How often do you hear the term energy efficiency, and what does it mean to you? At SLCgreen, we spend a lot of time immersed in energy efficiency strategies and goal setting, and we want to share our enthusiasm.

While it’s easy to nerd out about kilowatt hours saved and greenhouse gas equivalencies avoided, energy efficiency—at its heart—is about saving money and improving air quality.

If you’re a business that cares about either of those goals—we’ve got some tips for you!

First things first—did you know that our buildings, small businesses, restaurants, and homes are the second largest contributor to Salt Lake’s polluted skies during wintertime inversions?  That’s right—even though these structures don’t have tailpipes or smoke stacks, they collectively represent over a third of our dirty air problem.

That’s why making energy efficiency improvements is so important.  Energy efficiency is one of the most practical and accessible sustainability actions you can pursue. And you can start doing it immediately.

In this edition, we’ll be highlighting what is known as behavioral energy efficiency strategies—everything that involves how and when you choose to use energy. As our case study, we’ll be turning our attention to VCBO Architecture, recipients of the 2017 Skyline Challenge Award for Employee Engagement.

VCBO Skyline Award 2017.JPG

Like any improvement effort—be it personal health, home, or energy efficiency—it’s crucial to set a goal or have a way of measuring your progress. VCBO Architecture started their efficiency project by creating a profile for their building on Portfolio Manager, the Environmental Protection Agency’s free online software that allows you to interpret your energy consumption over time. Portfolio Manager takes into account details about your building and provides you with an Energy Star Score—a ranking of how well your building performs compared to others like it. When VCBO did this the first time, their building scored a 77 out of 100.

Establishing a baseline score of 77, the architecture firm wanted to see how much they could improve their standing over the course of a year using only behavioral measures—meaning no upgrades to the building itself. So their green team took an inventory of everything in their office space that draws energy for lighting or power outlets. They identified:

  • Task lighting
  • Office electronics and computers
  • Overhead lighting
  • Mobile electronic devices

With their list of energy-using systems to focus on, the VCBO team went about devising a plan for how to minimize or eliminate unnecessary power draws from those devices. Here’s what they did:

  • Replaced bulbs in task lighting with LED lights
  • Programed computers to sleep when idle
  • Staggered computer start-up at beginning of day to avoid peak energy demand charges
  • Installed motions sensor for overhead lighting
  • All electronics plugged into power strips that would be shut off at day’s end to avoid phantom loads

sensorspower savephantom load

By taking the time to program energy-saving settings on their electronics, replacing light bulbs, and remembering to turn off power strips in the building at the end of the work day, VCBO Architecture improved their Energy Star score by a full seven points over the course of the year. That also means they saved money.

If you want to follow VCBO’s example, start by profiling your office space on Portfolio Manager and begin implementing these best practices starting tomorrow. You can also reach out to the Sustainability Department for more ideas and guidance

In the meantime, stay tuned for our energy efficiency blog part II—that’s when we’ll tackle the big picture and big savings concepts.