Great Lakes Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Point of Contact

Pamela Dei

Project Summary
Pamela Dei, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mechanical Engineer of the Eastern Region Branch of Management Services, and Charlie Wootke, Great Lakes Science Center Facility Manager, joined forces to implement the first energy savings performance contract (ESPC) within the U.S. Geological Survey.  The duo’s patience and perseverance for more than a year, yielded great results with $1.5 million worth of energy and water saving projects being implemented at the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  GLSC will reduce annual energy consumption by 132 million British thermal units per thousand square feet or 60 percent, and energy costs by $75,500 or 54 percent.  Annual water consumption and cost will be reduced by 608 thousand gallons or 37 percent, and the associated water costs with these savings are $13,500. 

The facility suffered from old, inefficient lighting and equipment that could not maintain proper indoor comfort and air quality.  An innovative geothermal heat pump hybrid system with direct digital controls was installed along with new energy efficient lighting to achieve astounding energy and water savings, provide comfortable working conditions, maintain proper indoor air quality and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The USGS GLSC in Ann Arbor, Michigan, serves to meet the Nation's need for scientific information for restoring, enhancing, managing, and protecting living resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The Center was constructed in 1964 and consists of two buildings, the main building totaling approximately 44,500 square feet of which approx 38,742 square feet is conditioned; and a maintenance building totaling 2,530 square feet constructed in 1985.

In 2007, Pamela Dei, USGS Mechanical Engineer of the Eastern Region Branch of Management Services, and Charlie Wootke, GLSC Facility Manager, combined efforts to determine how to upgrade the main building that comprises library, conference rooms, laboratory and research facilities and general office areas.  The heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system in the building was old, inefficient and well past its service life.  Two gas-fired boilers, four air handling units, two roof-top units, a chiller and fin tube radiation comprised the primary HVAC equipment and were controlled by old pneumatic controls that did not operate properly.  Heat to these components was provided by steam.  However, there were extensive steam losses in the distribution system adding to the inefficiency of the system.  Additionally, the lighting system in the building was an old style T12 fluorescent lamp with magnetic ballasts, and no automated controls.

This inefficient building operating equipment posed a significant financial drain on the Center.  In FY 2007, GLSC used 221 million British thermal units (MMBtu) per thousand square feet (ksf).  When comparing the Center to a Midwestern outpatient healthcare facility (closest energy intensive type facility) from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey published by the Energy Information Administration, it was found that GLSC used 46% more electricity and 143% more natural gas.  When compared to a Midwestern office building, the facility used 57% more electricity and 196% more natural gas.  This was very excessive considering that the GLSC laboratory space was only about one-third of the total building square footage.

Not only was the site spending excessive amounts of money on energy and maintenance on the equipment, but the environmental control of temperature and humidity was poor, lighting levels were inconsistent and water consumption was high.  In essence, the environmental quality of the workspace was poor for the occupants. 

It was obvious to Ms. Dei and Mr. Wootke that an upgrade was imperative, but the cost of such an extensive project was prohibitive.  It would take decades to fund the upgrades that were needed today.  That was when they turned to the Department of Energy (DOE) Technology Specific Super Energy Savings Performance Contract vehicle.  It was the perfect solution—a third party energy service company (ESCO) provides a comprehensive energy and water audit to pinpoint cost effective projects.  The ESCO then installs the projects via task orders under the existing DOE Super ESPC, finances the design and construction costs and guarantees energy savings that will be paid to the ESCO annually to pay-off the contract.  However, since this was the first USGS site to venture down the ESPC path, it was not an easy endeavor.  The contracting office was hesitant to undertake a contract of this type and was not comfortable with the terms and conditions.  With much patience, education, collaboration with DOE and the ESCO, and perseverance on the part of Ms. Dei and Mr. Wootke, the contracting office was eventually convinced and the contract was signed in September 2008. 

Scope of Project Impact

The annual energy savings of the project were dramatic—electricity was estimated to be reduced by 53 percent and natural gas by 64 percent, for a total combined reduction of 60 percent, well above the Executive Order (E.O.) 13423 mandated reduction of 30 percent by 2015.  The total annual energy consumption reduction was 132 million British thermal units per thousand square feet.  The reduced annual energy costs associated with these savings were $75,500 or 54 percent.  Annual water consumption and cost will be reduced by 608 thousand gallons or 37 percent, which is also greater than the E.O. mandated reduction of 16 percent by 2015.  The water cost savings total $13,500.  The energy and water upgrades were completed in early summer 2009 and savings have begun to accrue.

The new HVAC system uses geothermal heat pumps (GHP), a renewable energy application.  GHPs use the energy stored in the ground for heating or cooling applications, providing low operating costs, as well as low maintenance costs.   

The environmental benefits from this project are huge.  The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over the 23-year contract period is:

  • 28 million pounds of CO2
  • 268,000 pounds of SO2
  • 98,000 pounds of NOx

These emissions equate to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of:

  • 4,850 passenger vehicles
  • 2,410 homes (total energy use)

Additionally, the building can now be controlled and maintained more efficiently, providing accurate and constant space temperatures and relative humidity, as well as improved air flows.  These changes will improve the indoor air quality of the building and overall occupant comfort.

The impact of this project is extremely significant to USGS.  This is the first alternative financing project within the Bureau to be completed.  Energy projects and upgrades of this magnitude cannot be funded with current Federal budgets.  Alternative financing mechanisms such as ESPC are crucial to implementing energy and water saving projects that will assist the Bureau in meeting the EO mandated goals.  Being the first to go through the contracting process, development and construction is a monumental task.  However, now other USGS sites can draw upon the knowledge and experience of the involved USGS personnel to facilitate and expedite their own projects.  The success of this project will be highlighted throughout the Bureau in order to institutionalize the use of alternative financing projects and foster energy and water saving project implementation.

Partnering and Cooperative Conservation

This project could not have been completed without a strong partnership between the government and the ESCO.  USGS personnel from contracts, engineering, facility management, and finance worked closely with DOE and the ESCO staff to ensure that all parties were in agreement with the financing mechanism and the project scope.  Since it was a new contract vehicle, education and collaboration between the parties were essential.  This process took roughly one year to complete.

Detailed information from the comprehensive energy audit provided a basis of communication.  The calculated energy and water savings from the energy simulation software model used by the ESCO were so extensive, that all parties involved took interest.  This magnitude of savings was not to be taken lightly.  Ms. Dei, Mr. Wootke and the ESCO used these savings to capture the attention of upper level management, the scientists and occupants in the building, contracting and internal review board personnel, and then state a solid case for moving forward with the project.  It took many presentations and meetings, but the engineering calculations clearly showed the need for the project.  In addition, the fact that these would be guaranteed savings under the ESPC made the case even stronger.


While the contracting and technical aspects of this project may not be significantly innovative to the energy field in general, they were definitely innovative within USGS.  As previously mentioned, this was the first ESPC within the Bureau and was the second GHP application.

The new HVAC system for the building is a geothermal hybrid system.  Since part of the building is laboratory space requiring 100% outdoor air, it is difficult to satisfy the full winter load with a GHP system with a reasonably sized GHP well field.  This led to the hybrid system—a new geothermal closed loop well system with individual zone heat pumps to serve the office areas and high efficiency multizone and rooftop air handling units to serve the laboratories.  A new supplemental high efficiency gas-fired boiler will handle peak heating loads in extreme cold weather for the GHP units and the heating coils in the multizone and rooftop units.  Coupled with new automated controls, this hybrid system provides the most efficient, low maintenance system for the building. 

This is a great example of a project that applied a sustainable or whole building approach to provide the best solution using the latest technologies available within financial constraints.  The comprehensive audit also revealed that an energy efficient lighting upgrade, modifications to the water and sewer piping, and a new cooling tower for fish tank applications would increase the savings of the project and provide a better financial package for the ESPC.


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior