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Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory > Questions, Comments, Ideas > Questions > Categories
Sprinkler System near 1520
Yesterday, 18Sep around noon (during the rain) the sprinkler system near 1520 was running creating a small stream of freshwater flowing across the round-about walk way. The sprinkler system was running at 5pm when I left yesterday and was running at 8:30 this morning when I arrived. Is the system being tested? Is it broken?
Lynn Cox, Roads and Grounds Manager in the Logistical Services Division, responds:
There is a problem with the system. Eastwood was contacted early this morning and we hope to have the system fixed soon.
Parking Lot lights on 24/7
The parking lot lights in the gravel lot off of Bethel Valley, adjacent to the Graphite Reactor have been on 24/7 for the past 2+ months. Is this the proper forum to report energy waste issues? 
Bob Baugh of the Utilities Division responds:
Thank you for your inquiry about the parking lot lights in the gravel lot near the Graphite Reactor. Electrical Utilities was aware of the issue and it was in queue for repair. Last week the photo cell which controls these lights was thought to be the problem and was replaced. Elecrical Utilities will be addressing the controls this week to make the necessary repair.
I appreciate your observation and ask that you continue to keep watch for "energy leaks." ORNL has a considerable utility infrastructure and, while we are observant, we need everyone to keep a watchful eye out for energy waste.
Is it necessary for ORNL to be so well-lit at night?
July 5th's edition of ORNL Today includes a dramatic photo of the ORNL campus at night. It's a great photo, but I can't help but wonder why ORNL facilities are so brightly lighted at night. Hasn't the Sustainable Campus Initiative changed things?

If the photo had been made in January, it could be explained as an early morning or early evening image made when a substantial number of people were working. However, the photo was made in June, when the sky doesn't get dark until quite late.

It's clear (from the streaks of lights on roadways) that this is a long-exposure photo. Did that exaggerate the amount of lighting, or are ORNL facilities truly brightly lighted all night long?

Hurtis Hodges of the Facilities Management Division responds:
Thanks for asking the question related to the photo in the ONRL Today article. A clarification was printed with another photo to show the difference between what you actually would see at the Lab at night and the enhancement shown in the original print. I believe the reprint answers your question and shows the exaggerations, as you stated, of the original photo. ORNL facilities are not brightly lighted all night as depicted in the photo.
Technology that reduces 50% cost of streetlights
 Back in 2000, before I started at ORNL, I did some consulting on the RF network interface for a Vancouver BC company named Streetlight Intelligence  link:  They make retrofitted lamp heads that allow the system to be monitored and controlled via self contained ISM RF network. I recently saw an article that the product has matured and they are in production. When a bulb decays the start up circuit pulses to get the bulb to re-light, often it just continuously flickers, this is done at a very high current , and  an hour of flicker is equivalent to a whole week worth of electricity, their system monitors for this and after a short re-try shuts down and notifies the user a bulb replacement is necessary.  Additionally cities have also used these to selectively turn off every other bulb from a central system to save money in low traffic areas. It uses standard type street light bulbs and all that is needed is a replacement of the lamp head itself at an average 10-15% increase in cost to a standard lamp receptacle. The savings numbers are impressive. Worth a look.

Bob Baugh, Director of the Utilities Division responds:

Thanks for bringing the information on street lighting control systems to our attention.  I forwarded this information on to our Electrical Utilities Complex Facility Manager.  We discussed the feasibility of utilizing this system at the Laboratory and now have plans to purchase several of the stand-alone lamp controls for installation and testing.  While the stand-alone controllers offer a tremendous potential for energy savings at ORNL, the networked control system presents certain complications with regard to the necessary wireless infrastructure and network security.  We are currently working through these issues on another project and are actively pursuing a dedicated wireless infrastructure for energy monitoring and management.   This networked control system for street lights could easily dovetail itself into this infrastructure when it is put into place.  Again, we are ordering several of the stand-alone controllers and will be installing them for testing and evaluation.  Thanks again for the information on this.

Why waste the wood ash from the new steam plant?
The webpage about the new biomass-fueled steam plant indicates that ORNL plans to dispose of the wood ash residue in a landfill at Y-12. That's missing an obvious opportunity for waste minimization, which is a significant component of sustainability. Wood ash has significant value as a soil amendment -- it is a particularly good source of potash (i.e., potassium). It should be used as fertilizer, not buried in a landfill.

As an ORNL staff member, I have worked on or reviewed many EISs about projects for other DOE elements or other federal agencies. Part of the impact assessment process is looking to see whether opportunities for beneficial use of wastes have been identified and explored. Not every waste can be used beneficially, but wood ash is one of the easiest wastes to use. I see that the webpage also says that ORNL researchers are investigating possible use of the ash, but it should be a given that it will be used -- it's not that hard to do. According to Oregon State University, the very first U.S. patent (issued in 1790) related to using wood ash as fertilizer! It's embarrassing to think that more than two centuries later, ORNL might lack the ingenuity to do the right thing with wood ash.

Bob Baugh, Director of the Utilities Division responds:
Thanks for your interest in the new biomass gasification steam plant. Your observations are well taken. I agree that there are indeed benefits of using wood ash as a soil amendment. In addition, wood ash can also be used as an additive in the production of concrete. However, in ORNL's case, the volume of ash produced as a result of the process is extremely low. In addition, there will exist variations in the volume of ash produced as a result of the season. These variations, combined with a relatively low overall ash production rate will not make us a reliable supplier of ash to others. In addition, there exists the possibility of unfavorable products finding their way into the ash. These products, if present, would likely come from the fuel itself. However, ORNL is responsible for the waste it generates. Taken all of the above into account, disposal of our wood ash waste into the landfill was deemed to be the best option. Please note there exists the possibility of using the wood ash as a soil additive on the Oak Ridge Reservation. This potential option is under investigation.

Thanks again for your interest.
Idling company vehicles
From time to time, I notice that some company service vehicles are left idling for long periods of time while waiting on some work or delivery to be completed. Is there a company policy on reducing idling times of company vehicles while waiting?

Jonathan Forstrom of the Facilities and Operations Directorate responds:
Under ORNL policy special vehicles (mail trucks, etc.) are allowed to idle unattended for several minutes. Warm up of vehicles is allowed but not to be excessive.
Portable space ceramic heaters
Eduardo D'Azevedo asks:

I find the offices in Bldg 6012 are pretty cool.

Is it more efficient to use portable space ceramic heaters or (further) turn up the thermostat?

Are there safety concerns about using portable space ceramic heaters in our offices?

Response provided by Hurtis Hodges, Director,  Facilities Management Division:

Although electric space heaters are effective at meeting the need for a single room, they are the most expensive and least overall efficient form of heating especially for multiple spaces such as in the office building that you mentioned. There are many factors to consider for keeping the space from getting or feeling too cool.

  • Eliminate drafts such as those caused by leaving vestibule doors opened
  • Close window blinds at night
  • Take advantage of the sun during the day, especially on the south side, by opening blinds
  • Wear appropriately layered, warming clothes in the winter

Additionally, it is important to make sure that the controls and air conditioning system are functioning properly for occupant comfort.

There are safety concerns about using portable space heater in your offices. Thermal overload and tip over are just  two of the concerns. More information can be found in the SBMS subject area for Fire Protection, Prevention & Control, Heat-Producing Appliances in the Electrical Space Heaters section

Light shelves

Dave Richardson asks:

I'm not certain about the older buildings, but this looks like it would work well in 5300. In fact, it looks like 5300 was designed to accommodate light shelves:

(See a video showing the light reflected off the ceiling during the daytime: .

Is there any plan to use light shelves at the Lab?

Response provided by Hurtis Hodges, Director,  Facilities Management Division:

Building 5300 was not designed specifically to accommodate the light shelves that you mentioned. However, the installation of light shelves are being considered in the design of new facilities especially in areas with an open floor plan.

Are there any plans to install waterless urinals in the mens restroom?
Are there any plans to install waterless urinals in the mens restroom? This looks like it would be a hugh savings since each flush uses 1 gallon of water. At a minimum it looks like they would be in the LEED cretified buildings.

Response provided by Hurtis Hodges, Director,  Facilities Management Division and Dell Morgan, Director, Facilities Development Division:

We continue to review technology improvements related to waterless urinals and possible applications. In some instances we have installed waterless urinals.  However, there are some documented issues with waterless urinals. Consequently, we do not specify them in all of our new projects. Additionally, there are issues with retrofitting an existing or older building with a waterless urinal because of the difference in the elevation of the existing sewer piping with that required for a typical waterless urinal. Therefore, retrofitting is not practical, in general. We are able to meet water conservation requirements with low and ultra-low flow fixtures.

Conserving Resources
Can you tell me why supplies are delivered with a single item per envelope/box?  it seems to me that a lot of unnecessary plastic and boxes are used to deliver AVID orders.  Yesterday I ordered 3 items and today they all showed up in individual packaging (they all would have easily fit into one box even smaller than the one used for the single item.  I would just like to have an explanation when we are trying to conserve resources. 
ORNL's Bill Pyle, Manager of the Commercial Support Group responds:
Most of our AVID suppliers are disctributers for a large array of different manufacturers. A single AVID order with many line items will likely result in multiple orders placed with manufactures who will ship direct to ORNL to avoid double handling. Those items that are first delivered to the AVID supplier and then delivered to ORNL remain in the same packaging that the manufacturer provided. If the AVID provider repackages items in order to consolidate, it actually increases waste.
Several members of our group are directly involved with the Sustainable Campus Initiative. We are working on several initiatives to help conserve energy including reducing the number of deliveries by suppliers, promoting environmentally preferable products through our on-line catalogs, and maximizing the use of electronic documentation rather than using printed paper.
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