U.S. Embassy Bern, Switzerland: Energy Efficiency Makeover December 6, 2011
On December 6th, the Ambassador showcased the steps Embassy Bern has taken to become “greener” for a diverse audience of journalists, local utility officials, green NGO representatives, contractors, and businessmen involved in energy-efficiency technologies. Standing in front of a three-feet-deep ditch dug to connect the Chief of Mission Residence (CMR) to Bern’s district heating grid, the Ambassador described the mission of the State Department’s “League of Green Embassies (LoGE)” and the benefits Embassy Bern has reaped from being a member. The invited guests were treated to a tour of the CMR during which the energy-saving improvements were highlighted. They left with a clear understanding that Embassy Bern is doing its part to improve the environment–a message that resonates well with the Swiss public and which was conveyed in subsequent newspaper articles about the event.
For more photos from the energy efficiency makeover, visit League of Green Embassies’ Flickr set.
The Ambassador hosted numerous leaders in “green energy” on December 6th to demonstrate the improvements made to the CMR stemming from the Ambassador Oreck-led “Energy Efficiency Sweep” of European CMRs. Following initial remarks in which he detailed how the U.S. Government’s (USG) macro-level commitment to environmental issues trickled down to his residence in Bern through State’s LoGE, the Ambassador listed the specific energy-saving improvements currently being made to the CMR. He then thanked the companies who, through their collaboration and generous donations, made the “Sweep” possible. Following the Ambassador’s remarks, the CEO of the Swiss Whirlpool affiliate spoke about his company’s participation in the LoGE and its contributions—through new donated freezers and refrigerators–to making the CMR more energy-efficient. The CEO of Swiss Climate AG, with whom Embassy Bern partnered last year to conduct a Carbon Footprint study, followed with his appreciation for Embassy Bern’s ongoing efforts to green its operations.
Bern’s environmental improvements are not limited to its endeavors with the “Sweep,” however. The most ambitious undertaking so far has been our effort to connect the CMR to the city’s district-heating system by installing a pipeline connection to the adjacent chancery building, which already utilizes district heating. The pipeline connection has been completed, but final instrumentation will not be installed until next spring. District heating is exponentially greener than the 20-year-old oil-burning furnace currently used in the CMR. The marginal load added to the city’s massive garbage-fueled incinerator (source of the district heating) as a result of tying-in the CMR is negligible compared to the current emissions from the existing oil-burning furnace. (Note: In August, the Ambassador along with members of Bern’s management team toured the new state-of-the-art incinerator that the city of Bern is bringing on-line next year). Upon de-commissioning of the oil furnace next spring, the 10,000-liter oil tank buried under the CMR driveway will be cleaned and re-used for rainwater collection, which in turn will be used for irrigation. The ditch dug to connect the CMR to district heating served as the backdrop for the Ambassador’s remarks, symbolizing that Embassy Bern, the State Department, and the USG are serious when it comes to environmental action.
The subsequent tour of the CMR highlighted the new products installed as a result of the “Sweep” and exhibited how American companies’ products are at the cutting edge of energy efficiency technology. New LED lights have replaced incandescent and fluorescent bulbs; super-efficient appliances have replaced older models; “smart” radiator controls have been installed; UV and IR-ray blocking film has been placed on windows. These are all relatively inexpensive changes that reduce energy consumption (and energy bills) and make the 100-year old CMR a model of energy efficiency.
The audience was impressed with the array of energy-saving changes, both large and small, and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to tour the Residence to see the improvements in place. Articles describing the event and the LoGE environmental commitment appeared the next day in Der Bund and the BernerZeitung, both respected daily papers with broad readership in Switzerland. Embassy Bern will continue to work with Swiss Climate to evaluate how much emissions have been reduced from 2009 baseline levels–with hopes of obtaining further recognition in the form of a Silver or Gold award. Additionally, early next spring the Embassy plans to conclude an agreement with city officials to cede the unused portion of the CMR lot to city management for use as a nature preserve.
- 3M: Window film upgrades will provide security and block solar heat gain while allowing daylight to illuminate the residences’ interiors.
- Belkin: Energy-efficient ‘smart’ power strips and chargers designed to reduce energy usage by turning off accessories, such as televisions, that otherwise consume electricity while in standby mode.
- Danfoss: Radiator valves with time-controlled thermostats connected to a remote-control system will reduce heat waste in non-occupied rooms throughout the house.
- Niagara Conservation: Water conservation products include flow aerators to decrease water usage. And in Bern, window and door weather-stripping materials and caulk will reduce air leaks as well.
- Philips: Replacement of inefficient incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will save at least 75% of the energy used while maintaining attractive light in the historical residences.
- Whirlpool: Appliances such as microwaves, ovens and other household necessities will be replaced with energy-efficient models. Appliances make up about 10-20% of home energy bills.
Related press and media coverage
- Ambassador Donald S. Beyer Hosts a “Green Embassy” Press Conference and Lunch (Dec 6, 2011) (U.S. Embassy Bern) (12/6/2011)
- Invitation to Press Conference on 6 December 2011: Technical and Structural Innovations Make U.S. Embassy in Bern Energy-Efficient and Environmentally-Friendly (U.S. Embassy Bern) (in German) (“Einladung zur Pressekonferenz am 6. Dezember 2011: Technische und strukturelle Neuerungen machen die US Botschaft in Bern energieeffizienter und umweltfreundlicher”) (11/30/2011)
- Invitation to Press Conference at the U.S. Embassy (U.S. Embassy Bern) (in German) (“Einladung zur Pressekonferenz der US Botschaft”) (11/10/2011)
Visit the U.S. Embassy Bern website for more information.