Shopping, strolling, dining and ice skating are just a few of the many activities that patrons enjoy when visiting malls operated by General Growth Properties (GGP). A publicly traded real estate investment trust, GGP owns, develops and operates 120 shopping malls across the United States, from Maine to Hawaii and everywhere in between.
Here in Maryland, GGP has malls in Baltimore, Columbia, Towson and White Marsh. The mall at Towson Town Center occupies more than one million square feet of space and is home to nearly 200 retailers. It's also where GGP recently made some key investments in improving the facility's energy efficiency—investments that will save about $445,302 a year on the mall's energy costs. Incentives from the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® totaling $577,810 covered nearly 40% of the upgrade cost, making the projects much more affordable.
Savings at a Glance
GGP outfitted the parking garages at Towson Town Center with LED lighting and installed VFDs on the rooftop HVAC units that keep the mall's common areas comfortable.
BGE Programs: Energy Solutions for Business and Building Tune-Up Total Project cost: $1,483,724 Incentives paid: $577,810 Cost to the customer: $905,914 Energy savings: 3,038,273 kWh/year Cost savings: $445,302/year Payback: 24.4 months
A few years ago, GGP began performing energy audits at shopping malls across its portfolio to identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency and reducing operating costs. These audits revealed a variety of energy-saving opportunities such as modifying escalator start and stop times, retrofitting lighting fixtures and upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Towson Town Center was built in 1959. An expansion in 1991 added third and fourth floors to the mall, and another in 2008 resulted in a new luxury wing and restaurants. As a result, much of the original 1959 infrastructure remains in place, with a combination of old and recently renovated systems all working together.
After performing the energy audit at Towson Town Center, Mike Sullivan, senior general manager at GGP, reached out to BGE for advice on buying light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. At the time, the mall’s parking garages were outfitted with outdated metal halide lighting installed during the 1991 expansion.
"We recognized that LED technology had gotten much better in recent years," Sullivan says, "and we knew we wanted to do an LED retrofit. But we were looking to make it more cost effective. Once we learned about the incentives available to businesses for energy efficiency upgrades, we worked with BGE to make sure we selected equipment that would qualify."
The BGE Solution
BGE's Energy Solutions for Business Program offers incentives and technical solutions for businesses seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their facilities. For the projects at Towson Town Center, GGP took advantage of the program's incentives for lighting, occupancy sensors and HVAC systems.
In the mall's parking garages, which house 4,300 spaces, GGP’s contractor retrofitted 1,920 old 150-watt metal halide fixtures with 80-watt LED lamps with occupancy sensors."Fortunately," Sullivan says, "we just had to remove the old fixtures and install new ones in their place. No relocating was needed, just a change-out."
The lighting upgrades were performed at night to minimize the impact on shoppers and employees. The contractor worked from approximately 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to do the installations. Just-in-time delivery eliminated the need to store large quantities of materials in the garage until installation.
Rooftop HVAC units provide warm and cool air for the hallways, restrooms and food court. Before the upgrade, the units operated at 100% capacity at all times. The addition of 31 variable frequency drives (VFDs) to the rooftop units, however, enables staff to adjust the operating speeds based on the time of day and building occupancy.
Finally, GGP performed an enhanced tune-up on all 77 rooftop HVAC units by thoroughly cleaning each unit’s coils and repairing broken outside air intakes. This procedure helps restore the units to 90% or more of their original efficiency.
From the onset, these projects delivered significant energy and cost savings. "Our kilowatt-hour consumption has dropped by around 20%," Sullivan says, "which reduced our operating costs without affecting comfort."
The LEDs GGP purchased for the garages provide illumination that shines in multiple directions, distributing light across the driving lanes more effectively. "We researched and selected occupancy sensors that dim down to 30% capacity when no one's around," Sullivan says. "When the sensors detect a person or a car, the lights go back up to 100%." Employees report that the new lighting is brighter, even though the foot-candle is the same as before. Another benefit is that LEDs have a longer life than metal halides, so the company expects lower maintenance costs too.
The availability of incentives from BGE's energy efficiency programs significantly improved the return on investment (ROI) for GGP's projects. "We are a partnership property," Sullivan says, "so it was important to make the ROI as attractive as possible to gain approval of our partners to do this work."
Since completing its upgrades at Towson Town Center, GGP has charged forward with energy efficiency upgrades at two of its other nearby shopping centers, White Marsh and Mondawmin Malls. The company once again will take advantage of available incentives, specifically through BGE's Building Tune-Up Program, which focuses on monitoring, troubleshooting and adjusting electrical, mechanical and control systems to optimize energy performance.
"It's in our best interest to judiciously keep our operating costs down as other costs rise," Sullivan says. "As we reduce our energy expenses, we reduce the cost to retailers and help them increase their margins. It’s a win-win. Doing the upfront work to identify energy-saving opportunities and work with BGE on the incentives paid off in a big way for us."
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