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While America Sleeps, RMI is Delivering Energy Savings Down Under

By Norman Smith

When announcements are made, often news’ origin carries as much import as the announcement itself—1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, for example. In Wellington, New Zealand, when policy emerges from Number 2, The Terrace, Kiwis take note.

Number 2 is the home of the Reserve Bank, New Zealand’s equivalent of the Fed, and when the bank’s Governor Alan Bollard speaks, the country listens.

Currently, Number 2 is on track to become one of New Zealand’s most energy-efficient buildings, thanks to RMI Senior Adjunct Associates Norman Smith and Rob Bishop. Since 2003 Smith and Bishop have represented RMI, including bringing Amory Lovins to New Zealand to meet with senior government ministers, and generally promoting RMI’s work.

Smith and Bishop each run their own energy management consultancies, collaborating when complementary skills are needed. The Reserve Bank building (which houses the country’s money) was such a project.

By the late 1990s, as result of government policy and a 1997 energy audit, the 274,267-square-foot (25,480 m2) structure was outperforming the building industry’s energy-efficiency benchmark by 30 percent. In early 2008, Smith suggested a new audit, and pulled in Bishop to make recommendations. In late 2008, Smith and Bishop co-led a half-dozen commercial-building specialists through a process in which they “played around” with data simulating the implementation of energy-efficiency devices and systems.

The team’s attitude, according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), was to reexamine everything, and, regardless of how efficient a building might be, expect to find considerable energy savings—the kind of approach to continuous commissioning RMI uses in all its built environment work. Eventually, the specialists chose and adopted 28 different optimization opportunities.

Now, the results are rolling in. In the first year, the building achieved a 22 percent energy savings (natural gas use was down 35 percent and electricity for cooling was down 54 percent), and similar savings are projected for 2010–11. The results and the process were recently featured in a case study published by the EECA and presented at the 2010 conference of the New Zealand Energy Management Association.
“Watch this space during the next two years,” Smith said. “We believe the best is yet to come.”

Norman Smith, an energy consultant based in New Zealand, is a senior adjunct fellow at RMI. Email him at norman@rminz.org.nz.

--Published August 2010

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