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GSA's Green Proving Ground Uses Innovative Technology to Save Energy

GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) aims to make our buildings more efficient and sustainable.  The GPG partners with national research laboratories to perform real-world evaluations of potential energy, water, and cost saving emerging building technologies.  The GPG is paving the way to bring promising sustainable building technologies into the federal building portfolio, and to recommend for the U.S. commercial building industry at large.

The GPG recently released evaluation results for four emerging technologies:

Chromogenic Windows

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 30% of the energy used to heat and cool all buildings in the U.S. is lost through inefficient windows at a cost of $42 billion per year.  Chromogenic windows tint automatically based on outside temperature and brightness.  By controlling in real time both heat and daylight as they pass through windows, chromogenic technology has the capacity to significantly reduce heating, cooling, and lighting energy use.  In an evaluation at federal buildings in Denver, CO, chromogenic windows significantly reduced heat gain on the window, reducing annual heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) cooling electricity use by as much as 10%.

Vacuum Insulated Panels

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, HVAC accounts for roughly 34% of all the energy used in commercial buildings, a large percentage of which routinely escapes as heat through the building envelope.  Vacuum Insulated Panels (VIP) are a promising technology that present new opportunities to mitigate those losses.  Originally designed for household appliances like refrigerators, VIPs offer very effective insulation within a very slim profile, making them useful on roofs where adding bulk is costly.  GPG tested VIP suitability for building applications in an evaluation at a U.S. Courthouse in Camden, N.J.  Researchers found that VIPs were robust enough for building renovations, and that insulation can offer favorable payback in one-story buildings in regions with extreme climates and high utility costs.

Multistaged Indirect Evaporative Coolers

Multistaged Indirect Evaporative Coolers (IEC) use a unique air-processing technology that removes heat and moisture from outside air and delivers space conditioning using only a fraction of energy consumed by mechanical air conditioners, the largest contributor to U.S. grid failures and blackouts.  The GPG recently evaluated three multistaged IEC systems installed at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, CO.  Findings included an 80% reduction in energy consumption and an average simple payback of 15 years in data centers.

Synchronous and Cogged Fan Belts

Using a notched design often found in motorcycle drives, synchronous-drive fan belts and cogged V-belts are a low-investment solution to reduce inefficiencies in ventilation fans caused by belt slippage and bending resistance. The GPG put these belts to the test on two different fans in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Denver, CO.  Findings included up to 20% energy savings and a simple payback of less than four years.


This article is part of the Spring 2014 issue of the FOCUS newsletter. Please visit the Focus Newsletter page to read our newsletter. To subscribe to FOCUS, complete the online subscription form.

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