Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, which had been a U.S. Naval base for 120 years, is now a center for energy-efficient building technology, including HVAC retrofits. Last year, the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) was awarded government funding to use the Navy Yard to tackle the challenge of how to design, construct and retrofit commercial and residential buildings for energy efficiency.

The Navy Yard, a mixed-use campus featuring historic buildings, corporate headquarters, parks, residential areas, and a Naval research center, will act as a proving ground. Within 10 years, the GPIC aims to deploy technologies, tools and methods for increasing the energy efficiency of commercial buildings by 50 percent.

The GPIC is focusing on supporting retrofits to office buildings, hospitals and apartments in the surrounding 10-county area of southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. To get the biggest bang per buck, they are concentrating on building-retrofit methods with a return on investment of less than three years.

The GPIC encourages those in the retrofit business to look at buildings as entire systems. It recognizes that an important step toward energy efficiency is to integrate the various systems that use energy, such as lighting, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Rather than just developing energy-efficient building technologies, the GPIC understands the urgency of getting the technologies into the marketplace quickly. “There’s probably no national solution to getting more commercial building retrofits under way,” says one GPIC leader, Mark Alan Hughes. “You really have to go to a particular place, a particular climate … and try to get traction there.”

The economic benefit of a commercial building retrofit wave across the area could be huge, creating thousands of jobs in this region alone over the next decade. Additionally, energy savings would increase profits and reduce expenses for landlords and tenants, keeping more money in the area.

Do you see a wave of retrofits coming in your area? Is your HVAC company involved in commercial building retrofits? with the economy still teetering, do you see retrofits becoming a larger part of your business? We’d love to hear from you.