Sustainable Building Consortium Enters Second Year With Ambitious Green Design Agenda

Photo courtesy of EEBHUB

Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) has begun its second year of operation with an agenda of promoting and supporting green design in the Greater Philadelphia area. The project is a consortium of 22 partner institutions led by Penn State University with the goal of improving energy efficiency and operability, reducing carbon emissions of new and existing commercial buildings, and stimulating regional economic growth.

In order to reduce energy use of commercial buildings by 20 percent by the year 2020, EEB Hub has defined several objectives, including the creation of a modeling platform to integrate design, construction, commissioning and operation, and advocating for policies that would facilitate the adoption of energy efficient retrofits in the region. Education about proven energy saving methods and support for businesses that offer relevant solutions are also at the top of the agenda.

The highlights of the first year include more than 20 educational workshops, partnerships with organizations such as the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, reports on the size of the regional commercial retrofit market and the potential economic benefits of retrofit projects, as well as $1.3 million awarded to seven energy efficient building projects through the Opportunity Research Fund.

Residents, Economy Stand To Benefit, But The Right Approach Is Key

One of these reports, prepared by Econsult Corporation, found that almost half of all commercial properties in the Greater Philadelphia area can benefit from energy-efficiency retrofits.

Photo courtesy of EEB HUB.

Moreover, the organization estimated that these actions could contribute to more than $600 million in additional local spending and create more than 23,000 local jobs. The report also found that, currently, Philadelphia’s commercial buildings’ energy costs are nearly 30 percent higher than the national average.

Explaining the benefits of an integrated approach to reducing energy consumption of commercial buildings, Paul Hallacher, a Penn State official and EEB Hub co-director for management and administration, said that “for too long, the building industry has been fragmented, resulting in inefficient buildings that waste money and energy,” as quoted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Hallacher added that the aim of EEB Hub is to “identify and deploy technology, policy, financial, and workforce solutions that can apply to the general marketplace and help stimulate the regional economy.”

Green Design Agenda For 2012 Is Extensive

Among the new initiatives in which EEB Hub has participated so far this year is The Electricity Price Ticker Partnership. The ticker is a tool that tracks the real time wholesale electricity price for the PECO area. Its goal is to influence consumer behavior by raising public awareness of the connection between the wholesale price of electricity and people’s electricity bills in order to illustrate how energy use patterns affect the price.

This year’s goals for EEB Hub, which is headquartered in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, include demonstration projects that will test a number of energy efficient building systems and tools. The initiative also announced that in the coming year, Kyle Benne of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will be working at the EEB Hub Philadelphia headquarters, lending his expertise on OpenStudio, a cross-platform application interface designed to reduce the financial obstacles facing architectural and engineering firms that want to enter the market for advanced energy retrofit. The collaboration between EEB Hub and NREL is expected to result in improving the methods of accurate whole building energy models.

Multiple Agencies Promote Energy Efficiency

Most of EEB Hub $130 million budget comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, but this is not the only federal agency that is actively promoting improved energy performance of American buildings. For example, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) runs its Energy Star Leaders, which recognizes organizations that track and submit energy performance data for all buildings and fuel sources. In turn, the agency provides them with energy management advice, which includes ongoing performance measurement and whole-building improvement.

“With help from EPA’s Energy Star program, these [companies] are benefitting their bottom lines while protecting our health and the environment,” said Lisa P. Jackson, EPA Administrator. She added that energy efficient buildings are one of the best ways for businesses, governments and other entities to save money and reduce pollution.