If the Philadelphia region undertakes efforts to improve energy efficiency in buildings, $618 million in local spending would be spurred and 23,500 jobs would be created. This according to Christine Knapp of the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub in the Navy Yard, who believes the strategies and programs they are currently conducting could have a transformative effect on Greater Philadelphia's economy.
The EEB Hub
was established in Philadelphia by the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE) with a $129 million grant as an Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster in early 2011 with a mission of improving energy efficiency in buildings and promoting regional economic growth. According to Knapp, the creation of the government-led Hub was necessary because the building systems market simply has not been improving in efficiency standards on its own. And considering the building sector accounts for 40% of total U.S. prime energy expended and 70% of all U.S. electric energy used, improving building efficiency standards is seen as a must by the DOE.
But landing the Hub was not an easy task and took numerous stakeholders and a lot of coordination to put together the winning proposal. “A consortium of academic institutions, industry partners and economic development groups, led by Penn State, submitted a proposal to house the Hub at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, which was ultimately the winning proposal,” explains Knapp. She also believes locating the Hub at the Navy Yard
was a key factor to the proposal’s success, since the land is seen as one of the nation’s largest and most dynamic retrofit and redevelopment opportunities.
The Hub is made up of research teams who are a rather ambitious bunch. According to Knapp, their main, and seemingly lofty goal is to reduce energy use in the Greater Philadelphia commercial building sector by 20 percent by 2020, an undertaking that will create thousands of jobs for Philly.
The Hub is already leading by example with two demonstration projects. Building 101
in the Navy Yard serves as a testing site for energy research, where data is collected and assessments are made of the impact of building energy technologies and systems on energy use. Then there’s the advanced energy retrofit living laboratory in Building 661
of the Navy Yard. Once renovated, the building will host EEB’s headquarters and serve as an example for future advanced energy retrofit projects in the region.
There is already evidence that EEB’s efforts are already yielding real jobs. Relationships made between EEB and a local manufacturing business, Rhoads Industries
, and their desire to retrofit the company’s Navy Yard buildings caught the attention of US Green Energy
(USGE), a Virginia-based startup company that is manufacturing new types of solar roofs.
Through a series of meetings about Rhoads' roof needs, USGE eventually agreed to open manufacturing space of their own in the Navy Yard, bringing an estimated 20 new jobs to the region. USGE has since indicated that they have contracted for further technical work on their product and are actively pursuing research funding for more work.
With benchmarked results in tow, EEB plans an all-out assault on the local building industry to promote what they are doing to get the word out about building efficiency. According to Knapp, this has started with identifying the necessary parties involved to move the conversation forward. “The EEB Hub is engaging key stakeholders- from building owners, to retrofit suppliers to workforce trainers and policy makers- in the retrofit decision process to serve as an informational, motivational, and practical resource for the various constituencies that will help carry our vision forward.”
Already well underway, expect a variety of workshops, seminars, presentations, and webinars to continue for the next few years. From these efforts, the EEB Hub can successfully develop market-ready technologies, information, and people needed in the marketplace to drive energy retrofits forward, create demand, and deliver on energy savings. And if the success behind the Rhoads-USGE collaboration is any indication, expect EEB's efforts to more than deliver on job creation over the next 10-20 years.
: Christine Knapp, EEB Hub
; Greg Meckstroth