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Green Proving Ground: Using Technology to Improve Building Performance

GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) Program is using our real estate portfolio as a test bed to evaluate the viability of emerging sustainable building technologies. The first set of results assessing the use of wireless sensor technology in data centers showed significant energy savings. This GPG study shows a potential to save $61 million annually if the technology were to be applied across our portfolio by tenant agencies, which could reduce carbon emissions by 532,000 metric tons; this is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from approximately 104,000 passenger vehicles.

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GSA’s Green Proving Ground is using technology to make existing buildings more sustainable.

We collaborated on the GPG study with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to evaluate the technology in a U.S. Department of Agriculture data center located within a GSA facility.  The findings showed that by using low-cost, easily installed sensors, data center operators could baseline performance, make quick and precise changes to improve energy efficiency and achieve significant cost savings.   The test location was selected because, in its baseline condition, it represented what the industry would already characterize as an efficient data center, operated by a very engaged facilities staff.

With the installation of nearly 600 wireless sensors, the data center’s facilities staff was able to reduce cooling loads by 48 percent, thereby decreasing overall data center energy use by 17 percent.  The payback period at the demonstration site was calculated at just under three and a half years.

Results for five other technologies currently being evaluated under our GPG Program are expected to come out this summer — and that’s not all.  In response to our 2012 GPG Request for Information we received more than 160 submissions.  These technologies also may have the potential to help federal agencies meet the ambitious sustainability targets before them, while saving taxpayer dollars in this tight budget climate.  We will announce the technologies selected for evaluation this summer.

By testing these technologies in the real world, in our buildings, we can provide not only the federal government, but also the larger corporate real estate and building products industry insight into what works and where.  It’s all about fostering innovation and leveraging our purchasing power to make markets for tomorrow’s building technologies.

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