•  Carrier


An Energy Makeover 

In 2009, the U.S. General Services Administration began an energy efficiency renovation of the 37-story Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in Seattle, and in the first full year of post-work operation, lighting upgrades alone saved the facility $239,000 in electricity costs.


By Andy Wakefield, M.SAME 



The Department of Defense (DOD) is home to several hundred thousand buildings at more than 5,000 different locations, and, like all commercial buildings built in the last century, almost all of these facilities have an opportunity to be more energy-efficient and more sustainable. As one of the largest landlords in the world, DOD is committed to an aggressive energy policy, and in support of this goal, on April 16, 2014, it released the first new defense energy policy in more than 20 years establishing that, “It is DoD policy to enhance military capability, improve energy security, and mitigate costs in its use and management of energy.” 

Improving energy performance is specifically identified in the directive. In existing buildings, lighting upgrades can have a significant impact on energy performance. Lighting accounts for approximately 38 percent of the average commercial office building's total electricity use, which means that effectively managing lighting use can have a huge impact on a building's energy costs. 



In new construction, sustainable building practices are becoming the norm. But even in existing buildings, simple strategies can be implemented quickly and easily to address inefficiencies, reduce energy use, improve comfort, and enhance productivity in the space. Three of the most common contributors to lighting electricity waste in buildings include spaces that are over-lit; lights that are left on at full 100 percent of the time; and spaces that do not make adequate use of free daylight.

For instance, occupancy/vacancy sensing, daylight sensing, and automated dimming control are three basic lighting control strategies that can easily be incorporated into lighting retrofits to address each of these factors. Essentially, when a facility is replacing any significant number of fixtures, it makes economic and practical sense to include lighting control at that time. By choosing a lighting control system that incorporates digital dimming ballasts and wireless controls, you can minimize labor and materials costs, while enabling the building to realize energy savings of up to 60 percent, and achieve a more attractive return-on-investment.

Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in Seattle

When the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in Seattle opened in 1974 it was considered a marvel of innovation, earning an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. In 2009, the U.S. General Services Administration, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, initiated a 21st Century Energy Makeover to improve occupancy comfort and increase its energy efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. In 2013 alone, lighting controls installed as part of the renovation helped to save $289,000 in lighting electricity costs. GSA photo



Revamped lighting control strategies have been put in place in the 854,000-ft² Jackson Federal Building in Seattle as part of a 21st Century Energy Makeover initiated in 2009 by the building’s owner the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  Like many government offices built during the public building boom of the 1970s, the Jackson Federal Building was seriously out of shape in terms of its energy use. Just 40 years ago, at its 1974 debut, it was considered a modern marvel—even receiving a coveted Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. GSA launched the energy makeover to modernize the building into a state-of-the-art, high-performing green building, and provide more comfortable surroundings for the 2,300-plus people working there.

In keeping with federal mandates, one major goal of the renovation was to reduce energy use and operating costs. Lighting was identified as a significant contributor to high energy use, and was also identified as a source of occupant discomfort. Excessively bright fluorescent lighting caused some workers to place cardboard over whole sections of lights. Uncontrolled natural light produced glare and heat that actually made window seating undesirable. To find creative ways to solve these problems, contractor Howard S. Wright worked with Lutron Electronics to design and implement an efficient light-control solution.

Because the project scope included a full-scale lighting system retrofit, the 37-story building was identified as an energy-reduction project as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To help meet the energy reduction goals, GSA developed a contract vehicle wherein the prime contractors’ fees were tied to meeting specific measurement and verification metrics on energy-reduction goals. The Jackson Federal Building renovation included lighting control strategies on 30 floors of the building that have, to date, reduced overall lighting usage by 45 percent. Additionally, new capabilities that allow facility managers to monitor lighting energy use in real-time make it possible to set usage benchmarks with tenants, turning each tenant into a stakeholder in the total energy-reduction process.

  • Occupancy sensing. Dual-technology occupancy/vacancy sensors turn lights off in a portion of the building when a space is empty and turn lights on when anyone enters. The dual-technology sensors provide assurance that sensors perform as expected—turning on as soon as the occupancy enters the space, and staying on even when the tasks performed involved minor motion like reading, typing on a keyboard, or reviewing papers at a desk.
  • Daylight harvesting. Wireless daylight sensors save energy by dimming or turning off electric lighting when sufficient daylight is available. They are used throughout all perimeter facades, on each floor of the building.
  • Centralized light control. ATotal Light Management system maximizes the efficient use of light to save energy, improve productivity and simplify operations via centralized dimming and switching control of all electric lighting. As shown through the use of tracking software, lighting controls helped to save $289,000 in lighting electricity costs in 2013 alone. The system also easily integrates with other building-management systemsvia BACNET IP. This allows for better optimization of building systems, greater energy savings, and more effective monitoring and maintenance.
  • Advanced monitoring. Energy monitoring and display software provides facility managers with a real-time snapshot and historic view of the energy savings throughout the building. Digitally addressable dimming ballasts are programmed, instead of wired, to work individually or as a group to automatically dim lights based on available daylight. The system is currently set to 65 percent of full power as the new “on.” Tuning light levels accounts for connected lighting energy savings of 35 percent, and still maintains recommended light levels throughout the building. Because they are digitally addressable, the ballasts can be easily reconfigured to different sensors, switches, groupings and settings without intrusive and expensive rewiring when space use changes.

Building envelope benefits. The building envelope is another critical element of energy efficient renovations. New windows and upgrades to HVAC systems can contribute to energy savings and high ROI. By working with the right manufacturer, HVAC units can be integrated with wireless occupancy sensors to reduce or turn off HVAC when a space is empty. These strategies also played a significant role in the Jackson Federal Building renovation.

A more efficient building is a smarter building. The strategies used in the renovation not only improve energy efficiency, they allow the facilities staff to monitor and improve the way the building consumes electricity. “The Jackson Federal Building has become a smart building, with intelligence integrated down to each light fixture,” reports Christopher Helmer, GSA project manager. “We have the ability to control, manage and monitor our energy savings from a single control room, improving our ability to efficiently and effectively detect and respond to changes in energy use.”

Meanwhile, occupant comfort has improved. “Employees with window seats can finally appreciate the advantages of natural daylight without glare or headache,” Helmer adds. “Feedback provided from a regular tenant survey during the project was overwhelmingly positive.”

The overall Jackson Federal Building project (including the HVAC, window and chilled-water plant upgrades) targeted energy savings of 30 percent. The project has met requirements for LEED Silver certification and its ENERGY STAR rating will be increased from 83 to 97.


The Jackson Federal Building renovation included lighting control strategies on 30 floors of the building that have, to date, reduced overall lighting usage by 45 percent. 



Many older buildings have to consider renovation challenges, like asbestos, when determining how to implement efficiency upgrades. Wireless controls and sensors work to mitigate the problems associated with asbestos in ceilings and walls, allow work to be performed without disruptions to occupants or building visitors, and reduce installation time.

Wireless solutions also ensure that if space use changes, office layout changes or personnel perform different roles, the sensors can be relocated and even reprogrammed without expensive rewiring. Barracks and federal buildings can be challenging environments to implement wireless technology. Yet the benefits can be tremendous. There are manufacturers that provide reliable, interference-free technology that is guaranteed to keep building occupants comfortable and not leave them in the dark.

Wireless technology has come a long way. When looking at different products, it is important to do your homework and investigate how the product has performed in similar environments in the past. Manufacturers should be able to provide this information and a great starting place is their website.

Federal budgets may continue to shrink, but new technology can help save money and time. Lighting controls can contribute metric-based results in government facilities, freeing up money for other capital upgrade projects, contributing to sustainability goals, and, in the long term, benefitting building occupants and taxpayers alike.



Andy Wakefield, M.SAME, is Director of Government and OEM Solutions, Lutron Electronics; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..