AOC Finds New Method to Pay for Greening

Posted August 3, 2009 at 6:22pm

House office buildings will soon get $34 million of energy-efficient upgrades, with the private sector covering the up-front costs.

Last week, the Architect of the Capitol entered into its first-ever energy savings performance contract, an agreement that allows federal agencies to bypass the appropriations process and get needed money fast.

Under the agreement, NORESCO will pay for renovations to all House office buildings and the House Page Dormitory. The firm will be paid back from the resulting savings in energy costs, for a total payout of about $40 million over a 16-year period.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the agreement is “a way of spreading out the cost.—

“It’s part of our long-term effort for energy efficiency,— she said. “It’s a way to invest funds in these projects without putting in a lot of appropriated funds in the front end.—

The agreement calls for installation of 33,000 energy-efficient lighting fixtures, upgrades to heating and cooling controls, new low-flow bathrooms, and better steam traps.

The projects will require about 30 months of construction in and around House offices. Malecki said NORESCO is now finalizing designs, and physical work will begin in several months.

The finished upgrades, according to an AOC press release, will “make significant progress toward meeting the statutory energy reduction goals for federal buildings,— which is a 3 percent reduction each year.

The project will also provide a boost to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Green the Capitol Initiative — a project aimed at sharply reducing energy consumption and getting the House as close to carbon-neutral as possible.

After becoming Speaker in 2007, Pelosi directed Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to make sweeping changes in the House. So far, Beard’s office has implemented composting, bought wind energy and emphasized local food in the cafeterias. Officials have also replaced 10,000 incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient compact fluorescent lights.

The deal with NORESCO will have a “major positive impact— on the program’s goals, said Bob Lane, the executive director of Green the Capitol. He also emphasized plans to increase the efficiency of the steam and chilled water systems, which are outdated and a major source of carbon emissions.

“[T]he projected savings from the NORESCO contract should make the long term goal of a 50 percent reduction over a 10 year period easier to achieve,— he wrote in an e-mail.

In fact, the upgrades should move the House very far along toward that goal, if the AOC’s estimates are correct. Officials say the renovations could decrease energy consumption by 23 percent and water consumption by 32 percent.

Michael Beccaria, a vice president at NORESCO, said that will be accomplished partly by installing new equipment allowing officials to better control lighting, heating and air conditioning. For example, when the House is not in session, lights could be programmed to turn off earlier or the cooling system could be turned on later in the morning.

NORESCO also tailored the improvements to the House through an audit, allowing the AOC to choose a handful. Some choices seem more obscure than others — such as the small “showcase green roof— in the Cannon House Office Building courtyard or the “condensate harvesting system— for the Rayburn House Office Building’s West Court fountain.

But upgrades will also involve “changing all the lights out in basically every room,— Beccaria said.

“It’s a major endeavor,— he said. “But hopefully we’ll be in and out and people will really have no idea that we were there.—