SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Better Buildings Challenge program, is about to officially release the results of its first Better Buildings Challenge SWAP. “Season One,” as the DOE is describing it, launches on February 17. The SWAP was a three-day event in December that saw Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market swap energy teams in order to uncover new energy efficiency strategies and further accelerate their own companies’ energy efficiency goals. The SWAP program reflects the goals of the Better Buildings challenge: help companies cut energy use and share strategies with their peers.
During the three-day SWAP, Hilton leaders visited the Whole Foods Market Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. In addition, officials from Whole Foods Market visited the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. Each visit was captured on video. The audits at each property included a “night walk” to uncover energy saving opportunities when operations are slowed down for the evening. At the end of the SWAP, Better Buildings Challenge Director Maria Vargas moderated a “SWAP unveil” where each team relayed their SWAP observations and recommendations to their counterparts.
“The Swap exceeded my expectations,” Vargas said. “I was so impressed by both teams—the ideas they had for each other, the learning that went on.”
Among those touring the Whole Foods Market for Hilton Worldwide were Randy Gaines, Vice President of Operations and New Development for the Americas, and Maxime Verstraete, Vice President of Sustainability, Hilton Worldwide. Gaines was able to identify opportunities for energy savings in a walk-in cooler, where there was air leakage, and on the roof of the Whole Foods Market building, where he noticed an opportunity to recapture exhaust that had already been conditioned and bring it back into the supply side.
Similar Challenges in Different Industries
“I was really surprised at the common things we were finding in their store,” Gaines says. “The biggest surprise was that even in their industry, they have similar issues. Some of the biggest opportunities we found were in refrigeration, lighting and HVAC areas.”
Gaines says he noticed there were opportunities for Whole Foods Market to better maximize its daylighting opportunities. “They also had some LED opportunities,” he says. The store was quite cold, Gaines adds. He suggested there might be opportunities to better balance air and have better covers on refrigerated cases.
“We talked to them about rebates we had gotten,” Gaines says. “We looked at team member engagement. They could learn a lot from how we train our team members.” Overall, Gaines emphasized, Whole Foods Market is doing a “good job” identifying opportunities to save energy.
During his walk-through of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Tristam Coffin, Sustainable Facilities Coordinator for Whole Foods Market, identified missing air curtains at the entrance of a walk-in cooler.
“In the kitchen spaces we were able to make recommendations on adding hood controls and VFDs, as well as retrofitting EC motors on evaporator coil fans in the walk-in refrigerators,” he says. “There were also opportunities to better control plug loads and upgrade lighting controls and fixtures in conference spaces and guestrooms. Lastly, we identified some optimization opportunities for the building’s chillers.”
Impressed by Employee Engagement Process
When asked what valuable information or lessons he was able to walk away with from the SWAP, Coffin said, “Hilton does a very good job with employee engagement—holding scheduled meetings to discuss sustainability and efficiency. They offered some great takeaways that we have already begun to discuss with our teams. They also offered some great suggestions on overall control strategies for our building around lighting and our cooling towers. Other items that the Hilton team helped further identify were lighting fixture upgrades and refrigerated case door additions and/or night curtain improvements.”
In regard to what impressed him most about the SWAP experience and Hilton, Coffin said, “The differences yet similarities in the buildings and the teams that operate them were what impressed me most. The Hilton team was great to work with, and in both cases each of our respective teams were able to uncover areas to improve on our building efficiency. Many of these opportunities were things that both teams had already been working on, but having an outside and unique perspective from the Hilton team and vice versa was a tremendously valuable learning experience. More specifically, the Hilton’s building management system was incredibly impressive.”
Brian Mork, Director of Property Operations, Hilton San Francisco Union Square, said, “It was really fun to have the Whole Foods team come in here and take a look around the property. It is a very interesting part of the process. We feel very vulnerable because we all know we have things we know we can improve on. On the other hand, there is a lot of pride in it because we have done a lot of great things here and it was fun to actually show those off to some people who normally don’t see it.”
As Better Buildings Challenge participants, both Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market have made a commitment to assess their building portfolio to determine energy efficiency opportunities and publicly pledge to improve the energy intensity of their building portfolio by at least 20 percent over 10 years.
Click here for more information on the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.