Saving energy in public buildings

Fitchburg’s community center on the right (city hall is on the left) was the least energy-efficient of the three buildings the city’s Building Inspection and Public Works Departments retro-commissioned in 2013. Even so, it outperformed similar buildings in the area.

At 41,000 BTU/square feet, Fitchburg’s library is more energy-efficient than city hall and the community center. The building would perform even better if its radiant floor heating system were turned off during summer and interior light levels and daylight controls for perimeter lighting were adjusted.

For city hall, officials are implementing standby CFM (cubic feet per minute) setpoints in less frequently used areas and installing VFD (variable frequency drive) controls on cooling tower fans.

But even the best-designed, -built, and -maintained buildings waste energy. In fact, virtually all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, lighting, and building automation systems (BAS) compromise efficiency. Regardless of age, buildings over 50,000 square feet can benefit from a process called retro-commissioning (RCx). Fitchburg's City Hall was built in 1999.

When Madison Gas and Electric audited Fitchburg’s city hall, community center, and library, the investor-owned utility recommended an RCx. The Building Inspection and Public Works departments retained the Madison, Wis., office of SCS Engineers to conduct the process from April through August 2013.

Energy use intensity (EUI) is a metric used to compare buildings. The gray bars show the results for similar buildings, developed by the U.S. Energy Department’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, in the City of Fitchburg’s region.

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