Energy Exchange

Selected tag(s): Mecklenburg County - 2011

Would Your Building Pass An Energy Efficiency Background Check?

By: Jian Huo, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow in Mecklenburg County, NC; MEM candidate at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

This summer, my EDF partner, Adam Hart, and I are running energy efficiency “background checks” on buildings at Mecklenburg County Real Estate Services in North Carolina. Of the county’s 100 facilities, we identified 15 energy-intensive sites and arranged site tours of them for a closer look. In our energy assessments of the facilities, the red flags for energy waste were older machines with low energy efficiency, lighting, and HVAC systems.

Lighting – Metal Halides in Gyms and Pools

The county’s indoor gyms and pools are equipped with over 300 metal halides that are 400W and 1000W, which run more than 50 hours per week. Due to their long re-strike time, daylight sensors and occupancy sensors cannot be used to help save energy. However, switching to lower wattage LED lights can cut current energy use by 85% and allow for the installation of daylight sensors and occupancy sensors for further energy reduction. Changing lights in the high ceilings will

be a great challenge, especially in the pool areas. Although it seems time consuming and risky to change lighting above water, maintenance can put scissor lifts on the movable walkways to get to the metal halides and replace them.

HVAC – Heat Pumps Without Controls

HVAC is the most complicated and intimidating part of the whole building system to a Climate Corps Public Sector fellow with little background in engineering. Even after Adam and I did background checks on all the sites, we had no direct solution for upgrading those giant and inefficient machines. So Adam and I started to conduct interviews with HVAC experts and facility managers, acquiring valuable information along the way. With newfound information, we tackled the County and Courts Office Building, which has heat pumps that are not connected to the central control system, but instead controlled with individual thermostats. Because the heat pumps may not work stably under high temperatures, the air conditioning controls are never set back when the facility is vacant. Energy savings will be easily achieved if the heat pumps are looped into the control system, allowing for the set back of air conditioning and heating controls during unoccupied hours.

Overall, our recommended changes to lighting and HVAC systems at facilities in Mecklenburg County Real Estate Services have great potential to cut energy usage and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. By doing background research of the buildings’ systems, touring sites, and talking to the right people, Adam and I were able to tackle the red flags of energy waste at the county’s facilities. After the retrofits are made, all of their buildings will pass our “background check.” Would yours?

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

Posted in EDF Climate Corps / Also tagged | Language: / Read 2 Responses

Crab, You’re It!: Using Community-Based Social Marketing to Save Energy

By: Adam Hart, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Mecklenburg County, NC; MBA candidate at Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Meet the stars of the “Crab, You’re It!” project, a group of fiddler crabs helping North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County employees reduce energy consumption in a lasting way. The creative folks behind this idea are Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency. They are using community-based social marketing in the form of the crab project to help employees become better environmental citizens.

Photo Courtesy of Adam Hart

Community-based social marketing is a behavior modification strategy developed by Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, a Professor of Psychology at St. Thomas University. The basic idea is that once you identify the barriers and benefits to a sustainable behavior, you can use behavior change tools to create a new social norm.

Mecklenburg County launched a pilot project, “Crab, You’re It!,” to encourage 350 county employees to turn off lights after leaving workspaces during business hours. The behavior change was driven by attaching a stigma to leaving the lights on. Employees were encouraged to spot colleagues who forgot to switch their lights off, and give them a big plastic fiddler crab. They could only pass on the fiddler crab when they found another employee wasting energy. Read More »

Posted in EDF Climate Corps / Also tagged | Language: / Read 2 Responses