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Custom House is an ENERGY STAR

Release Date: 6/21/2000
Contact Information: David Sternberg (215) 814-5548 & John Thompson (215) 656-5523

David Sternberg, 215-814-5548 & John Thompson, 215-656-5523

Philadelphia - The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy today presented the U.S. Custom House in Philadelphia, with the ENERGY STAR Building Label. The Custom House, an architectural landmark, owned and operated by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), is the first building in Pennsylvania to earn this distinction.

Similar to the ENERGY STAR product labeling, often seen on computers and other office equipment, the ENERGY STAR Label for Buildings represents energy efficiency in commercial buildings. To qualify, buildings must be among the top 25 percent nationwide in energy performance, and maintain an indoor environment that conforms to industry standards.

The U.S. Custom House, which rises 17 stories from its base to its lantern, occupies an entire city block in the heart of Philadelphia's Historic District. The facility was built in 1934 under the Works Progress Administration, a massive federal unemployment relief program.

In the early 1990s, GSA completed an extensive restoration and renovation of the facility. The project encompassed conservation of the original surface finishes, ensuring of access for the disabled, and energy-efficiency upgrading of the mechanical and lighting systems. Included in these renovations were the installation of T-8 lamps and electronic ballast, high efficiency chillers, high efficiency motors, resealing of windows, high efficiency dual fuel boilers, and the installation of a computerized building management system. These energy upgrades have reduced energy usage in the building by 14 percent and have enabled GSA to realize a cost savings of more than $390,000 annually.

The Custom House, which is an architectural landmark and an historic building, is an excellent example of how energy efficiency can be combined with maintaining a building’s historical integrity. For example, part of the renovation involved moving large cooling towers behind the building’s facade which rendered the lines of the building cleaner than before.

“Energy efficiency is important because the more efficiently we use energy, the less pollution is created. For example, the cumulative reductions in carbon dioxide emissions achieved by ENERGY STAR partners is the equivalent of taking 1.6 million cars off the road,” said EPA Regional Administrator Bradley Campbell.

“The federal government is leading the way in improving energy efficiency and saving taxpayers’ dollars in the process,” said Anthony Pontello, Regional Director of DOE’s Philadelphia Regional Office.

“This project demonstrates that historic buildings can be upgraded to meet ENERGY STAR standards without compromising their architectural beauty,” said James A. Williams, Regional Administrator of GSA’s mid-Atlantic region.

A case study of the Custom House may be found on the Internet at: