Making energy 'a consideration in all we do'

  • Published
  • By Col. Carl Buhler
  • 78th Air Base Wing Commander
One month ago, in my June 4 Rev-Up article titled "The energy 'buck' stops here," I unveiled the kick off for the Bldg. 905 Energy Solution Matrix - an energy savings initiative to demonstrate how a complex, multi-use building at Robins can achieve real energy savings by tapping into the resources of the Installation Energy Office.

As you may recall, Bldg. 905 is not just the 78th Air Base Wing headquarters, but also the home of the base's open atrium library and the Center's Education Office with all of its associated satellite college campuses and classrooms. I put the installation's Energy Office to task. Before I could rub two copper pennies together, they immediately started crafting a plan of attack to save the base some serious energy sparks.

In practice, I'm already a bit of an energy zealot as shown by the way I think about energy use inside my own home. Just ask my wife.

As a child, I had to pay a dime every time I left the TV or a light on. So, I had some thought on energy initiatives I could bring straight from my home to my office building. "Not so fast," said Energy Office personnel, as they prepared to teach me a thing or two about large office-type buildings, and where the real energy savings solutions can best be applied in a 74,877 square-foot office building rather than my home.

To get things rolling, we first looked at electrical consumption data for seven days, which we collected from a smart electrical meter attached to the building. We discovered an unusual pattern which revealed electrical consumption for the building was all over the charts regarding how much energy is used and the time of the day electricity is being used. So, even though we had a plan to deploy power strips to cubical work stations during the second week of the initiative, the Energy Office also felt we should hone in on these unusual energy consumption patterns in the building which, in whole, consumes 1,264,535 kilowatt hours annually at an approximate cost of $89,000.

Consequently, we collaborated with multiple on- and off-base agencies and other Air Force energy offices in an effort to sort out which power strips would provide the smartest, safest, and fully Air Force-compliant solution. As a result, the Energy Office also deployed night and day time energy reconnaissance "HUMINT" missions in the building to look at what every room and cubicle is doing.

Armed with archived blueprints and architectural diagrams, the experts looked at the building's library and education center, with all its associated office spaces. The findings quickly got interesting. For example, one of the engineers on the Energy Team ran around the building with his temperature "gun" to shoot and record temperatures around the building. He discovered room temperatures ranged from 69 to 79 degrees at 11 p.m. on a day that had a peak outside temperature of 95 degrees. Clearly, energy savings opportunities exist.

Further probing unveiled something was astray with the building's Environmental Management System. However, this isn't as easy of a solution as walking to the thermostat in your home and adjusting the temperature, particularly when we're talking about a 28-year-old air conditioning and heating system, like the one in Bldg. 905.

As we dove further, the Energy Office taught me the building has five air handlers, two exhaust fans, one 150-ton chiller, one 200-ton cooling tower, a very temperature-sensitive computer server room, 163 assigned work stations, 213 unassigned computer stations in the library/training rooms, 395 computers, 24 copy and/or print stations, and seven presentation areas with projectors and/or TV's. This is all to say, the energy savings opportunities are abundant.

So, in three weeks, I'll report back to you with specific energy savings we were able to capture. At a minimum, our plan of attack includes installing Air Force-compliant and ergonomically-desirable power strips at work stations to help us power down cubicles when we go home for the day (not our computers, though, as it is during our away time the Communications Directorate pushes important security patches to our computers).

Additionally, we will be fixing the building's EMS and optimizing its functionality with appropriate temperature set-backs during times when the building is not in use. Then, we'll be comparing historical electrical consumption data with real-time consumption data to hopefully report some electrifying results. These trials will help us learn the way ahead as we tackle other buildings across the base.

Until then, please remember you, are also a leader in your area and can make a huge impact towards our common objective of "Making Energy a Consideration in All We Do." We should all strive together to make energy usage more efficient at Robins.