Energy savings in leased buildings

Light bulbA Sustainability Action Plan project

Beginning in 2008, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's St. Paul office building participated in a project called PDF icon Re-Direct for Government™. The project provided incentives for the landlord, building maintenance staff and MPCA staff to work together to reduce energy use and share in the resulting savings.

How Re-Direct for Government™ works

To begin the project, the agency assessed current building performance using Energy Star and hired a consultant to review building mechanics and staff actions. The agency’s green team surveyed staff to determine their willingness to do proposed actions (such as turning off monitors and closing blinds) and barriers that might stop them. The survey also solicited ideas for energy savings and allowed staff to vote on how savings from energy conservation would be directed.

These processes solicited a number of ideas for reducing energy consumption in the building:

  • Turning off some lighting near windows.
  • Reducing lighting in hallways.
  • Staff turn on lights when needed in the morning, and the cleaning crew turns off lights in unoccupied areas after work hours.
  • Prompting staff to turn off monitors when their computer is powered down.
  • Installing vending and cooler misers on each floor and in the cafeteria to minimize energy for cooling while maintaining a consistent product temperature. Machine lights and advertising are also turned off during periods of inactivity and turned on by motion sensors.
  • Placing cafeteria make-up air/exhaust fan on timer (not running 24/7).
  • Reducing run time to bring building up to occupancy heat/cooling set point in the morning. 

Part of the project’s success was attributable to effective communication to overcome the barriers staff identified. Communication strategies included:

  • PDF icon An e-mail from the Commissioner.
  • Simple graphics of lights, computer, and blinds posted on each floor.
  • Information services placed a pop-up message that appeared upon shut-down of computers to remind staff to shut off monitors and close blinds.
  • Staff were invited to commit to specific action steps using an e-commitment card.

Some issues that arose during the project that need to be resolved include developing a policy on the use of personal refrigerators at desks and monitoring air quality concerns that arose from changes in the ventilation pattern. Also, the agency switched to internet protocol telephones during the course of the project, and found that these phones consumed more energy than the old phones.

Cost savings from the project are being shared between the landlord and MPCA. The landlord, Meritex Inc., has committed to channeling its cost reductions into additional energy-saving practices in the building.

Even though the building was already highly energy efficient, in the one year, the project saved 4,973 therms (i.e., 27% of 2008 use) of natural gas and 169,559 kWh (i.e., 5.8% of 2008 use) of electricity. This increased energy efficiency saved $16,462 for the one building and reduced CO2 emissions by 366,360 pounds. (February 2009-February 2010)

The program continues to be successful. The MPCA won a Sustainable St. Paul Award  from the city for its energy saving efforts.

For information about Sustainable Action Plans, visit the Interagency Pollution Prevention Advisory Team webpage.