Air Force, Naval Academies take part in video series on energy conservation

At the U.S. Naval Academy's huge Bancroft Hall, the Navy came up with lightweight, cheap double-paned windows that fit the original architecture. The dormitory is home to over 4,000 midshipmen, and encompasses 33 acres of floor space and 4.8 miles of corridors.


By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: December 11, 2016

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Energy use experts from the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy are the stars of a new video series from the Department of Energy that focuses on conservation.

The agency challenged the academy teams to swap campuses to find efficiencies. The Navy experts wound up at the modernist academy in Colorado Springs, while the Air Force experts found energy hogs among the Victorian structures in Annapolis, Md.

"It was done with a bit of playfulness," said Navy engineering professor Karen Flack, who examined Air Force's infrastructure. "They make it a bit of a reality television thing."

The military has spent the past decade examining ways to cut energy use in a bid to save money. Getting the services to swap academies for an efficiency study was part of the Energy Department's Better Buildings Challenge, which aims to reduce energy use in buildings by 20 percent over a decade.

Russell Hume, Air Force's energy guru, said having fresh eyes examine his school revealed some 1950s problems at Fairchild Hall.

The glass and steel structures at the academy were built with single-pane glass, which turns the school's massive Fairchild Hall into a refrigerator in winter and a greenhouse in summer.

"They are very much in need of replacing that with double-pane glass," Flack said.

The fix, putting in new windows, is a budget-buster.

"We'd love to enhance the facility," Hume said. "Fairchild is 1.2 million square feet. Looking at the square footage of glass, it's an astronomical price tag to do that."

The eventual solution for Air Force could come from a similar problem at Bancroft Hall, America's largest college dorm. There, Navy came up with lightweight, cheap double-paned windows that fit the original architecture.

Navy may get some help from Air Force advice, too.

Hume and his team identified inefficient heating and cooling systems at Navy's Rickover Hall, which Navy is now figuring out how to fix.

The Navy team admired Air Force's use of solar power on academy roofs.

"We went on the top of one of the large dormitories; they have covered the whole roof with flexible, light solar panels," Flack said.

Hume is pretty proud of that one.

"That was a great project; it was part of the overall renovation of Vandenberg Hall," he said.

Both schools found they need to clean up their act when it comes to food waste in dining halls. Navy is looking at a program that could use food scraps to generate electricity.

At the end, the Department of Energy program that was supposed to be fired by animosity between the rival schools found something else.

"They wanted us to have more of a rivalry, but we have so much respect for each other," Flack said. "It was more camaraderie."

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