1234 Market Street: A Model of Energy Efficiency (Goal 3)

March 18, 2011

Perhaps the best example of SEPTA's proactive approach to strategic energy management is found at its headquarters at 1234 Market Street in Center City. Over the past two decades, SEPTA has made a series of investments in the building that have transformed an energy-hogging, 1970s-vintage commercial office building into a shining example of 21st century energy efficient design. In December, these efforts were recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which awarded SEPTA its prestigious ENERGY STAR label for 2010, a year in which 1234 Market Street ranked in the top 10 percent for building energy performance nationwide.

Improving building energy performance has saved SEPTA hundreds of thousands of dollars. Between 2008 and 2009, SEPTA reduced its energy consumption at the building by more than 2 million kilowatt hours, a single-year efficiency gain of 9.7 percent translated into dollar savings totaling $104,143.

How did SEPTA so quickly transform an outdated energy hog into a national model of energy efficiency? Many years of strategic investments coupled with a small yet enormously impactful policy change.

Building Retrofits & Policy Changes

First, the strategic investments. The 1972-vintage building purchased by SEPTA in 1992 has represented an ongoing energy challenge for facility managers confronting the daily realities of a building constructed in an era of cheap energy prices and little regard for energy efficient design. SEPTA initiated an aggressive schedule of energy efficient retrofits almost immediately upon purchase of the building.

Some were fundamental: three energy efficient chillers, electronic controls, and a wholesale switch-out of T12 40W to T8 26W ballast lights brought the building up to the day's energy efficiency standards. Additional investments were made in covering single-paned windows with window film on the building's southern exposure, where solar gain challenges interior climate control. SEPTA also invested in a variable air volume system to complement a constant velocity system and improve the efficiency of climate control on the building's outer edges.

Modifications continued upon SEPTA's occupancy in 1994. In 1998, SEPTA replaced its old control, energy-hogging elevators with new "intelligent control," solid-state motors that improved service quality and saved over $100,000 per year in energy costs. In 2002, SEPTA instituted a new policy to run its energy-intensive escalators only on-demand. During this time, SEPTA also embarked on a 10-year program to replace all of the building's bathrooms with new energy and water-efficient fixtures. Renovations were completed in 2008.

In 2005, SEPTA upgraded the original window films with the latest technology, which allows 20 percent less heat into the building from its southern exposure. That year, SEPTA also made two significant investments to the energy efficiency of the building's infrastructure: first, a new steam generator was purchased to provide the building with electric co-generation capacity when steam demand is high in the cold winter months; and second, white rubberized material was installed to cover the building's 31,360 square feet of black tar roof with a insulating reflective material.

More recently, SEPTA has begun to retrofit open and temporarily occupied office areas - conference rooms, elevator lobbies, storage closets, and bathrooms - with lighting occupancy sensors and plans to extend the program to all public and private office areas in the coming years. SEPTA has also embarked in a pilot program to change out the now-aging T8 26W ballast lights with emerging LED technology.

But by many accounts, the most significant improvement in 1234 Market Street's energy performance was a policy change that came at no cost at all. In 2009, the building switched from nighttime to daytime cleaning, allowing building managers to shut down non-staffed floors in the building at 6 pm, decreasing the running time of all non-essential building functions and appliances by 24 percent, and is the primary reason behind the dramatic reduction of energy use at the building in the subsequent year.

Moving forward, maintaining 1234 Market Street's ENERGY STAR rating will require continued review of operating efficiencies. A number of inescapable energy challenges - namely, the operation of four 24-hour data centers and an inefficient two-pipe HVAC system - demand a proactive approach to energy innovation. Among conceptual plans are investments in solar and wind power technology to satisfy building demand with on-site renewable energy. SEPTA also plans to closely monitor its LED pilot project to evaluate the possibility of more widespread implementation.

What's Next

SEPTA's Sustainability Program aims to replicate this success story by transforming its fleets and facilities into models of energy efficient design and operation. SEP-TAINABLE highlights a series of initiatives that will reduce energy intensity and generate significant and sustained cost savings across the organization.

Next Week: SEPTA's Plan to Improve Energy Intensity Performance