The Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy are rivals on the football field, but recently both sides entered into competition of a different sort: to create better energy efficiency standards for each academy’s buildings.
As part of the Department of Energy’s better building challenge, the two rivals exchanged energy engineering staff to find ways to improve energy efficiency.
Last year, Whole Foods and the Hilton Hotel chain exchanged ideas, according to information from the DOE. The goal is to partner “with leaders in the public and private sectors to make the nation’s homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants more energy efficient by accelerating investment and sharing of successful best practices,” according to the website.
In place since 2011, the Better Buildings Challenge have saved more than $1.3 billion in energy costs and reduced more than 10 million tons of carbon emissions. There are 310 better buildings challenge partners who are set to achieve goals of at least 20 percent energy reduction within 10 years, according to information from the energy department.
For the Air Force Academy, the suggestions made by its rival service academy made sense.
“They had some great suggestions,” said Russell Hume, who works for USAFA’s energy plant. “We have our academics in Fairchild Hall, which is a 1.2 million square-foot building. It has six stories, with floor to ceiling windows on the exterior walls that are single pane. They were here in the summer, after 4:30 p.m. — it was hot in the hallway.”
The Air Force Academy struggled to find ways to make windows installed in the 1950s more energy-efficient, he said, but replacing the windows was cost-prohibitive.
“They suggested some interior work that will reduce the heat load,” he said. “It is a simple fix and it will make the buildings more energy-efficient. We’re looking at the return-on-investment costs of implementing their ideas now.”
The Naval Academy experts made a few other minor suggestions _ ideas for lighting efficiencies and changes in Mitchell Hall, USAFA’s dining facility that has large windows facing west, toward the mountains.
“We don’t have a control for all the lighting,” he said. “They suggested if we had better control, we could change the lighting based on the number of occupants, making it more energy efficient.”
When the USAFA team traveled to the Annapolis, Md., campus of the Naval Academy, they were looking at buildings that are more than a century old.
“It was impressive, to see how efficient they were with buildings that were that old,” Hume said. “They divide up their academics into more than one building — so their buildings were smaller. And they have to deal with humidity, which we don’t have to even think about here.”
The Naval Academy had a problem with condensation inside buildings during the summer months, thanks to high humidity levels in Annapolis. They came up with some heating and air conditioning solutions to stop the puddles of water that gathered around the windows in the summer, he said.
“I thought they did fairly well,” he said. “It was interesting to see the different buildings, the different challenges we had. It was a great experience. We learned from each other, and we increased the awareness of saving energy through everyday opportunities — things like green rooftops, recycling foods. They were impressed by the solar voltaic panels on Vandenberg Hall [one of USAFA’s dorms].”
The second season of the DOE’s building challenge is available Nov. 30. Click here to see the service academy challenge.