In many urban areas, more air pollution comes from motor vehicles than any other source, leading to discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability in transit.
While most of the conversation is centered around cutting back single-occupancy vehicle use and increasing fleet electrification, another component in this system can bring significant benefits to the environment: transit facilities.
Transit facilities are unique, typically including different building types ranging from administrative offices to vehicle maintenance shops and fuel facilities or storage warehouses. They offer varying energy-saving and lower-carbon opportunities.
Based on our work in helping clients achieve high-performing and sustainable facilities, we have listed the most common and opportunistic approaches for improving the performance of the various building types:
Vehicle maintenance shops
Because these facilities have large interior volumes, variable occupancy rates, running vehicles and bay doors that are often left open, it can be easy to discard their potential for sustainable improvements.
A high-performance design can improve air quality and energy efficiency. Design considerations can include:
- Introduction of natural light via clerestories, skylights and glazed bay doors to reduce indoor lighting needs
- Installation of daylight and occupancy sensors
- Use of light-colored and reflective walls, ceilings and floors to maximize daylight
- Use of in-floor radiant heating to minimize heat loads
- Use of solar preheating of ventilation air in cold climates
- Installation of makeup air units with heat recovery and evaporative cooling
- Separation of offices from minimally conditioned bays
- Improving building envelope features, such as insulated, tight doors to reduce air leakage and waste heat
Our work on a fleet maintenance facility in Colorado helped the client exceed their original Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver goal. They obtained LEED Gold rating and reduced their energy consumption by more than 35 percent.
With a steadier and more predictable occupancy rate, these buildings can achieve higher sustainability and energy performance goals.
Administrative facilities can pursue different building rating systems that prioritize the health and wellness of the occupants in addition to sustainable measures, including LEED Platinum, WELL Building Standard or Fitwel.
Some of the high-performance design features listed for vehicle maintenance shops can be applied to administrative buildings, including daylight and occupancy sensors and photovoltaic arrays. But clients should also consider:
- Achieving higher levels of wall and roof insulation
- Incorporating biophilic design elements
- Installing responsibly sourced and sustainable and recycled building materials
- Installing low flow plumbing and fixtures for water efficiency
- Updating mechanical systems to improve indoor air quality
- Conducting energy audit and retrocommissioning for existing facilities
Vehicle wash and outdoor storage facilities
Peripheral and smaller facilities, such as vehicle wash buildings and outdoor storage or warehouses, can also have opportunities for sustainable features.
One of the most common features in vehicle wash facilities, for example, is the reuse of wash water. Outdoor vehicle storage areas should be shaded to reduce cooling loads and impacts due to the elements. Storage facilities can be covered with solar panels to maximize renewable energy production.
Energy-efficient and sustainable transit facilities allow clients to operate and service vehicles more effectively and support alternatively fueled vehicles into their fleet. But, more importantly, they are an important sign that transit agencies are committed to their communities’ sustainable future.