WASHINGTON — The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has released three new reports as part of its Green Proving Ground program, which tests building technologies in real-world situations to evaluate their potential to save energy, water, and reduce utility costs. Through the Green Proving Ground, GSA said it is finding new ways that federal buildings across the nation can save taxpayer dollars, while also finding the best use of these technologies.

GSA noted that it has the real estate portfolio needed to broadly test and install building technologies and help deploy them into the broader market. GSA worked with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories and New Mexico State University to test energy efficient technologies that can be installed in federal buildings across the country. The three newly released studies cover condensing boilers, variable refrigerant flow, and photovoltaic system performance.

• Condensing boilers are highly efficient units that recycle waste heat to preheat the cold water entering the boiler. Heating accounts for 35 percent of energy use in commercial buildings in the United States, and boilers are the most common source of heating. GSA tested condensing boilers in the Peachtree Summit Federal Building in Atlanta and found a 14 percent reduction in the building’s natural gas consumption. Application of this technology across GSA’s buildings could help save approximately 1 percent of total annual energy consumption, says the agency. Due to low operating and maintenance costs and a relatively short payback period, this technology can be easily deployed as older boilers are replaced.

• Variable refrigerant flow is an HVAC technology that can simultaneously heat and cool different spaces in a facility and allow for greater temperature control while conserving energy. The GSA research team evaluated this technology at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston. In addition, GSA looked at published research and engaged industry experts as part of this study. This technology has the potential to achieve 34 percent energy savings compared to older systems, the agency says. GSA will be taking a closer look at variable refrigerant flow and its potential for further installations in federal buildings.

• Photovoltaic systems use solar photovoltaic cells to directly convert sunlight into electricity. This was tested on a commercial-scale system and four smaller laboratory systems at the Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis. All solar panels worked just as well in the cloudy, Midwestern climate as they do in other parts of the country. The commercial-scale photovoltaic system generated nearly 8 percent of the overall facility’s energy needs. The study also found that the return on investment was within the lifespan of the technology.

GSA is currently studying 22 technologies as part of the program. Results from these evaluations will help improve the performance of GSA’s buildings by reducing operational costs and assist industry in deploying new technologies into the marketplace.

For more information on GSA’s Green Proving Ground, visit www.gsa.gov/GPG.

Publication date: 5/27/2013

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