Green Space: Detroit Thermal's network grows, EnergyStar goes to Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

Pressures to cut costs can sometimes lead a government agency to a more environmentally sustainable operation. Want proof? Two federal buildings Downtown have joined Detroit Thermal's network of steam heat and, for the fifth year in a row, the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center was named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an EnergyStar-designated building. Overall, Detroit is a 2010 top ten city for the EnergyStar designation.

First, let's talk steam. Detroit Thermal's district steam system heats buildings -- 145, to be precise -- in the Greater Downtown area. The steam comes from trash burned in the incinerator, which is managed by Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority. While this operation does not inspire many environmental love songs, in terms of sustainability it does at least one thing well: convert waste to energy.

The system just added two more clients to its roster. The 27-story McNamara Federal Building, completed in 1976 in the Brutalist style, and the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse, which was completed in 1934.

Detroit Thermal had a tumultuous 2010. In October, the incinerator shut down while a sale was negotiated. Steam was produced by the company's own boilers to avoid service interruption and a sale to a newly created parent company, Detroit Renewable Energy LLC, was completed that same month. Detroit Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Wayne County were also brought on as clients, adding up to a total of $120 million in new contracts to Detroit Thermal in the past two years.

Read more about Detroit Thermal's district system here.

Model D has talked about the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority's (DWJBA's) commitment improved energy performance before, but some things bear repeating. The agency, which manages the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, has saved approximately $1.8 million dollars annually in energy costs by managing energy strategically across their entire organization and making cost-effective improvements to the building.

For the fifth year in a row, the municipal complex is listed in the United States Environmental Protection Agency's EnergyStar registry at "Through directed energy improvement practices, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs," Gregory McDuffee, DWJBA's executive director said in an statement announcing the designation.

Sources: Detroit Thermal and DWJBA
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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