Better Buildings, Better Plants: 12 Success Stories

by | Sep 26, 2016

industrial plant

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) announced that 12 companies met their goals in the Better Buildings, Better Plants program.

Participants in the program – which is part of the Better Buildings Initiative – pledge to make their industrial buildings energy or water use 20 percent more efficient in the ten years after they join the program.

Jay Wrobel, the Manager of Technical Assistance for the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) told Energy Manager Today the program is experience the fastest growth since it was introduced in 2009. “This is the first year we have had that number achieve their goals,” Wrobel said.

The DoE says that the Better Plants participants now represent 11 percent of the manufacturing sector’s energy use. It is comprised of more thn 2,500 facilities and, so far, has saved 600 trillion BTUs of energy and avoided almost 35 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

The companies that achieved their goal this year are Cummins; Daikin Applied Americas; Expera Specialty Solutions; General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Scranton Operation; Graphic Packaging International; Ingevity; Kingspan Insulated Panels; Nissan North America; OSRAM SYLVANIA; Sherwin-Williams; United Technologies Corporation and the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.

The program is taking off, Wrobel said. “We have 180 companies in the program with about 2,500 plants,” he said. “This year we have 30 new partners, the largest annual recruitment since we launched. We have more and more momentum. As we expand there are new areas we cover, such as supply chain and water. There are more and more international organizations.”

The ability to export ideas from one company to another is greater as social media grows and the traditional boundaries between organizations become a bit more porous. Wrobel said that the organization is growing by peer to peer networking and engineering swaps in which energy experts from two companies visit each other and see the situation at the others’ facility through a fresh pair of eyes.

The supply and distribution chains are keys going forward. A company that is teamed with others – either as an end company relying on others for various elements or one in a series of companies feeding those elements up the line – has an opportunity to advocate for greater energy efficiencies. This is true in distribution chains as well. Often, big companies hold considerable sway over smaller ones who are eager to keep them happy. Late last year, Energy Manager Today posted on programs by Apple and Walmart aimed at promoting renewables and energy efficiency.

Another reason Wrobel cites that points to a good future for the Better Buildings, Better Plants initiative – and, thus, energy and water efficiency in general – is that priorities are being set on a corporate-wide basis. That is a significant step: In the past, such efforts were done more or less on a building by building level.

The emergence as energy and water as higher profile issues is bringing them more fully into the boardroom and making them corporate priorities. Knowing that the C-level suite is on the side of efficiency empowers people at the lower levels. It also gives visibility – and, presumably, funding – to projects, programs and technologies that forward the efficiency agenda.

In short, the progress the Better Buildings, Better Plants program has made is due at least in some measure to the emergence of efficiency as an issue. “The fact it impacts corporate culture and has a corporate-wide commitment and results allow a huge number of people not [formerly] participating in these program to do so. To me that is a critical thing,” Wrobel said.

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