8 Ways to Make Your Transit Maintenance Facility More Efficient

Posted on May 23, 2014 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'"

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