SWAP Frequently Asked Questions

A cornerstone of the Better Buildings Challenge is recognizing our partners for their leadership and sharing their successful energy saving strategies. The SWAP is our way of continuing to do that in a true behind-the-scenes setting to better showcase how energy savings are achieved, from planning to implementation. We also see this as a unique way to spur inter-industry collaboration, and allow our partners, who work across a broad set of sectors, to learn from one another in a way they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Answers to some frequently asked questions are jump-linked below:

Background on the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

SWAP 3: Cities of Atlanta and Boston

SWAP 2: U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy

Season 1: Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market

     

    Background on the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

      Why is the U.S. Department of Energy doing the SWAP?

      • The SWAP is an engaging way to illuminate and personalize the search for energy efficiency opportunities. The behind-the-scenes reality TV format showcases how energy savings are achieved, from planning to implementation. The SWAP demonstrates that even the most energy efficient buildings can improve and that ideas can come from all different building owners and types.
      • DOE believes that SWAP is a way to make inter-industry collaboration, learning, and sharing ideas fun. Our partners demonstrate that organizations can learn from others in a way they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

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      What are the goals of the SWAP?

      • Demonstrate that the unique collaboration between Better Buildings Challenge partners is a valuable way to continue to achieve savings through energy efficiency.
      • Provide a unique, first-hand look into the technology and strategies that leading energy management teams are employing today.
      • Raise awareness around the savings possible through increased energy efficiency.

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      Will this be an annual project? Do you know who the next SWAP participants will be?

      • We would like to continue this as an annual project. We’re currently looking into the partners who may participate in our next SWAP, and are considering industry leaders from all sectors.

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      Why is energy efficiency so important in our nation’s commercial and industrial buildings?

      • The U.S. spends about $200 billion each year just to power commercial buildings — another $200 billion to power industrial facilities – and $200 billion more on residential homes. By improving building design, materials, equipment and operations we can improve energy efficiency by 20 percent or more. Increased efficiency means savings of more than $80 billion a year on energy bills while creating well-paying jobs and helping reduce carbon emissions. 
      • However, there are a lot of barriers to better energy efficiency. So through the Challenge, DOE is engaging with leaders in the public and private sectors — at the top level in these organizations – to commit to energy efficiency improvements across their buildings. Organizations are partnering with DOE to not only set an aggressive goal of 20 percent energy savings over 10 years portfolio-wide, but are willing to share their successful strategies with the marketplace.
      • The willingness of these organizations to be transparent and to share information, practices and strategies with other organizations is a key aspect to this partnership. In so doing, they are helping to drive revolutionary change in the commercial and industrial marketplace. DOE recognizes and highlights the success of these leaders as they share replicable, scalable and innovative solutions that others can follow.
      • To date, more than 285 organizations are partners in the Better Buildings Challenge. These organizations represent more than 3.5 billion sq. feet of commercial building space, 650 manufacturing facilities, 50 cities and states, and $5.5 billion in financial commitments from the private sector. Partners are on track to meet their goals and on average are saving 2 percent annually on their energy use intensity, representing savings of $840 million since the program launched.
      • Partners are actively deploying energy efficiency projects across the country. Partners have shared energy data for more than 32,000 properties and are reporting energy savings of 20 percent or more at 4,500 properties, and 10 percent or more at 12,000 properties.

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      SWAP 3: Cities of Atlanta and Boston

      What did the cities of Atlanta and Boston learn they have in common? What was different?

      • The cities of Atlanta and Boston are major metropolitan areas with millions of residents. By participating in the Better Buildings Challenge, the municipalities are taking key steps to lead by example and showcase to other major U.S. cities proven and new ideas and best practices to improve sustainability throughout communities nationwide.
      • The City of Boston with a much colder climate, for their municipal solar arrays, uses black-colored roofing to ensure their panels keep the heat in. In Atlanta, the city uses white roofs that reflect heat off the building because the climate is warmer. Black roofing in colder climates helps absorb heat and melt snow, keeping the array free of snow with the ability to generate as much solar energy as possible.

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      What did the mayors of Atlanta and Boston think of the Better Buildings SWAP Challenge?

      • Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta was honored to participate in the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP and empower his city energy team to share energy conservation solutions with the City of Boston, and learn from the Boston energy team, its new, innovative approaches from its sustainability program. Mayor Reed was happy to share that for three consecutive years, the City of Atlanta has led the nation in total commercial property committed to energy and water efficiency through the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. Mayors like Reed across the United States have been committed to sharing solution-oriented initiatives with peer cities to solve local challenges for decades. Mayor Reed thinks SWAP is a prime example of what happens when cities not only compete but collaborate to make a difference.
      • Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston was grateful to be a part of SWAP 3 to share what the city knows about energy efficiency and learn from its peers in Atlanta.  Mayor Walsh believes cities play an important role in leading by example, as seen in Boston’s Climate Action Plan. Mayor Walsh believes Boston is the most energy-efficient city in the country, and the city understands how critical it is to reduce energy use throughout the community. The mayor is proud of Boston Public Library’s Central Library at Copley Square and its Department of Public Works for leading the way in setting the bar high for energy efficiency standards.

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      What were some key differences and similarities between large facilities (Atlanta’s airport and water treatment facility) and everyday community infrastructure (Boston’s library and streetlights)?

      • HVAC efficiency was a common thread in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Hemphill Water Treatment Facility. In the airport, the airflow was an issue the City of Boston team identified. In the upper levels of the airport, cool air was being pushed through, and in the lower level, the heat was circulating. The team from Boston noted the simple fix, which was to route the ventilation upwards to get higher temperatures at higher points in the building, which corrects the HVAC system to flow cold or warm air more efficiently throughout the airport. The Hemphill Water Treatment facility also benefited from improved HVAC efficiency, but the water plant required minimal corrections since the HVAC system uses Variable Frequency Drive technology to improve the system’s motor efficiency..
      • The team from Atlanta applied its HVAC expertise to Boston Public Library’s Central Library at Copley Square. Having implemented a successful Variable Frequency Drive project in its water plant, Atlanta’s energy-efficiency experts recommended applying that technology to Boston’s library to improve its heating and air-conditioning efficiency.
      • Simple energy fixes were also a common thread with Boston’s library and Hyde Park Neighborhood. In the library, adding an additional pane of glass to the historic windows in the McKim portion of the library adds an additional layer of insulation to keep warm air in the building and reduce the strain on the heating system. Also, adding a double vestibule to prevent cold or warm air from entering the building also improves HVAC efficiency.
      • The Hyde Park Neighborhood underwent an LED lighting upgrade throughout its streetlights, and its successful efficiency results demonstrate to the community that simple behavioral fixes like switching light bulbs  to LED can improve home-energy efficiency as well.

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      What role do residents have in transforming the energy efficiency of their community?

      • Some of the biggest takeaways of SWAP 3 were the simple behavioral fixes businesses and residents can make to improve the energy efficiency. For example, unplugging unused power sources from outlets is a great step residents can take to reduce their energy bills.
      • Also, properly managing the heating and air conditioning throughout homes and offices can be as simple as coordinating the same temperature and the same heat setting throughout different rooms, preventing the HVAC system from overworking to maintain a consistent room temperature.
      • Lastly, residents everywhere can improve their home energy efficiency by simply upgrading light bulbs to LED.

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      SWAP 2: U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy

      How did the Season 2 of SWAP work? How were the four days structured?

      • The web series covers a two-day swap at each campus. The U.S. Air Force Academy energy team examines the energy infrastructure at the U.S. Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Maryland, and the U.S. Naval Academy team does the same at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Each partner identifies new ways to save energy in buildings they have never seen before.
      • The walk-throughs at each campus reviewed everything top to bottom, including lighting, HVAC, kitchen equipment, and tricky areas such as historic buildings and window-heavy buildings.
      • At the end of the visits, we moderated the “SWAP unveil” where each team discussed their SWAP observations and recommendations to their counterparts.

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      What types of buildings/structures did the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy teams walk-through during their time on each other’s campuses?

      • The U.S. Naval Academy is the second oldest of the United States’ five service academies. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark and home to many historic sites, buildings, and monuments. The U.S. Air Force Academy team conducted walk-throughs of the following buildings on the U.S. Naval Academy campus:
        • Michelson Hall (academic facility) – Michelson Hall houses the departments of Computer Science and Chemistry.
        • Rickover Hall (academic facility) – Rickover Hall houses the departments of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering.
        • King Hall (dining facility) – This is where all the midshipmen eat their meals and where all meals are prepared.
        • Wesley Brown Field House (recreational facility) – The facility is used for physical education, varsity sports, intramural athletics, club sports and personal-fitness programs and equipment. This includes a full-length, retractable football field.
        • Bancroft Hall (dormitory) – The largest college dormitory in the World, which houses all midshipmen.
      • The buildings in the Cadet Area of the U.S. Air Force Academy campus were designed in a modernist style and make extensive use of aluminum on building exteriors, which stands in contrast with the very traditional designs of the U.S. Naval Academy campus. In 2004, the Cadet Area was designated as a National Historic Landmark. The U.S. Naval Academy team conducted walk-throughs of the following buildings on the U.S. Air Force Academy campus:
        • Vandenberg Hall (dormitory) – One of two dormitories that houses the cadets, the entire roof of Vandenberg Hall is covered with solar panels which covers approximately 12 percent of the electrical load on the building.
        • Mitchell Hall (dining facility) – Mitchell Hall covers 1.7 acres and serves more than three million meals each year.
        • Fairchild Hall (academic facility) – The main academic building houses classrooms, laboratories, research facilities and faculty offices.

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      What did the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy learn over the course of SWAP?

      • We heard from both teams how helpful it was to have a fresh set of eyes seeking out energy saving opportunities on their campuses, especially from a sister service with a shared mission.
      • Both teams understand the emphasis on behavior change and how much opportunity there is to achieve real energy savings by engaging students and faculty.
      • Despite the differences in each campus, both teams actually found many similarities throughout the process, including some of the challenges they both have with the sheer size of some of their buildings (i.e., an academic hall covering 1.7 acres and the largest single dormitory in the world).
      • The U.S. Naval Academy learned there are flexible ways to incorporate solar energy onto their campus despite previous hesitations around maintaining the look of their historic buildings.
      • The U.S. Air Force Academy learned about the biodigestion process to turn food waste into energy for the grid.

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      What did the U.S Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy recommend their counterparts do?

      • The U.S. Naval Academy team identified a variety of energy saving opportunities for the U.S. Air Force Academy team, including window and lighting upgrades and kitchen system adjustments for equipment when they are not in use.
      • The U.S. Air Force Academy team uncovered a list of recommendations for the U.S. Naval Academy team, including taking advantage of natural light by turning off lights near window walls, upgrading HVAC units and implementing individual controls in dorm rooms, and installing green roofs on flat surfaces to provide an extra layer of insulation for the building. For a complete list of the team’s energy efficiency recommendations click here.

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      What is the role of the cadets and midshipmen in SWAP?

      • As institutions of higher learning, both the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy enlisted students (i.e., cadets and midshipmen) to take part in SWAP. These students have the potential to become future energy leaders and someday may be able to control how buildings incorporate new technologies. As students at the academies, they are fostering a culture where future generations will be more mindful of energy use and waste. Midshipman Scott Davids and Cadet First Class Christil Pasion, who participated in the video series, also brought enthusiasm, knowledge and new perspective to both teams.

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      What are the biggest differences between the two campuses?

      • The two biggest differences are the age of the buildings and the climate of each campus. The U.S. Naval Academy campus has more historic buildings, whereas the U.S. Air Force Academy has more modern architecture. The U.S. Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, CO (Western climate) and the U.S. Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, MD (Northern climate). Each team took climate into consideration when making recommendations around HVAC, and the U.S. Air Force Academy team tried to find creative solutions to the unique challenges of working within older, historic buildings.

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      Why did DOE choose the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy for SWAP?

      • Both the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy campuses are large academic facilities that can provide a great example for other college campuses around the country. Ultimately we’d like to see other federal agencies and college campuses apply those lessons to their own operations as well.
      • While their campuses are different, both the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy are focused on the same mission. Plus, there is a natural (yet friendly) rivalry between them.
      • They are also helping to create our future energy leaders who are examining buildings on their campus and considering what might be possible for the future.
      • Both organizations could learn from each other — the U.S. Air Force Academy has a lot of expertise to share on HVAC and solar energy, and the U.S. Naval Academy has lessons to impart on lighting and biodigestion as an energy source.

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      SWAP 1: Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market

        How did Season 1 of the SWAP work? How were the three days structured?

        • The teams spent the first day and a half doing a full examination of the systems at Whole Foods Market Ocean Avenue. We then did the same at Hilton Union Square.
        • The walk-throughs at each property reviewed everything from lighting, HVAC, and energy management systems, to customer and employee engagement. They also included a “night walk” in each facility to uncover additional energy saving opportunities when operations are slowed down for the evening.
        • Then at the end of Day 3, we moderated the “SWAP unveil” where each team discussed their SWAP observations and recommendations to their counterparts.

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        What impressed you the most about Hilton and Whole Foods during the SWAP?

        • Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market are already such strong leaders in energy efficiency, but they took their leadership to another level by participating in the first ever Better Buildings Challenge SWAP.
        • These partners have found a new way to share insights and solutions and in doing so, have created opportunities for others to witness the ways companies are doing their part to save energy and improve the bottom lines of their businesses.

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        What did Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market learn over the course of the SWAP?

        • We heard from both teams how helpful it was to have a different set of eyes seeking out energy saving opportunities in their facilities, especially from counterparts from different industries.
        • Equally interesting was how many similarities the teams actually found throughout this process, despite swapping properties as different as a 1.8 million sq. foot hotel with a 25,600 sq. foot grocery store.
        • Both teams also noted how critical the human element is when it comes to saving energy, that their employees need to be engaged in order to reap actual savings.

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        What did Hilton and Whole Foods recommend that their counterparts do?

        • The Hilton Worldwide team has already started implementing several recommendations from the Whole Foods Market team, including LED lighting upgrades, door gasket replacements, and the phase-out of less efficient appliances within refrigerated containers at Hilton San Francisco Union Square.
        • During the SWAP, the Hilton Worldwide team uncovered simple lighting fixes, refrigeration savings through doors on cases, and heat recovery improvements that could net positive energy savings at the Whole Foods Ocean Avenue store, which the Whole Foods team is currently looking into. The Whole Foods team is also exploring the implementation of employee engagement strategies inspired by what they saw at Hilton Union Square.

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        What technologies did the Whole Foods and Hilton teams examine during the SWAP?

        • Chillers: The central air conditioning and cooling system. 
        • Drives (in Chiller): Regulates the frequency of electricity used to power the cooling system within the chiller.
        • Control Sequence: Controls and regulates the operating conditions for equipment to maximize energy efficiency.
        • Condenser Pumps: Part of the cooling system, they transfer water to the cooling towers.
        • Door Gaskets: Are used to seal refrigerator, freezer and cooler doors to keep cold air from escaping.
        • Hood: An air exhaust containment area that is usually found above cooking equipment.
        • Energy Management System: A system designed to manage energy consumption by automatically managing appliances that consume energy.
        • Defrost Panel: The access point for all of the refrigeration defrost control circuits.
        • Compressors: The main driving force of a refrigeration system used to compress refrigerant, which raises its temperature and allows for the rejection of heat to the outside environment.
        • Cooling Towers: Used to cool refrigeration systems by applying water and air movement to a coil containing refrigerant or cooling water.
        • Makeup Unit: A machine designed to add air to an interior space that is in close proximity to an exhaust hood. The make-up air unit replaces air flowing out of the building and thus maintains static pressure inside the building, preventing air from being sucked in through doorways and windows.

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        What was most challenging for Hilton and Whole Foods during the SWAP?

        • The most difficult challenge was really learning the ropes in a facility entirely different from the ones they’re used to—the Whole Foods Market team faced a massive 1.8 million square foot hotel compared to its 25,600 sq. foot grocery store. But both teams worked together, learned from each other’s innovative approaches, and found ways to save more energy at both properties.

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        Why did DOE choose Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market for the SWAP?

        • We wanted to bring two partners together who shared some overlap with one another — they both run their facilities 24 hours a day and focus on customer service. We also wanted to make sure each partner could learn from the other — Hilton has much to share on achieving the right air balance for guest comfort, and Whole Foods has lessons to impart on refrigeration.
        • We also wanted to choose industry giants with a national reach — ultimately we’d like to see others in the grocery and hospitality industry apply those lessons to their own operations as well.
        • Both partners have made substantial progress toward their commitments to reduce energy use through the Better Buildings Challenge, so we were excited to have them serve as our inaugural SWAP participants.

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