Everything is going green, and that includes the maintenance facilities for transit agencies. From basic practices being engrained in the day-to-day procedures to innovative building design, transit agencies are looking at ways of making their facilities more sustainable.
Creative Construction Materials
The Santa Clarita Transit Maintenance Facility is a LEED Gold-certified building. The facility includes a 22,000-square-foot administration building, 25,000-square-foot maintenance building, bus wash facility, CNG fueling island for city buses and a publicly accessible CNG fueling station. Completed in 2006, the project cost was $20 million.
One unique feature about this building was the choice in construction material — straw-bale construction. The building envelope is constructed of straw bales and there is a layer of lime plaster on the interior and exterior. Straw-bale construction uses baled straw from such things as wheat, oats, barley, rye or, as in this case, rice. Rice straw is an inexpensive waste product in the grain farming industry of California. Using this material has the environmental benefit of reducing the quantity of straw burned.
There are a number of advantages to straw-bale construction. It is durable, resistant to pest infestation and creates a well-insulated building. City of Santa Clarita Transit Manager Jeffrey O’Keefe mentions that they are already starting to realize energy savings.
Charles Smith, HOK vice president and senior project manager says, “When combined with more recent technologies such as under-floor air distribution, high-performance glazing and daylighting, it can be part of a powerful strategy for creating an energy and resource-efficient building.” He adds, “We were able to exceed California Energy Efficiency Standards by more than 40 percent.”
With this and its other green features, the transit maintenance facility has earned more than LEED certification — it also received the California Department of Transportation’s (Caltran) 2007 Excellence in Transportation Award in the category of Transportation Related Facilities.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will be saving $200,000 a year in electricity costs thanks to its green practices.
The roof of the Carson bus division’s maintenance facility and six carport structures houses the largest solar panel installation at a single site within the U.S. transit industry. Photovoltaic (PV) energy makes use of the energy in the sun, with little impact on our environment. The PV panels convert light energy from the sun into electrical energy.
A PV cell produces about one or two watts of power. Cells are connected together to create panels large enough to produce the amount of energy needed. Dave Sotero, Senior Public Information Officer for Metro, says, “More than 1,600 solar cells were installed.
“On a dollar basis, it’s going to save us $200,000 a year in electricity costs, or approximately $17,000 a month.” He adds that some of the panels serve two purposes. “We created a carport structure in our employee parking lot and we put the solar panels on top of the carport structure. We have a shaded area for the cars, plus the solar generation capability.”
The solar installation will generate 600,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which will lower carbon emissions by 143 metric tons.
This solar panel installation was not the first for Metro. Solar panel systems are in use at the Metro bus yards in Sun Valley and Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley. According to Metro, these installations are saving the agency approximately $160,000 per year in electricity costs.
“Metro’s first solar project was a tremendous success, not only because of the significant cost savings and actual performance results, but because projects such as these are a responsible way to reduce strain on the electrical grid and promote energy efficiency and sustainable business concepts at Metro,” says Roger Snoble, Metro CEO.