DOE study shows window retrofits help to cut energy use

February 28, 2012

A 12-story building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was outfitted with a revolutionary window retrofit system and selected to be part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) project for turning drafty old buildings into national models of energy efficiency, according to a release from the company that fabricated the glass for the windows.

The release noted that after only several months, the results showed that the installation helped the building lower its total energy use. Built in 1972, the structure at 400 Market Street is a 200,000-square-foot mid-rise that fit the profile for possible building retrofit work.

According to the release, the DOE provided the sophisticated energy modeling software used during the renovation, and the estimated benefits for the building were estimated to be a reduction in annual energy costs of $55,000. However, the first results since the completion of the project show that the structure has outperformed the initial projection.

"While our study has just started, preliminary observations are very encouraging," said Thomas Culp, manager of the DOE project. "In November and early December, the east-facing offices showed about a 27 percent reduction in heating and cooling energy use, and the north-facing offices showed more than a 50 percent reduction. I will be very interested in seeing the continued results through the full winter."

This is not the first work that the DOE has done concerning energy efficient buildings in Philadelphia, as the agency designated a specific innovation HUB in the city to help design and develop technology to help sustain growth in the sector.

The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) is an effort that is headquartered at the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard. This initiative relies on some of the brightest minds from the government, private sector, energy development industry and academia to produce and test energy efficient buildings and technology.

This type of collaborative effort has produced significant results in the past, as throwing the brightest minds from a variety of sectors helped to give the U.S. technological advances that proved beneficial to society, a model that is being employed by the GPIC.

According to an article in The New Yorker, this type of cohesive environment was fostered by the U.S. government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as part of an effort to develop RADAR during World War II. The collaborative effort and grouping of people together in one building, a "space [that] forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle," led to the development of the technology.

The article noted that the lab "pushed research in this field ahead by at least 25 normal peacetime years," according to a statement by the Department of Defense.