Around 3,000 commercial building owners and contractors are weighing a new request for proposals on energy retrofits from an institution that’s a national leader in reducing energy consumption by existing buildings.
The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, a public-private organization whose largest funder is the U.S. Department of Energy, sent out the RFPs on October 12 as the latest step toward fulfilling its ambitious goal of reducing energy use by commercial buildings in the Philadelphia region by 20 percent by 2020.
Selected projects, which could also be submitted by architects, tenants or building managers, will be eligible for a subsidy of up to $150,000 which will permit the incorporation of an Advanced Energy Retrofit, a measure or series of upgrades to save energy in line with the financial constraints of the building owner, and designed for that building’s unique energy-usage profile.
The Hub has been spreading the gospel of energy efficiency to the commercial real estate sector since early 2011, and sees the RFP as an important test of its mission to drive the adoption of energy-saving improvements in offices, factories, stores, and other commercial buildings which together consume 18 percent of energy nationally.
“We are trying to change the culture,” Deputy Director Laurie Actman told Breaking Energy. “We’re putting more stories out there about the benefits of retrofit.”
The Hub’s 27 members include research universities such as Penn State; industrial companies such as IBM, and economic development groups including the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center.
Making Energy Efficiency Mainstream
The organization sees itself as a facilitator of changing patterns of energy use whose objectives include offering the construction industry a model for the design, construction and operation of energy-efficient buildings; demonstrating the market viability of energy-saving technologies, and promoting policies that speed their market adoption.
It’s located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a repurposed military base that still houses some Naval research functions but is dominated by government, commercial and industrial users. They include the Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center – another federally funded group promoting combined heat and power, district energy and waste-heat recovery; and the GridSTAR Smart Grid Training Center, a grid-modernization project run by Penn State University.
The Hub’s commercial partners include Liberty Property Trust, a Malvern, Pa.-based commercial real estate owner, which is conducting energy retrofits in 10 buildings at a cost of $4.2 million. In the two buildings where work such as upgraded HVAC controls and lighting retrofits are complete, energy savings are between 8 and 16 percent, according to Marla Thalheimer, the company’s director of sustainability. When the project is complete, energy savings are expected to pay back the investment in seven years, she said.
Although Liberty’s project was already underway before it started working with the Hub, its work has benefited from the Hub’s expert data analysis and experience of how tenants react to energy retrofit work, Thalheimer said.
This is the first in a two-part series about the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub initiative.