RTD Denver's new commuter rail maintenance facility will feature maintenance areas top-lit by skylights. (Rendering courtesy RTD Denver)
Building new maintenance facilities for transit agencies are rarities, but when agencies do build them, it’s critical to design and build to the highest performance possible — these facilities and their efficiencies will live on for decades.
RELATED: 8 Ways to Make Your Transit Maintenance Facility More Efficient
As part of preserving limited revenue, agencies are focusing on how efficiently design facilities can help the bottom line.
1. Start with well-defined requirements. Successfully hitting the target involves defining it. Setting specific energy and water conservation targets — and using established metrics rating systems such as ASHRAE’s 90.1-2007 Standard or LEED’s Rating System for new construction — can help define what’s good, better and best performance versus minimally compliant. For example, the new commuter rail maintenance facility for RTD Denver targeted energy efficiency that is more than 32% more efficient than the reference baseline.
2. All together now. If the project delivery method allows — such as Design-Build or GC/CM — involve the entire owner, design and contractor team in concept design from day one. This will help test the constructability and budget feasibility of various building systems and design strategies.
3. Reducing lighting load.
Interior of Denver's rail maintenance bay.
These are 24x7x365 facilities. Daylighting, and in particular skylights, can significantly reduce the building’s lighting load and energy costs over the building’s lifetime. At the new commuter rail maintenance facility in Denver, maintenance areas are top-lit by scores of skylights that provide much of the ambient lighting. To supplement natural daylight, high-efficiently lighting such as LEDs or compact fluorescent should be used to reduce operational costs and the emissions associated with power generation.4. Heat and cool occupants, not the outdoors.
Radiant heating and cooling work best for large volumes such as shop areas and maintenance bays. Radiant heat slabs can be radiated to workers in shop areas without unnecessarily conditioning huge volumes of air found in high-bay maintenance facilities. Maintenance facilities often generate excess heat. Depending on the climate and other occupancies in the building, that excess heat can be captured using heat recovery ventilation units and moved to areas of the building.5. Look for free money.
Engage local utilities for potential incentives. Depending upon the amount of efficiencies, the incentives can be more than six figures! The key is to 1) engage the utilities early and 2) understand what incentives are available and how much upfront incentive payments can help offset the first costs of upgraded systems with higher performance. 6. Keep it cool.
Transit facilities cover a lot of ground, literally. Use concrete or other light surfaces with a high solar reflective index to help mitigate the heat island effect. Roofs should be a white or a light color with a Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value of 78 or higher. Where hardscape paving is not required by operational needs, consider using native or adapted landscaping in lieu of turf to both reduce the heat island effect and reduce irrigation use. Selecting drought-tolerant plantings or plants that are either native or adapted to the region will reduce costs associated with irrigating with potable water. 7. Invest in local materials and businesses.
As public agencies that serve local communities and voters, consider using materials that are produced by local industries as appropriate to the building’s function and requirements. For example, if locally produced concrete block is available, that might be better than using steel wall panels from across the country. Procuring locally and regionally no only reduces the energy and emissions from transportation, but also returns money to the local businesses. Many agencies make supporting local small and disadvantaged businesses a priority. If these businesses also sell locally sourced and produced products, it’s a win-win for the community, for businesses and for the environment.8. Quality indoor environments for productivity.
Finally, high-quality indoor spaces with dedicated outdoor air supply (DOAS) that do not recirculate indoor air can help improve the health and productivity of employees. Careful selection of low-VOC paints and low-emitting finishes also help maintain a healthy environment. Since the impact of employee absenteeism is high, investment in these systems and low-emitting finishes can have a lasting positive impact.
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GRTC is a member of the Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) coalition, which over the years has hosted a variety of workshops, webinars and other training opportunities for fleets interested in transitioning to CNG. Another coalition member — the City of Richmond — inaugurated its fleet of CNG refuse haulers in 2011, which set the stage for GRTC’s transition. View the YouTube video to see how VCC helped the city implement its CNG fleet.
A long-time champion of cleaner, greener technologies, the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) has provided public bus service to California’s Western Riverside County since 1977. RTA’s service area is among the nation’s largest, covering 2,500 square miles. The agency operates more than 160 buses on 36 fixed routes and eight commuter routes, 98 dial-a-ride vehicles, and 10 trollies.
Switching our bus fleet to compressed natural gas from liquefied natural gas and diesel was a carefully weighed decision at DART. But in the end, it was a no-brainer: go with the fuel source that will promote clean air while saving taxpayers $120 million in fuel costs over the next 10 years.
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.
Transit agencies increasingly want third-party validation of their sustainability efforts. They understand that to make improvements, they need to measure what they’re doing. And, that takes special skills and a trained eye. But, finding just the right fit between an agency and an outside advisor/auditor can be challenge.