Stimulus Could Increase Government Efficiency

By Erik Bonnett
Yahoo News
March 13, 2009

Whether you think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help solve
environmental and healthcare problems or you see the act as an unnecessary
expansion of the federal government, you would probably rejoice in the
opportunity to make the government 10 percent, 20 percent, or even 30 percent
more efficient.

We have a chance to do just that with the economic stimulus package--but only if
we spend the $15 billion dollars designated for energy efficiency retrofits
wisely. The legislation includes $8.7 billion for energy retrofits and
conservation in federal and military buildings, and $6.3 billion for state and
local energy efficiency programs

To be clear, by increasing the efficiency of the government, I am not focusing
on the government's commitment to make federal buildings 25 percent more energy
efficient. I am referring to the government itself and how it can make its
workers more efficient through daylight retrofits.

Daylight retrofits replace artificial lighting with daylight and are a specific
type of energy retrofit. Examples include adding skylights and windows to dingy
offices, replacing old leaky windows with modern windows that admit more light
but less heat, adding sensors that turn down electric lights when there is
plenty of daylight, and replacing broken mini-blinds with awnings, light
reflectors, and modern shades.

These daylight retrofits cut artificial lighting use, which saves energy
directly. Also, lights produce heat; so turning lights off makes buildings
cooler, saving air conditioning energy.

More importantly, daylight and window views are proven to increase our
efficiency performing tasks. Studies show that daylight increases workplace
productivity by 6 to 15 percent, boosts student test scores by 7 to 26 percent,
and expands retail sales by up to 40 percent.

A blog we wrote earlier this year detailed how a daylight retrofit increased
weavers' productivity at a famous blanket making and commercial interior fabrics company.

Unfortunately, for over half a century, providing daylight to workers was
considered a luxury. Therefore many government buildings are dreary, lacking
natural light. This costs the government a lot of money: higher lighting and air
conditioning bills, and lower worker productivity.

The energy retrofit stimulus money offers an opportunity to solve this problem.
Daylight retrofits can be conducted with simple off-the-shelf technology, making
them "shovel-ready." And while there are many types of retrofits that will save
energy and create jobs, only daylight retrofits will also increase the
efficiency of our government.

Erik Bonnett is an analyst on Rocky Mountain Institute's Built Environment Team, BET.


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