Sustainability in action:
Creative Thinking Reduces Energy Use — and Costs
Through our InnovatioNS program, Norfolk Southern encourages employees to look for ways to make their work safer, more efficient, and more cost effective. Brian Thomas’ ingenuity has saved the company money and contributed to its sustainability efforts.
To save money and do his part to preserve the environment, Brian Thomas looks for ways to conserve energy at home. It was only natural that Thomas, Aircraft Maintenance manager at Norfolk Southern’s corporate hangar in Norfolk, would take that concept to work, where managing energy use can be a challenge. “The hangar is not manned 24/7,” he explained. “We’re coming and going at all hours.”
To avoid energy waste when no one is using the facility, Thomas implemented a system in which the last employee out of the building each day powers down everything that doesn’t have to be running. He also led an effort to have an automatic off-on switch designed and installed to turn the hangar’s heaters off when the doors are opened.
“It used to take a lot of effort to turn the heaters off when the doors opened, but not turning them off was a waste because the doors often stood open for up to an hour,” Thomas said. “Now we’ve got an automatic switch that doesn’t turn the heating system back on until the doors are completely closed.”
A large ceiling fan installed in the hangar pushes heat down to the floor in winter, and aircraft maintenance crews keep the heat set no higher than 60 degrees. After installing upgraded dual gas and electric heaters in office spaces and replacing the lighting with efficient compact fluorescent lights, the hangar has experienced significant energy savings.
“We’ve seen a 60 percent reduction in energy consumption,” Thomas said. The monthly electric bill was slashed by about two-thirds.
“NS has allowed enough money in the budget to make these energy improvements,” Thomas said, “and I always try to make people aware. Even when we’re here, if the aircraft is out flying and we’re not working in the hangar, we cut the lights way back.”