Department of Energy-backed innovation HUB to spur energy efficient building industry

February 23, 2012

A partially federally-funded consortium at Philadelphia's Navy Yard is conducting research and developing building systems in an effort to reduce the energy consumption of commercial buildings in the Greater Philadelphia region, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The news source reported that the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) is a consortium of 23 partner institutions that is led by the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). The effort includes universities, federal laboratories and regional economic development agencies.

The GPIC was awarded $130 million in federal funding, including $122 million from the U.S. Department of Energy when the site was designated an innovation HUB. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has committed $30 million of new capital funding to the effort, and some of this money went to the retrofit of a Navy Yard building that will serve as the headquarters for the GPIC, according to the Philadelphia Fed.

"For too long, the building industry has been fragmented, resulting in inefficient buildings that waste money and energy," Paul Hallacher, an official from PSU and the GPIC's co-director for management and administration, said in a statement. "The goal of GPIC is to identify and deploy technology, policy, financial, and workforce solutions that can apply to the general marketplace and help stimulate the regional economy."

According to the news source, the GPIC is hoping to reduce the energy consumption of commercial buildings in Philadelphia, and in accomplishing this goal, will look to increase jobs and stimulate private investment in the sector.

The GPIC is working in six teams to accomplish this goal, as the effort is broken up into building design, integrated technologies, policies, markets and behavior, education and workforce, deployment and commercialization and collaborative demonstration.

The Philadelphia Fed reported that the GPIC commissioned a study to show the potential positive effects of revamping the commercial building industry in Philadelphia.

The Econsult report showed that nearly half of the commercial buildings in the Greater Philadelphia region are good candidates for energy efficiency retrofits and this move would help to spur $618 million in local spending and support 23,000 jobs in the area.

The push for more energy efficient commercial buildings is also supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as they have touted the use of green structures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to an agency release.

"Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the most effective ways for American businesses, government and other organizations to save money and reduce the pollution going into the air we breathe," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "With help from EPA’s Energy Star program, these leaders are benefitting their bottom lines while protecting our health and the environment."