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Energy, Water Use Plunge Below 12-Year Targets

March 22, 2016

Long shot of the front entrance and lawn of the Hammond U.S. CourthouseTasked by Congress and the President to reduce energy usage 30% and water usage 20% by 2015, federal buildings in the Great Lakes Region easily surpassed both targets, lowering energy 30.8% and water 43.9% versus 2003 and 2007 baselines, respectively.

Energy usage in 2015 was 61,000 BTUs per gross square foot, down from nearly 90,000 in 2003, for a 3.1% annual drop.

Meanwhile, 2015 water usage was 7.2 gallons/GSF, down from 13 in 2007. This 7% annual drop has saved the region more than 400 million gallons of water.

Graph showing the decline in energy use between 2003 and 2015 from 90,000 to 60,000 BTUs per gross square feet annually Line graph showing steady decline in water use from 13 to 7 gallons per gross square foot per year from 2007-15

The region's energy and water conservation has produced tremendous cost savings as well. Though energy prices rose an average of 2.4% annually from 2003, the region's utility expenditures are roughly the same today as they were then. And since 2009, costs have decreased roughly 20%, saving the region nearly $32 million over the past six years.

Reduced energy use – along with renewable electricity purchases and cleaner Midwestern electric power – has also lowered carbon dioxide emissions 30%, from just over 330,000 metric tons in 2003 to 230,000 in 2015. Over that period the region has avoided spewing nearly 660,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, the equivalent of removing approximately 11,600 vehicles from our highways.

Line graph showing steady decline in utility payments from $42 million to $32 million between 2009 and 2015Line graph showing greenhouse gas emissions dropping from 330K to 230K from 2003-2015

In other sustainability efforts, the Great Lakes Region has used waste reduction and increased recycling and composting to lower the amount of waste it sends to landfills by 24% since 2009. Since that time, more than 23,000 tons of material has been recycled or composted, and the region is currently diverting nearly 60% of its waste stream from landfills.

Medium shot of solar panels on rooftopKey components of the region's sustainability strategy include:

  • Investing in high-efficiency projects and technologies.
  • Operating energy/water systems more effectively.
  • Using computerized real-time energy monitoring, building diagnostics, and audits to frequently analyze the portfolio.
  • Leveraging the buying power of the portfolio and federal partnerships to reduce energy prices and increase renewable energy purchases.

Great Lakes Region sustainability efforts have produced:

  • 35 ENERGY STAR certified buildings.
  • 25 designated High Performance Green Buildings.
  • 17 buildings and 9 projects receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
  • 5 Green Globe buildings.
  • 5 Federal Energy Management Program Award winners

Information for this article was taken from the Executive Summary of the December 2015 report Energy, Water, Utilities Costs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, & Recycling in Region 5: Developments, Changes, & Accomplishments FY 2003 - 2015, authored primarily by Michael Virgilio with support from Ryan Beard, Corey Blatt, Rebecca Olson and Peter Martire.

Last Reviewed: 2022-02-04