Moving The Needle


By Cedar Blazek

I t’s no secret that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 brought everything to a screeching halt. Overnight the planet was in lock-down nearly, businesses shuttering-some temporarily, some for good-as the overarching “What do we do now?” question blanketed the economic landscape.

The pandemic forced widespread shutdowns across commercial sectors and challenged essential businesses to quickly adapt as consumer traffic changed and public health protocols tightened. As a total result, many companies had to temporarily put sustainability goals to shift their focus to pandemic response aside.

For businesses small and large the pandemic meant rapid change to all or any operations, from easy to complex. Many businesses had to spend less to survive just, while maintaining the safety protocols in addition to attempting to continue maintaining and implementing sustainability measures and initiatives set in place before COVID-19. For better and worse, the pandemic has already established a major effect on businesses striving to attain energy goals.

Across many companies, facilities departments and energy teams worked tirelessly to make sure customers could shop and associates can work safely at essential retail locations. At the same time, they needed to make sure that new guidelines and tightened budgets wouldn’t normally curtail their previous energy-efficiency efforts. Innovation and adaptability were key characteristics for companies transitioning to a post-pandemic style of operations, and essentially, companies had to understand how exactly to do more with less.

This short article takes an inside consider two large but very diverse companies-Walgreens and Life Time-that are committed participants in the Better Buildings Initiative through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). We investigate how COVID-19 has affected their energy-efficiency protocols and how they’re continuing to sustain and implement their energy goals, regardless of the challenges of the pandemic, amongst others.

From total shutdown to presenting to quickly learn to operate throughout a pandemic, both of these company studies offer insights into innovative and forward-thinking solutions that simultaneously helped them react to unforeseen events and keep their energy-saving goals on target. The lessons learned by these ongoing companies may prove good for other businesses facing similar obstacles, or in the foreseeable future now.

WHAT’S THE HIGHER Buildings Initiative?

Through the higher Buildings Initiative, DOE partners with private and public sector organizations to create commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings better, saving money and energy while creating a large number of jobs thereby. To date, a lot more than 950 Better Buildings partners, including Walgreens and LIFE, have shared their innovative approaches and approaches for adopting energy-efficient technologies.

With the purpose of driving leadership in energy innovation, DOE works through the higher Buildings Initiative to partner with business leaders in the private and public sectors to accelerate energy-saving investment measures and share successful guidelines.

Collectively, Better Buildings Initiative partners have saved a lot more than 2.2 quadrillion Btus of energy, equal to a lot more than $13.5 billion, and much more than 130 million a great deal of carbon dioxide. Partners have reduced their water use by a lot more than 10 billion gallons also. Together, partners represent a lot more than 30 of the country’s Fortune 100 companies, 12 of the very best 25 U.S. employers, 12 percent of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint, and 13 percent of total commercial building space. Partners likewise incorporate eight national laboratories and much more than 80 state and local governments spanning the country.

With the support of DOE through the higher Buildings Initiative, Walgreens and LIFE were able to adjust to pandemic-related business and consumer changes while maintaining their energy-saving initiatives and becoming better prepared for future challenges.

Walgreens Adopts Smarter Operations

Deemed an important business, Walgreens, a pharmacy, health, and beauty company, continued operations through the COVID-19 pandemic, but with strict safety protocols in place-which included increased sanitation measures, shortened operating hours, and limited in-store customer counts extremely. Walgreens quickly altered procedures to keep their business while allowing in-store shopping and keeping both employees and customers safe. The company moved to provide services through their existing pharmacy drive-thru windows immediately, added curb-side pick-up service, improved on-line ordering and provided delivery in a few areas even.

Centered on extensive internal guidelines to safeguard employees and customers, in addition to being conscientious of the strain their associates were already managing, Walgreens delayed a lot of the energy efficiency projects slated for 2020 initially. However, of the entire year the company could regain momentum in the next half, fulfilling its program goals for 2020. Each energy-efficiency program required re-thinking strategies accompanied by innovative approaches predicated on how their energy-focused work might affect the store’s capability to safely serve customers.

Re-Thinking Smart Energy Goals

Through the entire pandemic, the ongoing company rallied to supply essential products to communities over the U.S., even while continuing showing leadership in energy efficiency. Walgreens was identified by the DOE in spring 2021 for achieving its 20 percent energy-intensity improvement goal through the Better Buildings Challenge , a scheduled program within the broader initiative.

To attain this goal, Walgreens centered on upgrading HVAC equipment and installing optimized lighting answers to improve efficiency in lots of of its stores. In 2019, the retailer was acknowledged by DOE’s Interior Lighting Campaign for implementing the biggest amount of facility projects and reaching the largest portfolio-wide energy savings among applicants, realizing an annual electricity savings of 54 million kWh. That’s enough electricity to power a lot more than 5,000 U.S. for a year homes.

However, continuing the LED indoor lighting program could have been highly disruptive to operations and could have demanded extra shifts in the stores through the early weeks and months of the pandemic. Consequently, Of the entire year walgreens viewed re-planning and shifting lighting replacements before end. Dealing with its partners and lighting vendors closely, Between June and August walgreens could complete 80 percent of most lighting retrofits, 2020. This is only possible due to the long-standing business relationships and open communication among all stakeholders in this program.

Efficient and precise cold storage allowed Walgreens to safely and effectively store COVID-19 vaccines.

In 2019, Walgreens received a building efficiency award from DOE’s Advanced Rooftop Unit (RTU) Campaign  after upgrading a lot more than 4,300 RTUs with high-efficiency controls and units to save lots of 39 million kWh annually. The award from DOE a&nbsp rounded out;RTU replacement program that Walgreens had developed many years earlier to strategically retire RTUs and proactively replace them with an increase of efficient models ahead of equipment failure. Because work was completed outside, the HVAC replacements continued uninterrupted through the pandemic largely.

Planned refrigeration upgrades were also paused in the spring of 2020. Walgreens had completed surveys and plans for most high-traffic stores to upgrade refrigeration equipment and were going to proceed with installations once the pandemic began. The ongoing company re-surveyed and shifted the task to stores with less foot traffic, where impact could possibly be minimized. Beneath the new plan, Walgreens could complete a lot of the 2020 refrigeration replacements.

Lastly, the company’s energy management system (EMS) store-wide roll-out was launching an aggressive implementation schedule once the pandemic hit, pausing action for many weeks. Year in August but Walgreens was focused on creating for lost time-by the finish of the fiscal, year were complete all installations that were planned for the initial.

Walgreen’s cold-storage unit housed life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.

Walgreens was also an important partner in helping the united states support direct COVID-19 efforts. Following the initial changes to store operations, the engineering team quickly pivoted to aid COVID-19 testing and later to vaccine storage and distribution . They worked to judge, procure, and distribute ultra-cold freezers and developed vaccine storage systems and handling protocols for the pharmacies. Due to the low temperatures necessary to safely store some vaccines extremely, energy use was among the many criteria and concerns in this phase. The team partnered with utility account representatives to assemble data on electricity reliability and outage history to recognize suitable vaccine storage and distribution locations. The ultra-cold freezers selected by Walgreens utilize natural (non-ozone depleting) refrigerants.

Along with pandemic-related challenges, Walgreens also had to fight an extremely destructive and active hurricane season in the southern U.S. which caused widespread power outages. Further, record-breaking temperatures over the national country and wildfires in California put pressure on the electrical grid, and social unrest led to extensive property damage from protests during 2020. These unforeseen circumstances challenged Walgreens to responsibly respond swiftly and, but positioned the business to respond better still to future events ultimately.

Among the first retail partners to become listed on the higher Buildings Challenge in 2011, Walgreens has implemented a variety of strategies and technologies within the last decade to steadily reduce energy use at a large number of shops and distribution centers in the united states. To date, and regardless of the pandemic, Walgreens has met most of its energy-related goals, effectively reducing energy use by at the very least 20 percent (by 2020) across its portfolio of over 100 million square feet.

LIFE Survives Total Shutdown

On another end of the spectrum from Walgreens, some continuing businesses, like fitness gyms, were ordered to cease operations because of the pandemic.

One particular example is way better Buildings Challenge partner, LIFE , which operates a lot more than 150 health clubs in the U.S. and Canada. With large, each day resort-like destinations that operate 20+ hours, a week seven days, Life Time’s facilities management team proactively implemented measures to recalibrate its building management systems in order to avoid potential energy waste.

LIFE leveraged pandemic closures to optimize energy efficiency across its health clubs.

LIFE analyzed data because of its a lot more than 18-million square feet of creating space through its energy management system (EMS) platform and addressed any problems with limited staff. Life Time’s Director of Energy Management & Sustainability, Peter Isabell, explained “While it certainly was a difficult period for our business, COVID also presented us with the chance for more information about our buildings through reopenings and closures and, sometimes, more than using markets once. Our operations staff not merely ensured our clubs were safe and maintained, but assisted in our efforts to control energy usage.”

During the pandemic closure period, Life Time’s team rescheduled over 5,000 pieces of equipment, reducing over 86 million kWh of electricity directly, 6.5 million therms of natural gas and 600 million gallons of water usage. The business also offers made tremendous strides in managing water usage through its pool efficiently, steam and sauna room amenities.

An On-going Commitment To Smart Energy

With the lifting of pandemic restrictions in most of its markets, most Life Time locations have since reopened with ongoing, extensive cleaning protocols, including measures taken during nighttime closures at most facilities. This has allowed Life Time to undertake a commissioning process to shut down additional systems at night – saving even more energy and ensuring its clubs are operating as efficiently as possible, while ensuring positive building pressure and enhanced circulation and filtration also.

Beyond energy saving measures implemented during the pandemic, Life Time has steadily replaced roof top units (RTUs) over several years. In fact, the company joined the Better Buildings Advanced RTU Campaign in 2016 and was awarded for implementing the highest percentage of high-efficiency upgrades to its RTU portfolio. To date, Life Time has replaced more than 1,000 RTUs and retrofitted another 1,800 with advanced controls – amounting to 95 percent of its RTU inventory. The full total consequence of these upgrades was around savings of 21 million kWh and, with additional lighting retrofits, a 25 % energy savings over four years nearly.

The Future Is Bright

As businesses are gradually resuming pre-pandemic operations, there are lots of clean energy energy and solutions efficiency takeaways and adaptations that companies will continue steadily to implement. Pandemic-related energy and cost-saving measures have proven worthwhile and effective, benefiting the environment, consumers and businesses alike.

The Walgreens and Life Time case studies demonstrate that through innovation, creative problem solving and support from DOE, businesses can not only survive but thrive during challenging times.

Learn more about Walgreens’ and Life Time’s involvement in DOE’s Better Business Initiative as well the Initiative’s market-tested strategies for energy efficiency and decarbonization at the Better Buildings website.

Cedar Blazek is a Management and Program Analyst in the Commercial Buildings Integration program under DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Through the Better Buildings Initiative, Cedar partners with retailers, food service grocers and providers to identify leadership and accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency guidelines. Cedar oversees the Technology Research Team program also, where experts from DOE’s National Labs analyze the latest research and development on a range of building technologies with a goal of providing market-ready solutions for building owners and operators. Cedar holds a BA in Environmental Policy from Williams College.

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