The HUB that will cut the energy use of commercial buildings

February 8, 2012

Steven Chu, the Nobel-Prize winning U.S. Secretary of Energy, wrote in his autobiography that the freedom to research and work on a multitude of projects while he was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, helped spur innovation. He took this open environment model and applied it to some of the energy problems in America.

"The joy and excitement of doing science permeated the halls. The cramped labs and office cubicles forced us to interact with each other and follow each others' progress. The animated discussions were common during and after seminars and at lunch and continued on the tennis courts and at parties," Chu wrote in his autobiography. He noted that this type of collaborative atmosphere was something he wanted to recreate.

According to Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E), Chu used his past experience as part of a campaign that involved shaping energy research and development in the U.S. This helped to foster an idea that a small team of scientists, representing diverse disciplines, can form a "hub" to develop innovative ways to reduce energy use in the country's commercial buildings.

The news source reported that this innovation HUB, the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), is the effort that will work to take on the challenge of making commercial buildings more efficient.

One of the organization's first goals is to make over a decaying structure at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Known as Building 661, this facility will receive work in order to prove that energy retrofits can deliver results, according to the news source.

E&E reported that a design for the building will be decided on in the next six months, and then construction will begin. Over the next year and a half, Building 661 will be gutted and renovated.

A member of the GPIC's cross-disciplinary team, Mark Alan Hughes, noted that the project was about more than just reducing the carbon footprint of buildings in the U.S., as there is a significant financial aspect to the effort.

"It was never about carbon reduction; it's about poverty reduction," he told the news source. "It's not about polar bears; it's about prosperity."

The GPIC recently selected a company to manage the construction of its headquarters – Building 661- at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, as Hill International was chosen to provide project management services during the building and retrofitting phases, according to a company release.