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Facility Teams Get Swapped for Better Buildings Challenge

July 20, 2016

See how Hilton and Whole Foods uncover saving opportunities in each other’s buildings.

Would you allow another facility team to poke around your building and shine a light on energy waste? A fresh set of eyes could uncover valuable saving
opportunities that your department has missed. Enter the Better Buildings SWAP, a reality TV show-inspired collaboration among Better Buildings Challenge participants. The exchange encourages idea sharing between organizations that are already energy and sustainability leaders.

“The U.S. spends about $200 billion each year just to power commercial buildings. The SWAP demonstrates that even the most energy conscious facilities have room for improvement,” says Maria Vargas, Director of the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge. “Efficiency ideas can come from all building types. The SWAP shows how any property can follow these replicable and scalable solutions.”

Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods were the first volunteers to allow other property managers to take a behind-the-scenes look at their operations. These national companies are working toward a 20% energy reduction by 2020 as part of their Better Buildings Challenge commitment.

“It was really fun to have Whole Foods here to look around,” says Brian Mork, Director of Property Operations at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. “You feel vulnerable because we all have things to improve. But there’s pride in it as well because we were able to show off what we’ve already achieved.”[CALLOUT_1]

Each team was given only basic details about the other property, such as size, location and employee headcount. The walkthrough took a day and a half and representatives were given free rein to poke around with little direction from the host team. Everything from refrigeration and HVAC to lighting and water fixtures were examined. Both groups were tasked with identifying improvement ideas as well as best practices they could steal for their own operations, explains Vargas.

The teams also had the unique opportunity to complete night walks. Neither building truly has off hours so facility managers have to make careful decisions about what can be scaled back without affecting business operations.

“Night walks are a great opportunity to find where you have energy leakage,” Mork says. “Not all systems are automated and a night walk is a good way to make sure that your facility personnel are following through on best practices.”

“When you walk around a property at midnight, it’s amazing to see what’s still using energy,” adds Randy Gaines, Hilton VP of Operations and New Project Development. “You should be able to let your building go to sleep using setbacks and controls rather than running everything at full bore.”

Hilton and Whole Foods came away from the exchange armed with a list of concrete suggestions to take back to their buildings. Both teams enjoyed sharing ideas with colleagues and were surprised by the number of similarities between their operations.

“This collaboration was extremely valuable because even though we’re at different ends of the business spectrum, we’re both looking for our operations to have the same impact on the environment and customer experience,” says Jordan Melton, Sustainable Facilities Assistant Coordinator for Whole Foods.

“The response we received from the first SWAP was incredible and its success is a testament to the caliber of the Whole Foods and Hilton energy teams leading the way in efficiency,” Vargas states.

Any facility team can do their own version of the SWAP by connecting with area colleagues. Try partnering with a neighboring property or meet with other owners through your local BOMA or IMFA chapter. To watch the episodes and get the behind-the-scenes tour of Hilton and Whole Foods, visit betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/swap.

Jennie Morton is a contributing editor for BUILDINGS.

About the Author

Jennie Morton

A former BUILDINGS editor, Jennie Morton is a freelance writer specializing in commercial architecture, IoT and proptech.

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