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2013 Better Buildings Federal Award Winners

The 2013 Better Buildings Federal Award recognized the federal government's highest-performing buildings through a competition to reduce annual energy use intensity (Btu per square foot of facility space) on a year-over-year basis. The federal building that achieved the greatest percentage energy intensity savings for 2013 won.

Thank you to all the participants of the 2013 Better Buildings Federal Award competition, and congratulations to this year's winner: the U.S. General Services Administration Wichita U.S. Courthouse. The building achieved a 20% reduction in building energy intensity over its August 2012 baseline. At a close second place with a 15% reduction is the Department of Army Picatinny Arsenal Building B65.


Photo of the Wichita Courthouse.In 2010, an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Project was completed at the Wichita U.S. Courthouse that installed advanced metering and upgraded air handlers, boilers, chillers and building controls. Monitoring the performance, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Region 6 Energy Team and the Wichita Courthouse staff determined that additional energy savings could be achieved through retuning building systems and implementing innovative and comprehensive energy-management practices. Not an easy task for a building that is more than 80 years old.

In 2012, GSA Region 6 undertook a Targeted E4 (Energy Efficiency Expert Evaluation) project to "target" no-cost and low-cost retuning of building control systems and equipment to improve energy efficiency. The Targeted E4 provided technical support to the building staff and operations and maintenance (O&M) contractors to assist in retuning building controls schedules and sequences and to provide training on how best to manage and sustain the improvements.

Targeted E4 energy-saving retuning actions included:

  • Static pressure and supply air temperature reset on the air-handling units
  • Optimal Start for all air-handling units
  • Zero minimum outside air when AHUs operate during unoccupied periods
  • Seasonal manual adjustments to chiller and pump valves

The following low-cost energy savings measures were also implemented by the Wichita staff in conjunction with the Targeted E4 Project:

  • Integration of chiller control with the building automation system which allowed chillers to be scheduled "as needed" rather than run on 24/7 schedule during the summer cooling season. This modification also enabled the BAS system to control chilled water temperature reset thereby providing additional savings during non-peak cooling months

  • Installation of timer controls on parking garage air handling make-up air and exhaust fans not controlled by the BAS system allowed the building staff to synchronize the garage AHU operation with tenant occupancy and thereby reduce unnecessary after-hours equipment usage

  • Reduced run times of building exhaust fans by adjusting existing timers

  • Installed digital timers on parking garage lighting circuits, allowing more precise timer control while reducing hours of illumination

  • Installed LED bulbs on several lights that are on night light circuits.

The GSA U.S. Wichita Courthouse building manager shared information about the Targeted E4 retuning project with the building tenants during the course of the year. As a result, many tenants became engaged in efforts to reduce energy within their work areas. In addition, the Wichita janitorial contractor was diligent in monitoring to be sure lights and equipment were turned off after hours.

While the efforts by tenants and janitorial contractors are difficult to measure, it is clear that these efforts provided positively contributed to the overall energy reductions. During the 12-month retuning project, a GSA Tenant Satisfaction Survey was conducted that showed overall Wichita Courthouse tenants had a satisfaction rate of more than 90%–an outstanding achievement for a building that logged a 20% energy reduction during a year that had both substantial winter heating and summer cooling seasons.

Key contributing personnel:

  • Darrell Patnode and William McClain, GSA Kansas Field Office management support; Tim Morales, R6 Sustainability Branch Chief
  • Brian Wohletz, GSA building manager; Gabe Barrios and Randy Young, O&M contractors; Clint Zimmerman, janitorial contractor
  • Linda Baschnagel, Chris Cockrill, Robert Minor, Susan Hall, GSA R6 energy project and technical team
  • DOE, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Targeted E4 Team (Krishnan Gowri, Nick Fernandez, James Goddard, Ron Underhill), technical support team.