Building earns Energy Star certification


The Energy Star logo is frequently found on household appliances, but rarely do you see it affixed to a building — unless that building is the Western Carolina University Bookstore. The bookstore last summer became the first building on campus, and one of just a few in the country, to receive Energy Star certification, and now proudly displays two Energy Star logos on its windows entering the building.


WCU certified energy manager David King and Pam DeGraffenreid ’80, support services supervisor of the bookstore, show off the building’s Energy Star certification.

Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency volunteer program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency. In order to qualify for certification, the energy efficiency of a building must be in the top 25 percent compared to buildings of similar use nationwide. The bookstore was in the top 6 percent. With nearly 5 million commercial buildings in the nation, as of 2014 only 25,000 qualified for Energy Star certification — less than 1 percent.

David King, certified energy manager at WCU, credited the building’s efficiency to Pam DeGraffenreid ’80, support services supervisor at the bookstore, for coordinating the building’s schedule. “It takes a lot of coordination and effort to get all of the schedules aligned and make sure things are turned on when they’re supposed to be,” King said.

DeGraffenreid said the installation of LED lights, as well as a new heating and cooling system in 2011, also has made a difference. The store features an advanced building automation system that turns on the heating and cooling system. King said it’s the same automated system used in the White House and the new World Trade Center.

“When (the store’s) not open on the weekend, we can shut the whole building down in 15 minutes,” King said. “We even have an optimal start. If we need the building to be at 73 degrees at 8 a.m., it’ll be at that. It’ll start ramping up an hour ahead.”

Utility data was collected from the bookstore for the 2014-15 academic year. A third-party engineer was required to look at the electric meter and make sure the building had the appropriate lighting levels and temperatures. They reduced electric usage by 30,000 kilowatt hours. It takes about a pound of coal to generate a kilowatt hour, so WCU saved 30,000 pounds of coal, King said.

The university also saved about $17,000. The median cost of operating a building with similar size and use costs $29,595.33 annually. The bookstore cost $12,229.15 last year. King said Energy Star buildings save about 35 percent compared to typical buildings. “If you figure we spend $4.3 million a year on energy, if we got (all of WCU’s buildings) to Energy Star level, that would be a reduction of $1.5 million,” King said.