Making DC's Shelters More Sustainable

This 100-bed men's shelter in Eckington got a big makeover with the help of the DCSEU. Thanks to ongoing collaboration with DGS and DHS, shelters across the District will soon reap the benefits of energy efficiency.

“DHS is overwhelmingly grateful for our partnership with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility. Public-private partnerships such as this one help us to achieve our mission of providing a warm, safe, and inviting place for all District residents during times of crisis.”
- Laura Zeilinger, DHS Director

The DCSEU often works with District government agencies to transform buildings and institutions that offer services for DC residents. In cooperation with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of General Services (DGS) the DCSEU looks forward to renovating and upgrading many of the District-run shelters in the coming years. The first project in this collaborative effort was completed in September 2017 with energy efficiency updates at the Emery Shelter.

Now the hallways in the men’s shelter are lit brightly with LEDs; new energy-efficient air conditioners blow cool air; a new boiler will provide reliable and adequate heat in the winter; and one of two hot water heaters has been replaced. Reducing operating costs also enables District agencies to direct the money they have saved from these upgrades toward other services that benefit vulnerable residents—and toward other building upgrades. The combined annual electricity and gas savings will reduce operating costs by more than $30,000 per year. The upgrades will also prevent the emission of 180 metric tons of CO2 annually.

“DGS is committed to operating its buildings as efficiently and effectively as possible. This project supports a healthier indoor environment while reducing energy costs for the city. We are already working with the agencies and organizations involved in this partnership to replicate this model across other shelters and buildings in order to elevate the quality of life for DC residents,” said the Director of DGS, Greer Johnson Gillis.

The 100-bed shelter’s primary objective is assisting men in obtaining and sustaining employment, and moving into permanent housing. The Emery House provides a stable temporary residential environment along with supportive services, including substance abuse counseling, job coaching, resume writing, and employment assistance. Residents also have access to a computer lab and a kitchen to prepare meals.

The project exemplifies how different government agencies and programs collaborate to maximize the resources available to improve the energy performance of building stock owned and managed by the District. Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs) installed the lighting and equipment. Robert Saunders, a building operator at DGS responsible for the Emery Shelter, completed Building Operator Certification training offered by the DCSEU as part of its Workforce Development program. “The certificate really was a great guidance and helped me understand efficient HVAC operation and optimizing energy use in my 24-hour-buildings. The Emery Shelter was a great initial project, especially because it is one of our oldest buildings,” Saunders said about his experience.

In total, DHS and DGS jointly operate 24 shelters. Currently, energy efficiency projects in partnership with the DCSEU are also under way at the New York Avenue Shelter and the Blair House. DGS, DHS, and the DCSEU are looking forward to working together throughout the coming four years, and are intensifying their joint effort to improve other shelters in the District.

Blog Categories:

affordable housing, lighting

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Jahmai Sharp
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