Bigger, Better Faster: Q&As with Legrand North America and Whole Foods

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Jun 09, 2015

 Amy Hargroves of Sprint, Jon Utech of Cleveland Clinic, Wendall Brase, UC Irvine, Kathy Loftus of Whole Foods and Susan Rochford of Legrand North America. 

At the Better Buildings Summit, a "bionic panel" took the stage to discuss how they're going "bigger, better and faster" on energy efficiency. We couldn't cover everything within those 30 minutes, so we took the chance to do a deeper dive with just a couple great energy efficiency minds, representing the manufacturing and grocery industries: Legrand North America's Susan Rochford and Kathy Loftus of Whole Foods. 

1)     In a few words, how is your organization going bigger, faster and/or better in the Better Buildings Challenge?

SR: First off, I’d say the Challenge has been overall a very positive experience for Legrand and we’re very appreciative of the partnership we’ve enjoyed with the DOE for the last 4 years. Legrand is going BIGGER in the Challenge because – Legrand is getting BIGGER.  Since we became a Challenge partner in 2011 we have acquired three companies, one of which has two major divisions, all of which have manufacturing locations. The good news is that because of the experience and skills we’ve acquired in energy management since we joined the Challenge, we’re much better equipped to “onboard” these new members of our organizational family than we would have otherwise been. We’re also much better equipped to communicate the value of better energy management, because we have the results to show for it.

KL: Whole Foods Market is committed to exceeding our energy reduction goal with the BBC. Working with vendor partners to develop practical, economical ways will help us get there.  We’re working with the utility community to showcase successes (e.g. NSTAR/EverSource MOU program and others). And, we’re implementing near real-time monitoring to allow us to see and correct energy exceptions quickly, test new technologies and to push the limits on current specifications. This will all help us determine where we may adjust things and help manufacturers develop the next generation enhanced energy productive systems for our stores.

2)     What motivated your organization to excel at the goals it set as part of the Better Buildings Challenge?

SR: I’d say a key factor was that this commitment was the inaugural event of Legrand North America’s efforts to move forward on a more sustainable path. The commitment we made was concrete, would deliver real benefits and it’s a clear objective to communicate. It was a powerful signal to our employees. As a company that designs and manufactures energy saving solutions – lighting and plug load controls – we believed that the Challenge would help us understand our customers’ challenges and make us an even better business partner. Finally, I’d say that making a public commitment is a very significant act in and of itself.  If you put yourself out there as a company of course you there is desire to succeed – and a determination that drives the organization to hold itself accountable.  And we did that.

KL: We strive to live our Core Values (practicing and advancing environmental stewardship is one), and we’ve got many strong team members and leaders who continue to set the bar higher for meeting goals.  We also recognize the urgency to make these reductions, not only for our local communities’ sake (health, economics, etc.) but for the global community. Some countries are struggling to deal with climate change impacts while others are developing at rapid pace, which further puts strains on energy resources.

3)     What do you foresee as the greatest challenges to reaching your energy reduction goals?

SR: It would be tempting to say that the so-called “low hanging fruit” is gone, and there is some truth in that. But as I already mentioned, we’re evolving constantly as a company so we’re driving for an ambitious goal but not in a steady state. Over 3/4 of energy consumption occurs at a handful of our sites, so we know where to focus to achieve the biggest results, but we are trying to foster a culture of energy efficiency and conservation, so that means we need to keep looking for ways to improve at our smaller locations where there aren’t as many levers for improvement. We will also need to stay focused and motivated, and not allow our early success to breed complacency.

KL: We’re constrained by human and time resources, as well as expense budgets. We hope by working with the utility community, we’ll be able to demonstrate the successes of re-commissioning programs, enhanced metering and monitoring programs, and look to have them allocate our contributions to those programs.  

 4)     What has been key to your organization’s ability to excel in the Better Buildings Challenge?

SR: I could certainly attribute a lot of it to the very sincere and consistent support and commitment we have received from Day 1 from our CEO.  He has a background in energy efficiency, and he knows the environmental and economic value of it. The visibility of his support made the newly-appointed energy site leaders take it seriously. But, it’s been a combination of things that have allowed us to sustain our efforts.   Surely, the commitment and focus of our Corporate Energy Managers (as we’ve had a short succession of them) has been pivotal, and their leadership of those that are voluntarily serving as Energy Site Managers has been very effective to getting our results. Finally, I’d say a key ingredient, what helps glue all the efforts together, is communication.  A steady communication of efforts, successes, giving recognition, celebrating milestones, telling the story internally in interesting and personal ways at the general employee level, and demonstrating the tangible results at the leadership level – this has helped us secure the commitment and support. 

KL: We’ve really enjoyed the partnership with our peers and DOE resources-managed webinars, meetings, sharing of information, some utility support, but most especially due to the commitment and passion of our regional teams.

 5)     What insights/secrets can you share with other partners (or organizations looking to upgrade their portfolios)?

SR: Definitely take advantage of every resource the DOE, your local utilities, or your state governments offer.  If these resources can tip the balance on an economic calculation, which in turn earns you a win, that’s a great way to start a virtuous cycle of actions. Also, don’t overlook the savings that can come from process changes – everything from when and how the production lines are run, what your procurement policies are when it comes to buying equipment, appliances and devices, how and when you run your HVAC, the value of recommissioning. Also, take a look at employee behavior.  It’s not all about the technology.

KL: Participate, brainstorm with all peers and partners, and implement first what’s already been proven to deliver savings quickly. Communicate and showcase those successes, and typically companies will earmark additional capital to continue to see results.

 6)     What is next for your organization? What can DOE/Federal government do to help you take your work to the next level?

SR: We have a number of new and different initiatives underway:

  • Peak Demand event, utilizing Green Button where we can
  • Fuel Cell in West Hartford
  • EDF Climate Fellows for the second year in a row
  • Off Hour Shut Down procedures at our Big 4 sites
  • Air Compressor Optimization
  • Continued efforts to optimize sub-metering
  • Continue efforts to deploy our own technologies at our sites
  • Re-do the Energy Marathon every other year
  • Hiring a Corporate Energy Engineer to provide consistent, hands on support to the site leaders in identifying, analyzing and implementing energy saving projects.

KL: We’d very much appreciate DOE helping us work with the utilities that haven’t been as active; helping us educate and train the engineering and service communities and help us continue to work with manufacturers to develop better technologies.