A (PERHAPS) APOCRYPHAL TALE OF TWO BUILDINGS

2006 Fred Tepfer
1380 Bailey Avenue Eugene, OR 97402
non-commercial use freely granted
 

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This is a story that I heard about ten years ago from an architect who practices in a west coast urban area. It is said to be "probably true", although it has been through a few hands. Reliable architects and engineeers say that it is entirely plausible, so whether it is true or not is unimportant.

Once upon a time, not long ago, a facility manager for a large corporation noticed an anomaly. The corporation owned two identical office buildings built at the same time from the same set of plans. The two buildings were located about fifteen miles apart. The energy bills from one office building were nearly double the bills at the other. There were minor differences in climate which might account for a 5% or 10% difference between these two ten-story buildings, but nothing to account for this huge discrepancy. Needless to say, the difference in operating costs was very noticeable.

This having piqued her curiosity, she investigated, and found only one significant difference between the two buildings. One was managed in the conventional way with conventional staff and attitudes. The other was managed by a maniac. This building manager had taught his operating staff to make sure that the building was truly operated. When they left a room, the lights were turned off. When they left for the day, the thermostat was set back. Custodial staff were even more vigilant in making sure that energy and other resources were used intentionally and not by default.

Moral: Resource conservation can be accomplished in significant ways at little or no cost. Automatic control systems are great, but human systems also have huge unexploited potential.

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