Student Apartments Take the Lead in National Building Competition

Chapel Hill, N.C.--The 850 students who live in the Morris Residence Hall in Chapel Hill, N.C., who attend UNC at Chapel Hill, had reason recently to cheer about an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Chapel Hill, N.C.–The 850 students who live in the Morris Residence Hall in Chapel Hill, N.C., who attend UNC at Chapel Hill, had reason recently to cheer about an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Namely, their dorm was in the lead at the mid-way point of the National Building Competition.

Fourteen different buildings around the country are competing in the National Building Competition, which was created by the EPA’s Energy Star program. The “race” among the 14 competitors has one goal: to try to save as much energy as possible through energy-efficiency improvements. Whichever building reduces its energy consumption the most relative to its size will win recognition for its achievement–green bragging rights, in other words.

“The building that demonstrates the greatest reduction in ‘energy use intensity’ over the 12 months of the contest will be the winner,” Lauren Pitcher, a spokeswoman for the Energy Star, tells MHN. “Energy use intensity is a measure of energy use divided by their floor space–that gets all the property types onto a level playing field.”

Initially, about 200 buildings applied to be in the National Building Competition, but according to Pitcher, it was hard to narrow that number down to the initial plan of 10 contestants, so the number was expanded to 14. The buildings were selected to represent a wide variety of building types, diverse not only in terms of geography, but also size, shape and existing approach to energy management.

Besides the UNC dorm, the other 13 properties include another dorm at North Carolina State; the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va.; a major office building in suburban Washington, D.C. and another office property in Manhattan; two elementary schools, one in Colorado and the other in New Jersey; an arts center in Atlanta; a hospital in Cleveland; a hotel in Austin and another in San Diego; and three retail properties, a mall in Minnesota, a department store in California, and another department store in Maryland.

The term of the competition is the year ending August 31, 2010. The EPA recently finished calculating the standings of the buildings at the half-year point. The 10-story, 217,500-square-foot Morrison Residence Hall was first, reducing its energy use intensity by 19.2 percent.

The plan for improving energy performance at Morrison focuses on four key areas: energy awareness, HVAC, lighting, and renewable energy. Teams of students have studied the building, identifying and implementing savings in their respective areas, and collaborated bi-weekly to share progress and ideas. Extensive real-time energy metering in the building is used to monitor progress, quantify savings, and direct the team’s efforts toward areas of greatest opportunity. So far, these efforts seem to be paying off.
Also in the running for green glory is the Tucker Residence Hall at NC State University in Raleigh, which houses about 350 students in 67,300 square feet. At the mid-point of National Building Competition, it had reduced its energy use intensity by 1.3 percent.

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