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Philadelphia Navy Yard Looks To Energy Sector to Revive Itself

Zack Seward / WHYY

An empty pool in the Navy's former recreation center. The rec center will serve as the home of the new Energy Efficient Buildings Hub.

WHYY’s science desk launched the pilot of their new hour-long show Pulse today, which includes a piece by Zack Seward on the revitalization of Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. Zack takes listeners on a tour of the once thriving military site, including old vacant buildings and bright corporate headquarters. One new tenant at the Navy Yard is the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, run by Penn State University.

The former Navy rec center (swimming pool, basketball courts) will soon become a living laboratory. The idea is to show landlords how they should retrofit their buildings.

“So we want to make it where it’s affordable, where it’s practical,” [says Penn State's Steven DiBartolo.] “This is to demonstrate ‘how to do it’ instead of just coming up with the best energy efficient number we can possibly get.”

The EEB Hub, as it’s called, is funded by a $130 million grant, mainly from the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s a project led by Penn State that’s meant to reduce the amount of energy wasted by big buildings.

The goal is a 20 percent reduction by 2020 for the entire U.S. commercial building sector.

“That involves policy, human behavior, and technology,” says Laurie Actman, the EEB Hub’s deputy director. “The way those three things come together is the core problem the Hub is trying to figure out.”

Actman says locating at the Navy Yard was one of the key reasons the region won the Energy Department grant in the first place.

The building sector is an industry that tends to shy away from risk, Actman says. And yet buildings use 40 percent of the nation’s energy.

So the ability to test out efficiency techniques with old buildings at the Navy Yard was a huge opportunity. The site even has its own special power grid.

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