Walking into Franklin Center, I immediately stood a little straighter. The high ceilings and skylight direct my attention upward while the marbled and gold-leaf trimmed lobby extending through the entire city block provided a sense of vastness and grandeur.
In fact, newer buildings are often great candidates for energy efficiency retrofits, and Franklin Center is proving that, while providing leadership among its peers by participating in Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative. As I mentioned in a previous post, this summer NRDC’s Midwest Program joined Mayor Emanuel in announcing the initiative, aimed at significantly reducing the energy needs of Chicago’s commercial buildings. Fourteen major commercial buildings, with a combined 14 million square feet of space, stepped up and committed to cutting their energy needs by 20% over the next five years through energy efficiency improvements.
Three things jumped out at me regarding how Franklin Center is working to achieve its 20% reduction commitment. First, Tishman Speyer is successfully engaging the buildings tenants, which is one of the big challenges faced by office buildings. As described more below, the company had quite a bit of initial success motivating tenants to take advantage of incentives to retrofit their lighting, and is continuing to reach out to more tenants with more opportunities. Second, part of Franklin Center’s strategy is to address the growing energy use of data centers, which are quickly becoming the energy hogs of office buildings everywhere. And finally, the company has made energy efficiency a core value of its building operators, who are increasingly expected to show continuous improvement in building energy use.
Franklin Center also is utilizing programs offered by ComEd, our local utility, to achieve its goals, including ComEd’s commercial real estate bonus program. If Franklin Center reduces its energy use by 1,000,000 kWh (or the equivalent of taking 135 of cars off the road), it will receive a $60,000 bonus. These programs save ratepayers money by offsetting the need to generate, transmit and distribute more electricty from expensive power plants. NRDC has long advocated for utility energy efficiency policies in Illinois and throughout the country, so it was gratifying to see first-hand how our state policy work can help to drive the success of urban sustainability initiatives like the Commercial Buildings Initiative.
While continuing to promote the lighting retrofits, Tishman Speyer is beginning phase two of the tenant engagement strategy – data centers. Ryan hopes to use the same model as the lighting program – provide tenants with an analysis of their data centers’ energy use and with proposals to make them more energy efficient. If you have any doubt about the enormous impact on energy use caused by inefficient data centers, I encourage you to check out my colleague’s, Pierre Delforge’s, blog post and white paper about data centers and energy efficiency to learn more. Pierre’s research shows that U.S. business could save $2 billion every year by using data center energy more efficiently.
A critical aspect of the work at Franklin Center is that the building owners are prioritizing energy management as a long term cost reduction strategy, with the expectation that building engineers will be able to continuously find cost-effective ways to reduce energy consumption and save money. Continuous improvement through consistent energy management is partly a function of the building owner’s commitment to energy efficiency, but it is greatly facilitated by emerging technology that makes it possible to monitor energy use with real-time data. With energy use monitoring software, malfunctioning energy system controls can be identified and addressed immediately. Tishman Speyer is utilizing real-time energy meters at all of its U.S. properties.
As part of Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Building Initiative, Franklin Center is not only doggedly pursuing its goal of reducing energy use by 20% over the next five years, it is also testing and demonstrating strategies that can help other buildings overcome persistent barriers to energy efficiency. Tishman Speyer is getting tenants engaged in the effort, is addressing the growing issue of excessive energy use in data centers, and is implementing a long-term energy management strategy that will seek and find cost-effective energy savings continuously over the building’s lifetime.
This post was co-written with NRDC’s MAP Energy Policy Fellow Kimi Narita.
Franklin Center photos courtesy of Tishman Speyer.
Source for photo of T12 and T8 lamps.