245 buildings vie for title of nation's most energy efficient

This year's national competition to extract the most energy savings from a building pits middle schools and car dealerships vs. Wall Street and Park Avenue high-rises.

May the best building win.

The competition, dubbed Battle of the Buildings, is staged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program. Teams from 245 buildings will install energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling; adopt intensive building management systems that closely monitor and adjust energy use according to occupancy and other factors; and modify behaviors and practices that could unnecessarily cost kilowatt hours.

Of course, there are other measures such as cool roofs, insulation, windows and weatherization upgrades that can result in big savings, too.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, “We’re harnessing our nation's innovative capacity to save money on electric bills, create a cleaner environment and protect the health of American families.”

A winner will be named in November.

This year's competition is far greater than the inaugural event last year, in which teams from 14 buildings saved $950,000 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions amounting to the yearly electricity use of about 600 homes.

Last year's winner was Morrison Residence Hall on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, N.C. The 10-story, 200,000-square-foot dormitory was built in 1965 and achieved a 35.7 percent reduction on its annual energy bill for a $250,000 savings.

The EPA says educating the public to the benefits of reducing energy use in the 5 million buildings in which people in this country "work, play and learn" is important because the sector consumes about 20 percent of the nation’s energy use. It also produces a similar percentage of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and forces Americans to fork over more than $100 billion a year.

Those interested can follow along with the contestants to see what their strategies are and what they end up doing to reduce energy loads. The variety of the buildings this year is pretty interesting. Buildings range from the Experience Music Project Science Fiction Museum in Seattle with perhaps the highest energy use intensity rating, or EUI, in the group with 536.9 to the offices of Norandex, a building supplier, in Rochester, N.Y. with a rating of 47.5. The rating is derived by taking energy use and dividing by square footage. The higher the number, the higher the energy use.

Other buildings I found interesting were the Marriott Fullerton Hotel with an EUI of 153.6, the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Ave. in N.Y. with an EUI of 228.2, the Caterpillar AC Building in Mossville, Ill. with an EUI of 282.2 and the 450 Sutter Building in San Francisco with an EUI of 178.9.

Here's to extreme energy savings.

Photo: Experience Music Project building in Seattle under Space Needle.