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Energy, Environment, & Fleet (EEF) Program Service


2021 Sustainability Awards

December 22, 2021

VA’s Sustainability Awards program, supported by VA’s Energy, Environment and Fleet Program Service within the Office of Asset Enterprise Management, have been providing recognition to VA facilities and employees for their significant contributions to environmental sustainability since 2010. The facilities and employees being recognized, from a wide range of locations and positions, have gone above and beyond with valuable and inspiring projects that reduce environmental impacts while also helping VA operate efficiently and better serve its mission. Awards are categorized under energy management, environmental, fleet, or sustainable buildings.

Energy Award Winners

St. Louis VA Medical Center, Jefferson Barracks — Water Savings Project
Christopher Keuss, Chief of Engineering; David Tyree, Air Conditioning Shop Forman; Leslie Lowry, GEMS Manager; Geoffrey Black, Project Engineer; Samuel Hirschman, Energy Manager

The St. Louis VA Medical Center-Jefferson Barracks has experienced high water intensity (gallons/square foot) for many years while the source remained difficult to identify. With facility equipment continuing to sufficiently operate, thus producing no apparent, associated operations and maintenance issues, facility engineering and environmental management staff took the initiative to collaborate on addressing the water issue. Through meticulous testing of drains across campus, facility staff identified failed open water valves on water cooled condensers as a major source of the excessive water usage. Once identified, facility staff was able to repair or replace the failed valves, resulting in a 39% reduction of water usage in 2021 compared to 2020. Identifying and addressing this long-standing, evasive valve issue has saved more than 10 million gallons of water to date and is projected to save 27 million gallons annually, with projected annual savings of $150,000 for the VA Medical Center.

Honorable Mention

Providence VA Medical Center — LED Lighting Project
Lisa A. Hermenau, P.E., C.E.M., Energy Engineer and Project Lead; John Bross, Operations & Maintenance Engineer, Project Assistant/Contracting Officer’s Representative

The Providence VA Medical Center implemented a Light Emitting Diode (LED) project to standardize lighting levels and to meet VA lighting standards. All interior and exterior fixtures were upgraded to LEDs. This project reduced operations and maintenance (O&M) inventory, reduced costly O&M labor to replace bulbs, eliminated fluorescent bulbs and ballasts, and increased safety and security across the campus from improved lighting conditions. Major advantages of upgrading to LED lamps are the reduction in electricity usage due to lower wattage and the longer lamp life that results in replacement cost savings. This project was completed in June 2020 and has resulted in a reduction of 1.6 megawatt hours per year, which is an 11% decrease in electricity usage translating into annual cost savings of $265,000. The simple payback for this project is 3.4 years.

Environmental Award Winners

San Juan VA Medical Center — FARMS Horticulture Project
Carlos Jimenez, Community Employment Coordinator

The San Juan VA Medical Center initiated a FARMS horticulture project as part of the whole healthy therapy program. This project uses “green” rehabilitation therapy to help Veterans cope with mental health issues and physical ailments. All participants learned about food sustainability and resiliency and how to reuse materials to create their own greenhouses. The program has reached more than 30 participants among Veterans and family members, including homeless Veterans. More than 80% of participants were referrals from mental health clinics.

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, Fort Wayne Campus - Histology Solvent Recycling
Tadjena Douglas, Histology Technician; Tressa Tuggle, Laboratory Manager; Bianca Sierra, Histology Technician; Austin Freimuth, GEMS Program Manager; Tammy Bollinger-Larson, Asst. Chief of Supply Chain Management

At the Fort Wayne VA Medical Center (VAMC), VA employees collaborated within the histology lab, Green Environmental Management System (GEMS), and Supply Chain Management office to procure and establish a Solvent Recycling System. The VAMC has benefited from the effort with significant savings in hazardous waste disposal and solvent procurement costs, and has down-sized to a Very Small Quantity Generator for hazardous waste. After the new process was put in place, the VAMC eliminated the need for xylene disposal by reducing from 38 gallons down to zero while also reducing alcohol/methanol mix disposal by 48% from 63 gallons down to 30 gallons. The VAMC is saving money by reducing its need for solvents and reducing disposal costs, while also saving substantial staff work hours with the new process.

West Los Angeles VA Medical Center — Underground Storage Tank to Park Project
Joseph Olson, Environmental Engineer, GEMS Compliance; Francisco Silva, Project Engineer; Jennifer Worley, Associate Director of Operations; Eugene Humphries, Chief of Environmental Management Service

The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center (VAMC) had an abandoned 380,000-gallon concrete underground storage fuel oil tank that was not properly decommissioned in the 1990s. The storage tank was approximately the size of a large two-story home and its location next to two nursing homes on campus posed an environmental liability. The VAMC staff collaborated with the local fire department for an alternate solution to excavating the tank, which would have disrupted the VAMC’s main utility and sewer lines. The solution involved leaving the tank in place while filling it with light-weight concrete, thus allowing for a large VA community park with landscaping to be constructed over the site for the enjoyment of Veterans and visitors. By pursuing this solution, the VAMC avoided the need for 50 demolition truck trips to remove tank debris to a disposal site. Additionally, producing the concrete fill on-site allowed the VAMC to avoid an estimated 196 concrete truck deliveries to fill the tank. Leaving the tank in place also allowed for existing utility lines for sewer, water, natural gas, and electricity to be left undisturbed. These avoided costs amounted to roughly $500,000 of financial benefit to VA.