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Arlington Prepares Energy Labels For Government Buildings

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The lobby of the Arlington County Government Center will soon get a panel explaining energy use and carbon consumption.
Michael Pope
The lobby of the Arlington County Government Center will soon get a panel explaining energy use and carbon consumption.

Visitors to county-owned buildings in Arlington are about to start seeing something new -- labels documenting energy use and carbon consumption. The county is planning to start installing the signs in October.

Walking into the Arlington County government center, visitors are immediately confronted with a sign directing them to use the revolving door rather than the conventional doors. That helps cut down on heating and air-conditioning costs.

And then there are the lights.

"When you look straight up, you don't have to stare at it, but the compact fluorescent lights that are all throughout the lobby of this building are an example of a good energy efficiency measure," says Rich Dooley, community energy coordinator for Arlington County.

Dooley is part of a team that's putting together new labels for county buildings that will document how much energy the buildings use and how much carbon is consumed.

Pointing to a mockup of one of the signs he explains how the system works.

"It shows that we're doing better than the national average and, over time from 2007 to 2010, we've become more efficient in how we use energy per square foot."

But not all buildings are created equal, says green building program manager Joan Kelsch.

"We'd like people to think of energy use in buildings like they think of gasoline use in cars," says Kelsch. "So everybody kind of knows that a Hummer uses more gasoline than a Ford Fiesta, for example."

One of the goals is to create a sense of healthy competition, pushing owners to improve the numbers that are posted in the lobby. At this point, the challenge is trying to find out the best way to present the information.

"It seems like this would be a really easy process, but it's actually very complicated to figure out just the right amount of information that's useful but doesn't overwhelm the casual observer, and that's the sweet spot we're trying to achieve that the moment," says Kelsch.

Visitors to county government buildings will start seeing the panels in October, just in time for Energy Awareness Month.

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