Building energy efficiency in Philadelphia: Study shows rise in investment can improve housing stock

February 14, 2012

A new report from the city of Philadelphia's Mayor's Office of Sustainability and the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia outlined several ways that the region can benefit from and spur additional investments in local building energy efficiency.

According to the report, an increase in the capital investment into the energy efficient buildings sector would help to create green jobs and other potential benefits including energy savings, environmental, national security and financial advantages.

These benefits for the Greater Philadelphia region have been outlined by an innovation HUB that was designated by the Department of Energy.

The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) is headquartered at the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the effort relies on some of the brightest minds from the private, public, energy and financial sectors to design and develop energy efficient buildings and technology.

Efforts for more energy efficient buildings are focused on limiting the total energy consumption that is attributed to commercial structures in the U.S., which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, account for 36 percent of the total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption in the country.

"Affordable, proven technologies exist for dramatically increasing the efficiency of existing buildings, yet building owners are investing relatively little in these technologies given the scale of the opportunities for improvement," the report from the Mayor's Office of Sustainability noted.  "Efforts to overcome this market inertia have been in place for decades, previously in the form of programs targeted at low income households and more recently, programs targeted at all income brackets as well as mandates placed on the electricity utilities in Pennsylvania."

The report noted the importance of the GPIC, as this initiative is looking to transform the building retrofit industry from serial fragmentation to integrated systems methods, along with improving design tools, building systems, public policies, market incentives and workforce skills that are needed to achieve a 50 percent reduction of energy use in buildings.

According to the report, the size, scope and prominence of the GPIC allowed the Office of Sustainability to focus solely on the residential market. Key findings from the research include how the market needs to be shaped more by private investment, reliable sources within the industry and motivation that is provided by a wider knowledge of energy efficient benefits.