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May 23, 2014

8 Ways to Make Your Transit Maintenance Facility More Efficient

by Jennifer Turchin - Also by this author

The first step to making an existing maintenance facility more efficient is looking at its meter system.

The first step to making an existing maintenance facility more efficient is looking at its meter system.
(This blog was co-authored by Dave Walsh, a project manager with Sellen Sustainability)

Maintenance facilities are the operational backbone of transit agencies, helping wash, clean and maintain thousands of buses, railcars and ferries each and every day. This regular maintenance makes them huge consumers of water and energy (and money). Many cities across the country are mandating transit agencies create more efficient facilities not only as good stewards of the environment, but also to help the bottom line. The first step to making an existing maintenance facility more efficient is looking at its meter system.

Traditionally, meters were simply tools to help business pay their utility bills. Today, they provide the forensic data for energy usage — tracking where heat, water, electricity is going, how much is being consumed, by what and from where? Trouble is, most existing buildings’ meter systems are a maze of tangled data.

These are some ways we help our clients untangle them:

1.    Investigate how the base is metered. You can’t improve what is not measured.
Older bases may not have meters that separate buildings or separate lighting from process loads like vacuuming. Often, portions of the base are built at different times and the meter address does not match the building address. The goal is to separate the process load from the lighting, plug and mechanical loads.

2.    Add meters if major uses cannot be tracked with existing meters.
Temporary meters can save money but they require more staff time to monitor and move. Permanent meters provide historical trending. The concept of long-term and permanent metering plays into the Environmental Management System (EMS) goal of continuous improvement

3.    Identify major energy users.
There are many activities at transportation facilities (like CNG fueling, bus/train washing, vacuuming, other process activities) that aren’t part of typical building’s energy uses (like traditional heating, cooling and lighting). The key is to do some up-front estimating on which areas should be metered separately and how this metering will be used for current or future energy reduction measures.

4.    Use Portfolio Manager to track energy and water usage.
Use Energy Use Intensity (EUI) as the yardstick and not an Energy Star score. Maintenance bases are non-ratable for Energy Star. There is not a comparable bus or rail maintenance category. Special considerations in Portfolio Manager (PM): Shift work is difficult in PM. Even though there is not a national comp or a category in PM, use PM to create computer historical data and define the baseline from which to improve. Staff understand this concept if they have an EMS.

RELATED: How to Develop a Successful Transit Facility Project

5.    Consider using LEED EBOM to document and measure performance. This can be a tool to keep stakeholders accountable. It is a widely understood metric to demonstrate (internally and to the public) the level of performance and commitment.  

For example, Campus Certification for LEED projects can certify a project as a block or as a campus. Campus makes sense because you can group the occupied buildings (which are LEED-eligible) with the non-occupied spaces into one campus certification.  

6.    Keep it Clean: Storm water at maintenance bases.
Big areas have the potential to collect oil and other pollutants. Regulatory mandates lead to sustainability performance.

7.    Engage employees as sustainability allies.
Employee engagement helps incorporate sustainability training into standard procedures for everyone from bus operators to janitors. Look at operational waste management beyond office paper such as with waste oil, metal, bus parts, etc. – common in transit maintenance. Also, maintenance folks are judged on two things: Is the bus clean? Did the bus go out on time? We suggest a third metric: Track the EUI and reward staff if the base’s EUI has gone down!

8.    Take Sustainability on the Road.
Take green cleaning on the bus by utilizing policies and procedures for buildings to bus cleaning; from risk management to human health issues.
These tips helped us achieve a 27% savings (over a standard baseline) in our work with a large transit agency in southern California. We were even able to document that the process load at the maintenance division was using more than 42% of the energy coming from the meter.

(The next post will cover:  Maintenance facilities and efficiencies for New Construction.)

In case you missed it...

Read our previous blog, "The dangers of 'distracted commuting'"

Jennifer Turchin

Project Manager, Sellen Sustainability

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Author Bio

Alleyn Harned

Executive Director, Virginia Clean Cities

Alleyn Harned is executive director of Virginia Clean Cities (VCC), a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. Harned leads VCC’s collaborative effort to assist stakeholders and the Commonwealth in programs to improve air quality and increase energy security and economic opportunity through the use of alternative fuels and vehicles.

Gary Thomas

President/Executive Director, DART

Gary Thomas is the president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, covering a 700-square-mile service area with bus, light rail, commuter rail and paratransit services.

Taylor York

Staff Analyst, Western Riverside Council of Governments

Taylor has worked with the Western Riverside County Clean Cities Coalition since 2011. He also provides staff support for solid waste, energy and transportation programs at the Western Riverside Council of Governments. He holds a B.S. in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona.

Dave Walsh

Project Manager, Sellen Sustainability

Registered Architect and a Project Manager Walsh, works with agencies, design and construction teams to implement measurable sustainability in transit projects.

Jennifer Turchin

Project Manager, Sellen Sustainability

Turchin is a licensed architect with expertise in all phases of architectural services.

Pamela Burns

Communications Supervisor, North Central Texas Council of Governments

Communications Supervisor, North Central Texas Council of Governments

Matt Stephens-Rich

Clean Cities Ohio

A graduate student at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, Matt Stephens-Rich is interning at Clean Fuels Ohio as part of the Clean Cities Workforce Development Program.

Richard Battersby

Director, Fleet Services at UC Davis

Richard Battersby is the director, fleet services, at University of California, Davis. He also serves as coordinator of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition.

Steve Linnell

Director, Transportation / Energy Planning, Greater Portland Council of Governments

Steve Linnell is Director of Transportation and Energy Planning at the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Coordinator of Maine Clean Communities.

Yliana Flores

Alamo Area Clean Cities Coordinator

Yliana Flores is the Alamo Area Clean Cities coordinator for the Alamo Area Council of Governments Natural Resources Department, where she has worked on transportation issues since 2010.

Colleen Crowninshield

Manager, Tucson Regional Clean Cities Coalition

Colleen Crowninshield has worked for the Pima Association of Governments since 1994, where she has served as coordinator for the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition since 2002.

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