use to get to the office with the energy we use to operate the office. 

This Transportation EUI (T-EUI), is now part of the Smart Location Calculator, a tool that GSA’s Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program created to evaluate buildings’ location efficiency -- a measure of commuters’ access to energy-saving transportation options like buses, bikes and trains, as well as to diverse services and destinations. 

Beyond the energy benefits, the development of highly efficient locations requires up to 40% less in local infrastructure costs for roads, sewer, and utilities. This information helps inform GSA's long range planning with local officials. The screenshot above from the Smart Location Calculator depicts the location efficiency of sections of Chicago, with a range of most efficient to least efficient locations color coded from green to yellow to red.

    Securing Expert Advice


    GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings receives external advice from its Advisory Committee to help carry out its mission — improving Federal buildings (assets, operations, use, and resilience) to enhance human health and performance, and safeguard social, economic, and environmental security. The Committee includes 10 Federal agencies and offices plus expert representatives from sectors including architecture, engineering, construction, environmental health and more.

    Can the government reduce its footprint, rent and energy through more intelligent space design?


    $6.1 billion per year. That’s how much money the Federal government spends on energy to keep our buildings running. GSA is rethinking how we occupy buildings in order to save money on rent, energy and other operating costs – while providing superior workspaces. GSA’s Total Workplace program provides strategies for agencies to meet all of these goals through intelligent space re-design.

    As the government consolidates people into fewer buildings, are we just moving energy use from one building to another? Building energy use is most commonly measured in thousands of Btus per square foot , a.k.a., energy use intensity (EUI). But does EUI still tell an accurate story when square footage is decreasing while occupant density is increasing?

    In response to this question, the Advisory Committee to GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings recommended that the government incorporate occupant density (people per square foot) into the EUI metric.  At the Committee’s suggestion, GSA worked with the Department of Energy and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to conduct a study of the relationship between these factors.

    Study Findings

    In an analysis of two GSA buildings for which we had good occupancy data, PNNL found that as occupant density increased, building energy did not go up nearly as much as occupant density -- the ratios were 7:1 and 9:1. The two consolidations were found to save a substantial amount of the energy that the buildings in combination otherwise would have used. These findings indicate that building consolidation can indeed be a valid energy saving strategy.  Research on more buildings is needed to validate this relationship, and determine how best to measure energy savings as we densify our buildings.



    Ken Sandler is the Designated Federal Officer supporting GSA’s Advisory Committee in the Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings. 

    Chuck Hardy directs GSA’s Total Workplace program. 

    Ruth Kroeger manages the Smart Location Calculator for GSA’s Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program.