Through the end of the year, 3,279 commercial buildings (e.g. offices, retail stores, hotels, schools, and even places of worship) are competing to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most. The competition is taking place as part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s annual “Battle of the Buildings.”
Last year’s winner was “Parking Garage C” at the University of Central Florida. That team reduced their facility’s energy use by 63.2% during the contest, saving $34,907 on their energy bills. Among other things, the parking lot installed high-performance fluorescent lights to replace all 424 of its inefficient interior light fixtures. The final 2011 competition report notes that the lighting retrofit had the extra benefit of improving visibility for drivers.
This year’s contest has attracted entrants from all 50 states, two US territories, and Washington DC. The buildings range from a superintendent’s trailer in Kentucky (500 square feet) to a hospital campus in Cleveland (6.3 million square feet). The average-size building in the competition is 173,000 square feet. Competitors’ energy-savings performance will be measured on a per-square-foot basis; regional weather patterns will also be taken into account.
The nation’s 4.9 million commercial buildings’ energy consumption mainly comes in the form of electricity and natural gas — and in total accounts for 19% of total US energy consumption. The sector’s electricity usage is especially large from a economy-wide perspective, representing 34% of all electricity usage in the US. The Energy Information Administration reports that more than half of commercial buildings’ electricity goes to lighting and cooling. So it’s probable that many participants in the “Battle of Buildings” will strategically look to these items as areas of potential efficiency improvements.
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