WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs recently completed the installation of a sophisticated Environmental Management System (EMS) at its central office, which will provide an estimated $3.5 million in savings over the next five years.
“At VA, we strive to be a leader in promoting energy conservation and reducing our environmental footprint,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “It is part of fulfilling our financial responsibilities, and it’s the right thing to do.”
In 2009, the White House issued executive orders to set sustainability goals for federal agencies to improve their environmental, energy and economic performance. In support, VA established an initiative for using emerging technologies to understand energy demands and help manage complex energy data for day-to-day and strategic goals.
“EMS provides us an opportunity to reduce our energy use, save taxpayer money, and create a model for energy management across disparate facilities in the Federal government,” said Assistant Secretary for the Office of Information and Technology Roger Baker. “Information technology can play a valuable role in adapting performance data to simple, actionable visualizations for short-term and long-term change in energy management.”
The EMS installation at VA’s central office is illustrative of a larger initiative to enhance energy management across the National Capital Region. The system collects and reports 3,000 energy data points every 10 seconds, including main electrical and water services, lighting, plug loads, air conditioning, cooling towers, motors and chillers. The system analyzes these data in real-time to identify usage patterns, and allow for credible forecasting of potential cost-savings scenarios.
“In a fiscally-constrained environment, the need to closely monitor energy consumption is not only a good idea, it’s a business imperative,” said Assistant Secretary for the Office of Human Resources and Administration (HRA) John U. Sepúlveda. “The initiative has afforded VA central office the opportunity to be the forerunners in process improvements as we identify areas to cut waste and reduce energy consumption. Great strides have already been made in this area, but more can be done.”
EMS is a partnership between two offices within the VA – Information and Technology and HRA – and the General Services Administration (GSA).
The VA EMS is easily adaptable for use by other government agencies, especially those with large building portfolios such as GSA and the Department of Defense. In particular, VA’s 94-year-old central office location is a case study on how information technology and building facilities can work together to reduce energy consumption and maintenance cost in older government buildings.