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Hilton, Whole Foods Go Head to Head on Energy Efficiency in DOE Reality Series

The Hilton Worldwide team inspects the seal of a refrigerator door at Whole Foods Ocean Avenue in episode one of “Better Buildings Challenge SWAP.” | Image credit: DOE

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the “Better Buildings Challenge SWAP,” a three-episode web-based reality series in which Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market swap energy-management teams at their facilities in San Francisco.

As part of the SWAP, each team identified innovative ways to save energy in Hilton San Francisco Union Square, a 1.8 million sq. foot hotel and Whole Foods Ocean Avenue, a 25,600 sq. foot grocery store. See episode one, below:

“Healthy competition, along with a free exchange of ideas, has long been an essential part of energy innovation,” said Lynn Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the DOE. “Such an exchange created by the Energy Department provided a way for these leading corporations — which are already accomplished in energy management — to rethink some of their standard practices and push each other to do even better. A fresh set of knowledgeable eyes would likely help us all to be more efficient. That approach will help us address our world's most pressing energy challenges, and I thank Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market for taking part in this effort.”

Launched in 2011, the Better Buildings Challenge is aimed at achieving the goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030 while motivating corporate and public-sector leaders across the country to save energy through commitments and investments. More than 285 organizations are partnering with the DOE to achieve 20 percent portfolio-wide energy savings and share successful strategies that maximize efficiency over the next decade. Across the country, partners have shared energy data for more than 32,000 properties and are reporting energy savings of 20 percent or more at 4,500 properties, and 10 percent or more at 12,000 properties.

An important objective of the Better Buildings Challenge is to help companies reduce energy intensity across their building portfolios, and share successful strategies with their peers. Hilton Worldwide has made significant progress toward reaching its Better Buildings Challenge commitment across 90 million sq. feet of hotel space globally; the hotel chain recently reported a reduction in energy use of 14.5 percent and over $250 million in savings since 2009. Hilton recently became the first hospitality company to have hotels, including Hilton San Francisco Union Square, certified to the DOE’s Superior Energy Performance® (SEP™).

“When Hilton Worldwide was approached to participate in the Department of Energy’s first-ever Better Buildings Challenge SWAP, we were excited, then the questions hit us: Our systems are so different, how will they know what to look for? How will metrics stack up?” Max Verstraete, Hilton’s VP of sustainability and ADA compliance, said in a blog post. “Working with the Whole Foods Market team and the Department of Energy created a unique and necessary team dynamic that increased the level of transparency and collaboration for our sustainability and operations leadership. With the added pressure of having ‘guests’ in our boiler room, kitchens and laundry rooms, we were able to view energy-saving opportunities with new eyes.”

As a result of the SWAP, the Hilton Worldwide team has already begun implementing several recommendations, including LED lighting upgrades, door gasket replacements, and the phase-out of less-efficient appliances within refrigerated containers at Hilton Union Square. The Whole Foods team is also exploring the implementation of employee engagement strategies inspired by what they saw at Hilton Union Square.

Whole Foods Market has employed a range of strategies to advance environmental stewardship across its portfolio of 370 buildings or nearly 13 million square feet and is already achieving 7 percent energy savings toward a 20 percent goal. During the SWAP, the Hilton Worldwide team uncovered lighting fixes, refrigeration savings through doors on cases, and heat-recovery improvements that could net positive energy savings at the Whole Foods Ocean Avenue store.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the inaugural Better Buildings Challenge SWAP,” said Tristam Coffin, sustainable facilities coordinator at Whole Foods Market. “While it’s easy to think you’ve covered all the bases in your own facility, there is so much more to gain when you compare strategies and lessons learned with a team from a completely different line of work. Sharing best practices doesn’t get more hands-on than this.”

“We hope that more Challenge partner collaborations between different sectors are on the horizon, and that the Better Buildings initiative continues to be a space for innovation and solution-sharing among energy-efficiency professionals,” Verstraete said in his post.


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