GSA Honored for Energy and Water Efficiency in Minnesota

Greening the government is one of our highest priorities, and we’re proud that the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Fort Snelling, Minn., was selected as a 2015 winner of the prestigious Federal Energy & Water Management Award. Each year, the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, in conjunction with the Federal Inter-Agency Policy Committee, sponsors the annual Federal Energy and Water Management Awards, honoring outstanding achievements in energy and water efficiency and conservation, renewable energy implementation, sustainable practices for high-performance buildings, and fleet and transportation management. The Whipple Recovery Act project was one of only 10 project winners recognized from across the federal government for its successful and innovative accomplishments.

An illustration of Whipple Federal Building's geothermal ground-source heat-pump system.
An illustration of Whipple Federal Building’s geothermal ground-source heat-pump system.

The project was the building’s first major upgrade since it was built in 1969. Spanning nearly five years of careful planning, every system, control strategy and design decision was made to reduce the building’s energy consumption and environmental impact. Unique engineering features propelled the building from having average energy and water efficiency to being one of the most energy and water efficient buildings in the region.

The most distinguished feature of the building’s new mechanical design is the geothermal ground-source heat-pump system. This system uses the Earth’s nearly constant temperatures to heat and cool the building. In the summer, heat is transferred from the building into the ground; in the winter, energy is extracted from the ground and used to heat the building. There are more than 800 vertical wells that reach 250 feet deep which makes this one of the largest geothermal systems in GSA’s inventory.

In addition to the geothermal system, the project incorporated other renewable energy components, including a photovoltaic system and a solar hot water system that provides roughly 60 percent of the building’s domestic hot-water needs. Lighting was upgraded with LED lighting, and advanced lighting controls with dimming, daylighting, and occupancy sensing capabilities. Five advanced electric meters were installed, which provide real-time data on the building’s energy usage and patterns.

In addition to the energy savings of geothermal, the system also saves water by eliminating the need for cooling towers. The project included a storm-water capture system and native landscaping to further reduce water usage. Water efficient bathroom fixtures were also installed.

Through this wide range of energy and water conservation improvements, the project has reduced energy usage by 42 percent from the 2009 baseline. This will produce an annual energy and water savings of over half a million dollars. The reduction in the building’s water use is even more dramatic; water usage has decreased by 60 percent from 2009 levels, which is a savings of approximately 5.26 million gallons. The site has also avoided approximately $1 million in utility costs since 2009.

The effort at the Whipple Federal Building has helped us realize significant savings that impact not only our operations but also the environment. We’ve saved taxpayer dollars while creating a model building that is recognized for its achievements in green technology. Its sustainable design has proved a viable option for future projects in facilities that are located in extreme climates.