Lab Helps Post Office Bask in New Light

January 29, 1999

By Allan Chen,

Representatives from the U.S. Postal Service, Berkeley Lab, and the Department of Energy were among the dozens of guests gathered at the Rodeo Post Office to celebrate the installation of a new energy-efficient lighting system developed by researchers from the Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD).

The prototype integrated task lighting system, designed for Postal Service use by a group led by EETD's Michael Siminovitch, will reduce lighting energy costs by at least 30 percent while providing a more pleasant work environment.

With seed money from the DOE's Federal Energy Management Program and funding from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the Siminovitch team worked closely with Postal Service engineers to develop a system that would help reduce glare and improve comfort for postal employees.

"The project was a unique exercise in bringing together the two goals of improving energy efficiency and lighting quality," Siminovitch said. "To do this, we've integrated a high-efficiency task lighting system with a low-level ambient lighting system and coupled these to an energy control system."

An occupancy sensor turns off the task lighting directly above the sorting station when the letter carrier leaves.

With the completion of the prototype system, the USPS is planning installation and testing of the system in a larger mail distribution facility. Eventually, the Postal Service expects to install the new lighting technology in sorting facilities throughout the United States. The design team is currently gathering information on the energy savings and employee reaction to the new system. Early results indicate a very favorable response from the carriers.

Said Rodeo Postmaster Joe McDonald, "We need to take care of our customers and employees if we are to compete in the next millennium."

Berkeley Lab Director Shank described some of the energy-efficient technologies developed at Berkeley Lab over the years and told Postal Service employees, "I hope this technology will help make your work life better. We look forward to continuing working with the Postal Service."

Dean McCauley from DOE's Federal Energy Management Program told the group that "the process we've developed here, the holistic way of looking at the energy use buildings and making buildings work better for us is transferable to facilities everywhere. The work the Postal Service is doing here will take a big bite out of federal energy use and greenhouse gas production."

In addition to Siminovitch, members of the Berkeley Lab team that developed the lighting system include Jeff Mitchell, Erik Page, Kevin Gauna, and Doug Avery.

Said Siminovitch, "There was a high level of cooperation from the beginning, from the national and regional offices of the Postal Service, the Postmaster, and the interagency cooperation between the Department of Energy, the Postal Service and Berkeley Lab." 

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