by Craig R. Sieben, reprinted from Earth Day Times 1995, with permission
President Clinton's "Greening of the White House" program
is replacing traditional building fixtures with new energy-efficient ones
that pay for themselves in a surprisingly short time. You can do the same
at your home or business.
ach year, 1.2 million people visit the White House,
a structure that holds a half million square feet of office space, a museum,
three restaurants, a conference center, a botanical garden and an exercise
facility. But let us not forget that the White House is also one of the
most famous residences in the nation, and it is currently undergoing a retrofit
of extreme significance.
In keeping with the Clinton administration's commitment
to environmentalism, the president announced on Earth Day 1994 a major,
multimillion dollar initiative called "The Greening of the White House."
The White House Office on Environmental Policy was asked to assemble an
interagency team of experts to lead the project, which is a comprehensive,
multi-year effort designed to improve energy efficiency and cut waste throughout
the White House complex.
The Greening of the White House is also designed to
comply with the recently enacted Executive Order 122902, which requires
that all federal facilities reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by the
The Greening of the White House project has consistently demonstrated that
"green" practices are beneficial to the environment and save money
while improving occupant comfort. The purpose of the project is to lead
by example and launch a national effort to promote energy efficiency and
This is being accomplished by providing the necessary
information and tools for citizens to adopt these green practices in their
own homes and businesses. It is the hope of President Clinton that residential
builders and homeowners across the nation will soon be taking steps to emulate
The Greening of the White house in their own structures.
In relation to the White House itself, the goal of the
project is to make the facility an environmentally sustainable model and
a showcase of efficient technologies. Resource consumption will be decreased
by as much as possible. And all of this must be done without the total project
costs exceeding the resulting savings.
This last goal is critical. Because renovations are expected to pay for
themselves, the project will be a model for homes and businesses throughout
the United States, and perhaps the world. Upgrades must also be implemented
without disrupting the facility's operation and in a way that respects the
historic and security concerns of the White House.
To identify the measures necessary to accomplish the
project goals, a team of government and industry leaders performed an environmental
and energy audit of the White House complex. The expert team was lead by
Mark Ginsberg, director of the Federal Energy Management Program, and included
representatives from federal agencies, including the Department of Energy,
the Environmental Protection Agency, the General Services Agency, and the
National Park Service. The American Institute of Architects, with support
from the National Wildlife Federation's Corporate Conservation Council,
assembled a multidisciplinary, volunteer team that included 100 national
experts to advise the team.
In addition, the Rocky Mountain Institute provided technical
implementation of energy-efficient technologies and environmentally sustainable
building design practices. The recommended actions are part of a comprehensive
approach that includes specific actions divided into five general categories:
energy efficiency; building ecology; air, water, and landscape; materials,
waste, and resource management; and managerial and human factors.
This article focuses on the energy-efficiency component of the plan. Detailed
below are specific, practical steps being taken to make the White House
a more energy-efficient complex. (Much of this material is taken from "The
Greening of the White House Phase I Action Plan," dated March 11, 1994.)
The goal is to show how these steps may be as applicable for your building
as they are for the White House.
The state of the modern residential environment, from
widespread computer use in home offices to normal, day-to-day living, mandates
a serious consideration of lighting requirements. These are often the easiest
and most profitable items to pursue.
It is important, however, to determine the desired lighting
levels and quality requirements before finalizing equipment specifications.
Proper design can yield larger savings and generate far better occupant
satisfaction than a decision driven primarily by equipment vendors.
At the White House, proven, straightforward upgrades
were initiated first because success with this first set of retrofits helps
create an atmosphere where the occupants are more favorably inclined toward
pursuing additional retrofit opportunities. Lighting quality considerations,
especially in such an important national treasure as the White House, must
be the dominant factor in the design of successful energy-efficiency solutions.
The following initiatives have been completed at the White House to date:
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have been installed in the decorative
hallway fixtures in the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB). Savings of
60 to 75 percent have been achieved, with a payback of less than six months.
The 10,000-hour rated life of the CFLs reduces the amount of time staff
spend changing light bulbs.
- Concealed bathroom incandescents have also been changed to CFLs; the
savings percentages are similar.
- Table-lamp incandescent bulbs have been changed to CFLs where appropriate,
including the president's dining room and study. Energy savings are about
65 to 75 percent, with each lamp saving about $100 during its useful life;
the estimated payback is six months.
- Many of the newer CFLs are smaller and more readily fit into standard
table lamps, unlike earlier, bulkier models. The CFLs also get to full brightness
faster and have better color quality than in previous years.
- Energy savings of 40 percent have been achieved by changing the exterior
flood lamps to halogen, infrared-type flood lamps. The lighting quality
of these halogen lamps is superior to standard floods, and the infrared-type
design is extremely efficient.
"Plug loads" refers to everything plugged
into the electrical system, from refrigerators to computers. Because the
White House also serves as a government office, office equipment is a major
part of the facility's plug load. And although the power density of the
White House equipment is greater than that of the typical home office, these
examples still apply.
The White House is now purchasing office equipment that
provides energy saving of up to 50 percent or more per piece of equipment,
at little or no increase in initial purchase price. The energy audit of
the OEOB suggested that energy savings of $30,000 per year could be achieved
by simply using more energy-efficient personal computers. Further, the more
efficient equipment is generally quieter and less of a burden on the cooling
The same day he launched the Greening of the White House,
President Clinton signed an Executive Order mandating that all federal purchases
of personal computers, monitors, and printers meet EPA Energy Star specifications.
Many manufacturers now offer equipment with the Energy Star logo, including
lap top computers, ink-jet printers, and monitors that have a "sleep"
mode. These are commonly available, and they can lower energy consumption
by 50 to 95 percent.
The White House purchasing agents are now committed
to buying other equipment, such as copiers and fax machines, with low-power
standby and other efficiency features, including double-sided photocopying.
The staff is also encouraged to use electronic mail
and "paperless" (PC or LAN-based) faxing, which offers increased
convenience and productivity as well as significant energy savings and reductions
in paper use.
The White House is currently improving its capacity
for electronic communications. Significant gains can be made in this area,
though it is important to design a system that is reliable, easy, and convenient
In another effort to reduce the plug load, President
Clinton and his family installed the first "Golden Carrot" refrigerator,
which is the most efficient mass-produced refrigerator in the United States.
Developed as part of a national competition sponsored by electric utilities,
environmental groups, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the super-efficient
refrigerator exceeds 1993 Department of Energy standards and contains no
It is estimated that if all refrigerators in the OEOB
were "Golden Carrots," the yearly energy bill would be reduced
by between $3,000 and $6,000. Currently, the Whirlpool "Golden Carrot"
model, which won the competition, is available in many utility areas, and
other manufacturers are developing similar models.
The building envelope
The building envelope includes windows, walls, roofs,
and doors. For most of the White House complex, the windows have the greatest
effect on comfort and energy use. Because the windows in the OEOB offer
thermal performance much below the desired level for the Washington climate,
new window technology, including thermal windows and insulating glass, is
now being used as a part of an extensive renovation of the complex.
Heating, ventilating and cooling
Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems
(including window air conditioners) are a prime target for energy and environmental
improvements because they consume a lot of energy and the refrigerants used
are a source of ozone-depleting air pollutants (chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs).
Further, improved efficiency reduces electric bills and decreases pollution
associated with electricity generation.
The White House HVAC renovation project, developed by
the Executive Residence staff and the National Park Service, emphasizes
energy efficiency, as well as historic and security considerations. The
main objectives are to eliminate ozone-depleting CFCs; centralize all cooling
operations; upgrade HVAC controls with an energy-management control system;
install smaller, more efficient chillers that will meet part-load requirements
in the spring and fall; install a condensate heat recovery system to preheat
domestic hot water; and eliminate all electric reheat functions by replacing
them with hot-water coils.
This project will take several years to complete, and
while these measures are specifically designed for the White House complex,
most are applicable to other facilities.
In the meantime, of the nearly 1,000 window air-conditioning
units in the OEOB, about 10 percent are replaced each year. The replacement
units are approximately 20 percent more efficient than their predecessors,
and with the sweltering Washington climate, they pay for themselves with
energy savings in about one year.
In addition, all steam radiators in the OEOB are being
fit with modern, energy-efficient thermostatic control valves. This will
cost about $8,000 and generate savings of about $1,500 per year. The improvement
will significantly enhance occupant comfort while providing savings. The
steam-heating system is also being rezoned for better control of steam distribution.
The White House model
It's fairly safe to say that the White House is the
most well known "mixed-use" facility in the country. Much of what
is being done in the White House as part of the Greening of the White House
project can also be done in your building, whether it is a house, corporate
headquarters or a public facility. The effort being made at the White House
can serve as an example to all Americans as to how to be more environmentally
responsible and resource efficient while saving money and improving the
quality and value of our built environment.
Copies of the White House plan are available. In addition,
an interactive and educational CD-ROM provides details about the renovation.
For information on either of these tools, call the Federal Energy Management
Program at 800-566-1877.
Craig Sieben is president of Sieben Energy, a Chicago-based firm that
provides independent energy-efficiency consulting and energy-management
services. This article is based on one that originally appeared in the September/October
1994 issue of Good Cents Magazine.