Energy Efficiency: Better Buildings Challenge Swap

Group Unveil at tableThis Wednesday, February 17, a Department of Energy project to uncover energy savings at two very different companies, will be shared with the public. The collaboration is between Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market, and it’s much more than a publicity stunt.

Whole Foods team in a kitchen at Hilton's SF location

Whole Foods team in a kitchen at Hilton’s SF location

Large commercial buildings account for a huge portion of the nation’s electricity use, and thus of our emissions. Grocery and hospitality are two big energy consumers, but with the spread of environmental awareness, leaders have emerged to push towards sustainability. The Better Buildings Challenge is a DOE program that now has over 285 different organizations involved in improving energy efficiency.

The Hilton Team at Whole Foods

The Hilton Team at Whole Foods

The two participants, and leaders in their respective industries, were Whole Foods and Hilton Worldwide. And while these companies push themselves to be more and more efficient, every business can be helped by new perspectives. This is exactly the thinking behind the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge Swap.
For a three days in December, the energy team from Hilton worked with teams at a San Francisco Whole Foods, swapping roles halfway through to do the same at Hilton’s location across the city. Joined by DOE Better Buildings Challenge Director Maria Vargas, teams explored each other’s properties, intent to find opportunities for efficiency improvements.

There were many differences between the two locations, for example the Hilton facility is 1.8 million square feet compared to the 25,600 square foot Whole Foods store. However, the two companies had more in common than expected. According to Maxime Verstraete, Hilton Worldwide’s Vice President of Sustainability and ADA Compliance,

“The most interesting lesson we learned throughout this process was how many similarities there were between our two operations, from lighting opportunities such as LED installation to controls and managing air balance. Another reminder was how critical the human element is when it comes to saving energy. We may install a new piece of technology, but if the employees are not engaged, the effectiveness of that equipment is lost – automated systems are only as powerful as the person working behind that control.”Hilton Housekeeping Team

These are just a couple of many insights the two energy teams shared after their evaluations. It was also estimated that Whole Foods could save 50% on lighting costs with efficiency improvement recommendations. It is uplifting to know that this sort of cooperation can lead to mutual benefits and that these benefits will reduce emissions and benefit everyone in the long-term.

We look forward to learning about the next participants in a Better Buildings Challenge Swap, and what savings they make by sharing strategies.

Watch the Season Debut of the Better Buildings Challenge Swap on Wednesday the 17th!

-Aidan Kelly

Photo Credit: Better Buildings Challenge Team

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