CBS Newsletter
Summer 1994
pg. 1

Our Hand in Greening the White House

(See also the Greening of Our House)

"For as long as I live in the White House, I want Americans to see it not only as a symbol of clean government, but also a clean environment. We're going to identify what it takes to make the White House a model for efficiency and waste reduction, and then we're going to get the job done. . . Before I can ask you to do the best you can in your house, I ought to make sure I'm doing the best I can in my house." -President Bill Clinton, Earth Day, 1994

In an effort to provide leadership by example, the Greening of the White House project is bringing new technology, enlightened operations and management practices, and revised procurement procedures to the First Residence. Modern information technologies (e.g., multimedia) will make information about the new technology and practices employed at the White House available to the public. [To The Greening of the White House web site]

The Executive Residence, the East and West Wings, and the Victorian-era Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) will all receive the benefits of the greening. Audits of these buildings were conducted by an interagency team led by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The American Institute of Architects coordinated 100 national experts, including the Center's Steve Selkowitz and Francis Rubinstein, who focused specifically on space conditioning, windows, and lighting. The result is that White House operations staff will take more than 50 environmentally inspired actions, including practical and cost- effective landscaping, waste reduction, recycling, and water and energy-efficiency improvements.

Auditors also looked at some indoor air-quality issues. A ban on cigarette smoking in the White House, implemented early in the Clinton Administration, represents a significant improvement in this area.

Many of the energy-saving measures go well beyond the efficiency levels required by current standards. Each will be implemented cost-effectively, preserve the significant historical components of the structures, and maintain or improve comfort, productivity, and security. Among the energy-efficiency actions expected:

  1. Lighting. Lighting retrofits of lamps and fixtures will include placing CFLs in the President's study and dining room and installing occupancy sensors in some areas. Other recommended improvements include replacing mercury vapor lamps with metal halide lamps, evaluating lighter interior paints, and modifying existing historic skylights to capture more daylight. In the OEOB, T8 lamps and electronic ballasts will become the standard for future lamp and ballast purchases. The installation of these lamps is currently 70% completed. The Center's Lighting Systems Group was consulted on the lighting retrofits and used its Radiance software to explore various design options.
  2. HVAC. Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems will be upgraded by adding an energy management and control system. Installing smaller, improved chillers will meet part-load requirements more efficiently. A new condensate heat recovery system will preheat domestic hot water. Hot-water coils will replace all-electric reheat functions. As they are replaced during routine maintenance, the 1,000 window air-conditioning units in the OEOB will exceed by up to 20% the efficiency of the units currently available through the federal supply schedule. Where appropriate, the units will be linked with time-clock or occupancy-sensor controls. Gradually, operations staff will retrofit all steam radiators in the OEOB with thermostatic control valves and rezone the steam-heating system for better control. Center researchers also looked at opportunities to improve insulation levels; at the Center, Vladimir Bazjanac performed simplified whole-building DOE-2 simulations to identify more efficient envelope, air-conditioning, and plug-load options.
  3. Windows. The Center's Windows and Daylighting Group evaluated a variety of options. As a result, high-efficiency window retrofits are being evaluated for the third-floor solarium and greenhouse, and a new specification calls for dual-glazed (or better) windows for all future replacements.
  4. Plug loads. The White House procurement staff will buy office equipment (e.g., copiers and fax machines) with low standby losses. The President has signed an Executive Order mandating that all federal purchases of personal computers, monitors, and printers meet EPA's Energy Star specifications. The Center's Jeff Harris was a member of the "plug loads" team that recommended the use of Energy Star office equipment at pilot sites. That same report also recommended that monitored demonstrations be done at the OEOB and that Energy Star hardware purchases be accompanied by programs to train users in proper configuration and use of the hardware. Copiers purchased in the future should offer double-sided copying capability. The White House will also increase electronic mail and "paperless" faxing capabilities. A CFC-free Golden Carrot refrigerator (which beats the 1993 DOE standard by 30%) has been installed.

In addition to these hardware solutions, an in-house Energy and Environmental Management Council will play a continuing role in educating and training personnel. For example, "green" messages reminding employees to turn out the lights are regularly sent over the email system. The Council will also review and revise operations and maintenance procedures to ensure that the new technologies realize maximum savings and to identify new opportunities.

The Center hopes that the high-visibility "greening" movement will continue. It is evaluating local opportunities such as the San Francisco Presidio, a potentially important example of integrating energy efficiency with ongoing efforts in military base conversion and historical building preservation.

—Evan Mills

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Evan Mills
Center for Building Science
(510) 486-6784; (510) 486-5394 fax


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