Civic News

The city just called out these energy-wasting commercial buildings

But the new dataset comes with a few caveats.

So, who tops the list of Philadelphia’s least energy efficient buildings?

Channel 6 (WPVI), two University City Science Center buildings and, curiously, five buildings owned by the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania (which is now owned by Verizon).

That’s according to the city’s newly-released data on building energy usage — but it comes with a few caveats, said Alex Dews, policy and program manager at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Namely: Some of the data, especially around which buildings are the least energy efficient, is “skewed” because of how a building was classified.

For example, one of the University City Science Center’s buildings (3701 Market Street) was classified as a “medical office” but it also houses a data center, which throws off the building’s Energy Star score, calculated by a tool run by the Environmental Protection Agency. (We confirmed this with Science Center spokeswoman Jeanne Mell.)

Dews says the city is going to work with building owners to account for these classification inaccuracies to make sure their scores more closely reflect their building’s energy efficiency.

“For a lot of buildings with very low scores, this will be the case,” he wrote in an email.

See the data

(If certain fields say “not available,” that either means that a certain data point doesn’t apply to that building or the building’s report was incomplete, Dews said.)

The city is working on a visualization of the data with Callowhill GIS firm Azavea, slated to launch next month, he added.

In 2013, the city began requiring commercial buildings to report their energy usage, as part of the city’s effort to get building owners to think more critically about their energy consumption. This year, 90 percent of the more than 2,000 buildings that were required to report complied with the law, according to a press release. (That’s a drastic increase from the city’s first shot at getting buildings to report their usage.)


The city didn’t release the first year’s data in order to allow building owners to make adjustments before they were publicly outed.

Now, let the outing begin.

But first, we’ll note that it’s not just supposed to be a public shaming campaign. The Mayor announced an “energy race” today that will award $5,000 to the winners in three categories, including biggest change in Energy Star score and greatest drop in overall energy usage. The race asks building owners to commit to dropping their energy usage by five percent.

The city also sent energy report cards to each building owner that showed their energy stats and how they compare locally and nationally, Dews said. The city also suggested ways for buildings to become more energy efficient, from operational tips to capital investments in lighting and other retrofits.

Below, we list the 13 buildings with the lowest-possible Energy Star score (1).

Dews told us this was the best way to rank energy efficiency using the data because it accounts for industry differences and effectively lets you compare apples to apples. He noted that with the WPVI, Science Center and Bell Telephone properties, scores might not be accurate because of how the building was classified.

Attempts to reach some of the owners, like the Ramada Northeast and the Philadelphia Nursing Home, were unsuccessful. When we reached New Foundations Charter High School, spokesman Paul Stadelberger said that the square footage of the Rhawn St. campus was wrong (it was listed as 50,000 square feet, not 70,000) and said that must explain the low score because the building “was just retrofit.”

When the data didn’t list a building owner, we found it on the Office of Property Assessment.


  • Rhoads Industries, 5101 S. 17th St. (Building 22 in the Navy Yard)
  • Ramada Hotel, 11550-11580 Roosevelt Blvd. (Northeast)
  • Holts Cigar Company distribution center, 12270 Townsend Rd. (Northeast)
  • Philadelphia Nursing Home, 2300 Poplar St. (Fairmount)
  • New Foundations Charter High School, 4850 Rhawn St. (Northeast)
  • Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, 6469 Old York Rd./6468 N. Broad St. (between West Oak Lane and East Oak Lane), 7254 Rising Sun Ave. (Northeast), 2210 Lott Ave. (Northeast), 423 S. 17th St. (Center City), 1631 Arch St. (Center City)
  • University City Science Center, 3711 Market St. (University City) and 3701 Market St. (University City) (One floor of 3711 Market Street is owned by the National Board of Medical Examiners)
  • WPVI-TV, 4100 City Ave. (Overbrook)
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