Our Top 3 SEPTAINABLE Takeaways

By Jay Dennis

Posted September 6, 2019

On Tuesday, August 20th, SEPTA welcomed Philadelphia 2030 District partners to their headquarters, convening owners, managers and developers of the city’s largest properties to discuss recent initiatives in line with the District’s efforts to achieve deep reductions in energy use, water use and transportation.

SEPTA’s director of innovation, Erik Johanson, led the conversation on systemic sustainability measures that the transportation authority is undertaking, highlighting their commitment to both the environment and the communities that they serve. Corporate facilities manager Peter Hansen and sustainability project manager Iyunade Oduneye further detailed the whole-building retrofit taking place at 1234 Market Street.

1) Sustainability is core to SEPTA’s strategic business plan

SEPTA’s business plan is driven by the principles defined in their triple baseline of benefits:

  • Creating healthy communities and workforces to promote social well-being
  • Sustaining the natural environment to provide sufficient resources in the near and long term
  • Ensuring financial vitality to support economic productivity

By leveraging existing infrastructural assets and striving for budget neutrality, SEPTA is able to positively impact all three metrics of social, environment and economic prosperity. These two tenets of operation can clearly be seen in their plans to retrofit several of their current properties for improved performance.


2) SEPTA leads by example to meet the goals of the 2030 District

SEPTA is demonstrating the efficacy of the ESCO financing model (whereby retrofits generate energy savings to pay for themselves over time) in their own headquarters at 1234 Market Street. Constellation was brought in to provide consultation and modeling for an approach that focuses on energy efficiency to target the most cost-effective renovation points. The project’s energy conservation measures include:

  • Upgrading lighting by switching to LED bulbs and improving controls with remote tablets and wall dimmers
  • Improving the building envelope by weather stripping the concourse and completing building-wide caulking
  • Installing motorized shades on the south side of the building to counteract uneven temperature profile from heightened sun exposure
  • Generating steam on-site from natural gas boilers to maximize the efficiency of the building’s existing infrastructure 
  • Submetering electricity and cooling towers for more granular information on usage throughout the building
  • Refurbishing air handling system and cooling towers

SEPTA has already used the ESCO model for renovations to major districts and backshops, with plans to expand this model to future projects including 69th Street Station, Suburban Station, Jefferson Station and Powelton Yard. 1234 Market Street’s whole-building retrofit is projected to reduce water usage by 19%, energy usage by 33.1% and heating load costs by 85.4%, for annual savings of just over $781,000.

In conjunction with their focus on energy efficiency, SEPTA are also taking steps to decarbonize the energy supply for their buildings and transit operations. The company has secured a 20-year fixed-rate power purchase agreement for two new solar energy fields totaling 35 MW of generating capacity -- the equivalent of one third of Center City’s power usage! 

Upon completion in 2021, this project and other rooftop solar installations will account for approximately 20% of SEPTA’s total electricity. The transportation authority is estimated to save almost $8 million in energy costs over the lifetime of the contract. The power purchase agreement aligns with the rollout of an electric bus fleet and on-going efforts in energy storage technology to demonstrate SEPTA’s commitment to a clean energy future.


3) SEPTA helps our other property partners meet their goals too!

Transit is inherently sustainable! Commuters traveling to and from the Philadelphia 2030 District via mass transit options like subways, trolleys and regional rail service have a lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint as compared to those traveling by single-occupancy vehicle. 

What’s more, due to Philadelphia’s density and SEPTA’s well-managed service, the city’s share of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation is 17% as compared to the national average of 28%.

For property managers interested in further reducing GHG emissions from transportation can encourage their employer tenants to enroll in transit programs like RideECO. Administered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, RideECO is the region's commuter benefit program that employers can offer to their employees in order to help pay for mass transit commuting. It saves employers and commuters money by taking advantage of federal legislation that allows tax-free dollars to pay for fares. This creates an economically beneficial alternative to commuting by car, especially for properties with limited parking space.

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