Philadelphia joins initiative to reduce commercial building energy use by 50%

Philadelphia joins initiative to reduce commercial building energy use by 50%

In a policy framework for advancing green building in Philadelphia published in January, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) announced that it’s leading the formation of Philadelphia 2030 District.

The effort is a private sector-led initiative to reduce energy use, water consumption and transportation-related emissions from the building sector 50 percent by 2030 at a district scale, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

By doing so, Philadelphia will be joining Los Angeles, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Austin, San Francisco and 10 other cities participating in 2030 District, a project that already covers almost 300 million square feet of new and existing commercial building space.

“This is a strategy to mitigate climate change, ultimately,” Katie Bartolotta, DVGBC’s policy and program manager, said.

Buildings are the single-greatest source of carbon pollution in Philadelphia, according to the City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability, and are responsible for 60 percent of citywide carbon emissions.

“Right now, buildings are contributing to the problem, but strategies for reducing energy use in buildings is part of the solution,” Bartolotta said. “The city has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. If you want to make strides in reaching that goal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector is a really good target area to focus a lot of resources on.”

According to DVGBC, Philadelphia 2030 District will be launched in October, and the goal is to start with a district representing 10 million square-feet, of which 7.5 million already is committed. The initiative would have owners and managers from buildings larger than 50,000 square feet (already participating in the city’s benchmarking program) sign on to meet the goals on an individual level, but progress would be measured on a district level.

Based on the experience of other cities, this creates an exchange of knowledge of what conservation strategies are most effective.

“Building this community in Philadelphia will really bring benefit,” Bartolotta said. “There’s information that folks have, the benchmark, but there’s still a need to go beyond that point of recognition and have them learn strategies to reduce their energy use.”

The DVGBC points at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House as an example. That project received an honorable mention in the 2014 Energy Reduction Race, a voluntary citywide challenge to reduce energy consumption by 5 percent over the course of one year, for surpassing the target set by the Office of Sustainability.

Barry W. Owen, director of facilities for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House said that by replacing incandescent lights the building’s electricity use dropped by about 10 percent, and reprogramming thermostats and adjusting the boiler to maximize its cycle reduced natural gas consumption by roughly the same amount. Installing diffusers in all their faucets cut water use, too.

Owen calculates the investment in an instrument to regulate the boiler is going to pay back in two years and the light replacement in two or three, but after that’s paid he calculates that Ronald McDonald House will be saving between $3,000 to $5,000 a year.

The real state company Brandywine Realty Trust also participated in the Energy Reduction Race and, according to a statement sent by the company, its Two Logan Square building, reduced its energy usage by 15.4 percent in one year saving “hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual energy costs.”

LED lighting on the roof and in mechanical spaces, shorter HVAC operating times, energy-efficient lighting upgrades by a major tenant, and participation in voluntary energy load reduction during peak demand times all helped achieve the significant energy reductions, Brandywine’s statement said.

The starting point for the 2030 challenge for every district is the national average/median energy consumption of commercial buildings as reported by the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).

With a baseline that’s 13 years in the past, the goals are attainable, Bartolotta said. Building owners are already thinking about reducing energy consumption, and it just requires minor upgrades such as lighting replacement and implementing operation strategies such as lease agreements to engage tenants on their energy use.

The DVGBC is working on which water and transportation emissions metrics to use as the challenge’s baseline.

Topics: Associations / Organizations, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Great Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design

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