The fact that you are reading this blog online is a testament to how my host company, Alcatel-Lucent, has impacted the way you and I behave on a daily basis. Little did I know, on the last day of my EDF Climate Corps training that I was on my way to becoming a champion of energy efficiency at a place so steeped in history.
With numerous inventions and Nobel Laureates, the Alcatel-Lucent (Bell Labs) headquarters in New Jersey houses a jaw-dropping, two million square-foot space lined with labs. To date, I had only seen such a place in sci-fi movies. The vast areas of office spaces with little nuggets of history everywhere represented a great challenge for me.
With large projects such as a cogeneration plant and solar plants already in the pipeline, the opportunity for uncovering low-hanging fruit was quickly ticked off my list, as most of them had already been implemented by the facilities team. Nonetheless, this 60-year-old building presented some unique opportunities.
After snooping around the building and seeking opinions from everyone I spoke to, I stumbled upon over-lit areas and no sensory monitors to shut lights off when they weren’t being used. Talking to vendors and contractors, researching best practices and tapping into EDF’s rich information-support system, I was able to find logical solutions for these issues.
After losing my way one too many times in this huge maze of a building, I resorted to asking directions from co-workers to get back to my cubicle. Though at first I was embarrassed, I realized many of the people giving me directions were just as unsure as I was about whether or not they were guiding me the right way. This lack of directional clarity came with a silver lining though, because it often forced me to discover new areas in the facility and, consequently, new energy efficiency opportunities.
For instance, wandering through corridors where the sun’s hot rays would stream in and battle against the air conditioner’s attempt to cool the facility triggered an idea for solar films in parts of the building. These solar films could lead to substantial savings for the HVAC system in the building, resulting in savings of thousands of dollars per year. In addition to clear financial benefits, solar films have a couple other fantastic advantages:
- Solar films can reject up to 60% of the solar heat coming in through the windows during summer, in some cases helping to retain heat within the building during winters.
- Solar films can also keep the harmful UV rays out, protecting employees and preventing sun damage within the building.
Putting these proposals on paper with financial models and clear numbers proved that reduction in operating costs and carbon footprint will help the organization expedite these solar film projects, giving it a needed competitive edge.
For a building as diverse as this, its energy density varies greatly. All office spaces and labs have specific air condition requirements and power consumption levels. In collaborating with various stake holders and experts, my biggest challenge has been to get everyone on the same page while simultaneously figuring out the best strategies to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.
As an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Alcatel-Lucent, everyday leads to a new discovery – taking me to new parts of the facility and unraveling new opportunities. Furthermore, the direct descendant of the apple tree from which Newton got his inspiration stands right outside this building, inspiring me to find realistic solutions for the people here at Alcatel-Lucent.