Better Plants at the Better Buildings Summit

Better Plants partners and other industrial stakeholders gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, from August 21-23 for the 2018 Better Buildings Summit. This year’s Summit was held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) annual Energy Exchange, a conference focused on federal facility energy management. The combined event provided over 3,000 attendees with greater access to technical discussions and training and networking opportunities; click here to read about overall highlights. The Summit’s location, away from the traditional Washington, DC setting, also afforded attendees a rare chance to tour nearby industrial facilities.


Better Plants kicked off the Summit with three optional tours of partner facilities:

  • ArcelorMittal – The ArcelorMittal Cleveland facility covers more than 950 acres and the plant’s buildings encompass 7 million square feet. It operates two blast furnaces that feed two steelmaking facilities and is an excellent example of lean manufacturing, as almost everything is automated. The tour focused on the finishing operations, as well as cross-cutting systems in the mill such as lighting, compressed air, ventilation fans, process heating, and pumping upgrades.
  • Ford Motor Company - Ford built the Cleveland Engine plant on a 365-acre site in 1951, producing over 34 million engines in its lifetime. After a $350 million investment in 2009, Ford overhauled the plant. The 1.6 million-square-foot plant now employs roughly 1,570 people building the Eco Boost and Duratech engines. Tour attendees got a look at the engine machining process, assembly lines, and compressed air systems serving them.
  • PPG – PPG’s Cleveland plant is the company’s largest manufacturing and technical center for automotive coatings in North America, with more than 500 employees on a 42-acre site. One of the primary technologies viewed by tour attendees was the plant’s Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) that eliminates the vast majority of gases and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that are yielded by the coatings production process. The RTO had been upgraded recently and is the largest in the state of Ohio, with the ability to treat up to 250,000 cubic feet per minute.


Another highlight of the first day was the partner gathering, which featured remarks by DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office Director Rob Ivester and DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan. Better Plants recognized goal achievers and 2018 Better Practice and Better Project award-winners, as well as 50001 Ready-facilities and Superior Energy Performance-certified facilities, with certificates and trophies.

Award-winners were given the opportunity to briefly present on their innovative work; representatives from the program and Oak Ridge National Laboratory also provided recaps of the previous year, including the 2018 Technology Days, and highlighted new offerings such as the MEASUR tool suite. The gathering concluded with small group breakouts, providing partners with a forum to discuss the latest trends in industrial energy efficiency and give feedback on Better Plants.


As with previous Summits, a rotating cast of technical experts from national laboratories and DOE were available to answer questions on several energy efficiency topics, as well discuss the latest energy performance trends in technology, process, data, and tools. This year’s Ask-An-Expert booth had the added benefit of being located right off the Energy Exchange trade show floor. Access to the trade show gave an added dimension to the Summit, enabling attendees to explore the latest technological offerings of a wide variety of vendors.


The core offering of the Summit was the Better Plants track of panel sessions, with representatives from industry partners relaying their thoughts on several interesting topics:

  • Not Just for Energy: Repurposing an Energy Management System for Water Efficiency
  • Preparing the Next Generation: Transition Planning for Energy Managers
  • Shooting for the Moon: Planning and Execution Towards a Big Energy Goal
  • The Future is Now: Emerging Manufacturing Technologies

Several other Energy Exchange and Summit sessions were of particular interest and relevance to Better Plants partners, including topics like efficiency in distribution and logistics, energy data management, and water reuse, respectively. The Summit also featured workshops to introduce participants to the CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships and 50001 Ready, DOE programs that help identify and support combined heat and power-market opportunities and encourage the adoption of ISO 50001-based energy management systems, respectively.

View presentation slides from the 2018 Better Buildings Summit here.

Learn more about the 2017 Better Buildings Summit here.