Starting June 28, Washington, DC has become a brighter place thanks to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) GATEWAY Solid-State Lighting (SSL) Technology Demonstration program. Partnering with the Department of Labor (DOL), the two cabinets demonstrated the federal government’s commitment to energy conservation and management by retrofitting the Frances Perkins Building parking garage with 19 LED lamps. The goal of the demonstration center was to showcase real-world installations of LED systems in a variety of commercial and residential applications. This GATEWAY project represents the first of its kind in the DC area, and although the installation of LED lamps in a federal parking garage may be unnoticeable to the majority of us, the energy savings are not.

 The 19 new LED lamps utilize broad-spectrum, “white light” which offers more uniform illumination and better color distinction when compared to the high-pressure sodium (HPS) system that was used previously. (For those of you who are lighting junkies, the DOE reports that, “the ‘Max to Min’ variation in light distribution for the HPS system (22:1) is more than three times that of the LED (7:1).”) In other words the lighting upgrade results in less bright spots, gaps and shadows. Motion detectors were also employed in order to dim unoccupied spaces, further decreasing overall energy use. By operating at full power around six hours a day, the lifespan of each light was significantly increased and the garage experienced a total electricity savings of over 75% as compared to the HPS system.

 The DOE acknowledges that the federal government is the nation’s largest energy consumer, yet claims they are, “committed to reducing energy use through a series of objectives outlined in the 2009 Executive Order Focused on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” said one press release. While the idea of an energy efficient parking structure may be a bit oxymoronic, Washington has not been the first city to explore the subject. Those of you familiar with Santa Monica, Ca may be aware of the Civic Center parking structure, the first LEED parking garage ever constructed. Despite the fact that parking structures might not be the best subjects for the pursuit of energy efficiency, we can probably all agree that as long as they continue to be built they should be as low impact as possible. The efforts of the Labor Department are clearly reflected through GATEWAY demonstrations as well as their consistent record of being an “Energy Star” certified building since 2008. In order to maintain this title, improvements in energy efficiency must be made on an annual basis. The addition of the 19 LED lamps mark the latest improvement as well as an example of the energy leadership the president is requiring of all Federal agencies. A list of GATEWAY projects with analysis of collected data, projected energy savings, payback analysis and user feedback can be found at their website. To learn more about the technology available for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the commercial real estate market, visit the website of the General Services Administration, owners of the DOL headquarters.


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