Feb 12 2024
Digital Workspace

At GSA’s Workplace Innovation Lab, Sustainability Starts with Power over Ethernet

Green technology is advancing the agency’s historic preservation mission.

Federal employees visiting the General Services Administration’s Workplace Innovation Lab (WIL) might notice photovoltaic panels attached to some of the windows as part of a sustainability initiative.

The green PV panels are made from recaptured ocean waste, printed with organic ink and convert absorbed solar rays into electric energy through semiconducting materials.

More interesting is how they keep the lights on in the wing where they’re installed.

“We have solar films on the windows at GSA,” says Scott Morin, client executive for federal at Cisco. “They are actually capturing and converting energy into Power over Ethernet and then powering the lights.”

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What Is Power over Ethernet?

PoE  refers to a wired Ethernet LAN where data cables, not conduit, carry the electrical current necessary to power devices. In the WIL’s case, industry partner Cisco’s PV panel-to-PoE setup powers the lights.

“That’s where the embodied carbon savings come from, and the ease of installation and execution as well,” says Charles Hardy, chief architect at GSA.Hardy estimates that the solar PoE generates one week’s worth of free electricity per month. The PoE wing of the WIL alone drives 76 percent of the lab’s energy savings.

Scott Morin
We reconfigured sustainable products to work better in a hybrid-work environment.”

Scott Morin Client Executive for Federal, Cisco

Sustainable Tech Furthers GSA’s Historic Preservation Mission

The savings don’t stop there. With the introduction of PoE, GSA was able to remove 4,000 pounds of steel conduit and 265 pounds of copper conduit from the building, which it keeps on display as a reminder of the sustainability benefits.

Another benefit of the PV panels is that they can be easily taped to windows or removed completely. In some cases, GSA has motorized the panels, so they raise and lower along with window blinds to allow more light inside.

All of this is music to the ears of the historic preservationists at GSA. The preservation of the more than 480 historic buildings that GSA owns — including its headquarters, where the WIL is located — is a major priority for the agency, and sustainable technology helps further that mission.

“Cisco is showcasing products that are helping people do their jobs,” Morin says. “Some of the technologies are around collaboration, security, networking and sustainability. We reconfigured sustainable products to work better in a hybrid-work environment.”

Courtesy of GSA

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