Foley represents the GPIC on Innovation Hubs Town Hall

March 14, 2012

The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) was recently part of a Department of Energy-sponsored event that outlined what each of the Innovation HUBs in the U.S. were doing to tackle energy efficiency.

Dr. Henry C. Foley of Pennsylvania State University participated in the U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hubs Town Hall, in which Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu hosted the leaders from each effort.

Foley participated as the Executive Director of the GPIC Hub, and noted that the biggest issue facing the country in terms of energy efficient buildings was that these structures account for 40 percent of the nation's total energy consumption.

He outlined how, with the right retrofitting and use of more efficient technologies, the number could be reduced to as low as 20 percent. Foley noted that these savings, and the money that would go back to businesses and the government, could be put back into the economy in other ways.

Foley spoke to how the innovation HUB in Philadelphia is the enabler of that goal, as the GPIC effort is not just about technology, it is about information and people as well. The individuals who have an impact on the building industry include those who own the structures, construct them, and legislate around local governments and Washington for increased funding.

All of the problems, from every sector that is tied to the building industry, need to be addressed in order for a true change to occur that will benefit each sector and the commercial building market as a whole.

"We are really about solutions," said Foley, as he noted that the goal of the GPIC was to provide the industry with effective ways to reduce their energy costs and consumptions without hurting their bottom line.

Foley then outlined the five big objectives for the HUB.

"Modeling and simulation is at the top of the list," said Foley. He said the necessary tools, that are used in almost every other engineering-based discipline, are not available, and thus not utilized by people who are building and renovating.

Economics play a big part in this, but a hindrance occurs because companies are unwilling to put capital at risk. Foley noted that part of the GPIC's task was to convince owners and tenants that the payback will come and the ROI will be demonstrated in several years.

Deployment is the third part of the challenge, as Foley noted his team is working in and around Philadelphia to show how successful the retrofitting can be for companies. Their effort is designed around working to help people identify what buildings should be renovated and the extent of this change.

The last two objectives regard the education of people and building owners, according to Foley. By creating an environment in which the building owners will want to use retrofitting or the most recent upgradable technology, and where students want to focus on engineering, the ideas of the GPIC will become part of the culture.

This will help to create a measure of sustainability in the sector and will create jobs, not just in Philadelphia, but around the country.