The Retrofit Companies Blog

Interview with Trent Lowe: Allied Parking LED Retrofit

Allied Parking Garage Interview.png

Recently, we shared a new case study about an LED retrofit project recently completed at Allied Parking's Gateway ramp located downtown Minneapolis. This facility is unique because the first floor is a layover terminal for MTC buses. Keep reading to find out why Trent felt that working with TRC was different than working with other contractors.

Hi, Trent! Can you give us an introduction? Who are you, how are you affiliated with Allied Parking?

I’m Trent Lowe, Area Manager for Allied Parking. We have four parking ramps downtown Minneapolis. I’m in charge of all day-to-day operations, and running business for those four properties. The job includes lots of different duties from overseeing capital improvement, to customer service, to budgeting planning.

I have been with Allied for 2 years, with these properties for six years.

 

Today we’re talking about the LED parking lot lighting at Gateway ramp, is this the first lighting project you’ve done?

This is the first project we’ve done with TRC.

This parking ramp is a little different than a typical parking ramp. The first floor is actually a bus layover facility. It’s part of Metro Transit, the governmental organization in Minneapolis that oversees busing or public transportation. When the bus drivers have time in between routes, they will park in this area, and the floors above this ground level are a standard parking ramp. The project we did with The Retrofit Companies addressed all of the lighting in that Metro Transit bus layover facility.

They were old lights, probably original to the ramp- about thirty years old. A few years ago we retrofitted the lighting in the top floors of the ramp to fluorescent T8. These lamps in the busing area were still high pressure sodium lamps, so it was on the radar for many years. We wanted to upgrade, but never did. We finally met up with Justin from The Retrofit Companies late summer 2015, and started talking about doing the LED project because of the prices of LED’s coming down. And the process went from there.

 

How did you connect with TRC?

Justin had worked with Ann, an associate who works with other Allied property locations. Ann put us in touch.

 

That’s great, we love word of mouth! Can you tell me about working with other vendors versus TRC? Was it different in any way?

I would definitely say the relationship with TRC was a consultant-type relationship. Justin was very helpful. Straightforward, and I trusted that he wasn’t just trying to sell me whatever product was going to give him the best profitability. He took the time to make sure we were comfortable, and that we were getting the best product for our purpose. That was great

The other big thing that I really thank him for was he helped us get connected with the city of Minneapolis initiative which had just started. Because of that we were able to take part in the pilot program for some cost reimbursement for the project, on top of the Xcel Energy rebate. I was not aware of that program from the city, and we would not have gotten it, if it weren’t for Justin and The Retrofit Companies. It was really cool that they helped us with that opportunity to offset more of the costs.

 

Before the project your parking garage lighting was HID or high pressure sodium… did you have specific goals for this project? What were you expecting as the outcome?

Our only goals were to get something more efficient and to improve lighting in the area because the lighting was very poor and also very inefficient compared to today’s standards. We had seen, especially over the last couple of years, that pricing on LED’s has dropped to make that sort of project more viable. We were definitely excited about the LED technology and that was the direction we were going, but we didn’t have any specific product or goal in mind other than improving efficiency and improving quality of light.

 

Any surprising results?

We’re surprised that it’s looking better than we were anticipating it would. Otherwise, no surprises really. We’re very impressed with how much it brightened up the facility. It’s a night and day difference, as you can probably see from the photos. It was even better than we expected, but other than that it was exactly what we were expecting.

Before and After LED Parking Garage.png

 

How was the installation experience? How were the TRC crews that put the new system in place for you?

They were great, I mean, they did the project much quicker than everyone was telling me. They said it would take over a week, and TRC crews were actually out of there in four full work days. The whole time they were working the bus area was still open; there were still buses going in and out of there. TRC had no issues working around them or staying out of their way. No one was calling to say, “Hey these guys are in the way,” or “This is a problem,” or anything like that. It went very smoothly. The install was effortless, better than expected as far as time line and issues.

 

Did other vendors approach you with this same project in mind? Tell me about your experience with other vendors on similar projects.

In 2010 or 2011 we retrofitted our facilities to T8 fluorescent, and we had good experiences with other contractors. We did have several people approach us - it seems like lots of lighting companies are always coming in wanting to do projects – so, we did have several bidders with different options for this bus garage project that The Retrofit Companies just completed.

 

What aspects of the TRC project or bid process made it stand out?

Definitely the personal attention and the feeling from Justin that he was more of a consultant role and was really trying to help us rather than just sell us the products. It was very helpful and established some trust. Also, that he was able to come up with the program from City of Minneapolis. That was huge. A lot of these other firms can get us similar products and the pricing is similar, but TRC did the homework and got us the extra cost sharing program funds that we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. That was very helpful, as well.

 

Last question: Do you have advice for other companies that are considering a lighting project?

Talk to TRC. (ha-ha)

 

We’ll take that! But what about advice for people who are just starting their research on energy-efficient lighting projects and contractors or partners to do the work?

The people you’re working with and the working relationship that you have is very important. That can make the project. Obviously, there can be hurdles that are unforeseen and things can go wrong, but the quality of the people that are addressing those issues with you, your partners or contractors in that project, are what’s going to make a project ultimately successful or not - regardless of the variables you can plan for. Make sure you’re working with quality people that you can count on.

 

Really good advice! Thanks for your time, Trent. Do you have anything to add?

Just to say that we had a very positive experience on the whole project. It went great and it was a pleasure for us.

 

Thanks again!

 

Did this interview help you get some insight on what it's like to work with The Retrofit Companies? You can read more customer stories here, or go ahead and get our guide to help you ask the right questions when choosing a partner for your next lighting project!

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor



Parking Garage LED Lighting Retrofit Case Study

LED Retrofit Parking Garage.png 

This parking garage lighting project's dramatic improvement in lighting came along with $23,634 in utility rebate incentives, plus a Green Business Cost Sharing program from the city of Minneapolis when this client upgraded the aging, inefficient high pressure sodium lighting. They now have better light quality in their facility, increased safety for their patrons, and they are saving money and resources at the same time! Keep reading to see more specifics about how Allied Parking upgraded to LED lighting in the MTC facility at their Gateway ramp downtown Minneapolis.

 

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Facility Statistics: The Benefits of a Lighting Upgrade

Common lighting issues in parking garages include dark, shadowy areas and poor light quality. By replacing the existing High Pressure Sodium lighting with energy efficient LED that consume only 45 watts each, this facility is taking advantage of major energy savings. At the end of this project the client was saving 143 watts per fixture, reducing energy usage by 76%!

Cost Savings: Does is really add up?

Before completing this LED lighting retrofit project, TRC performed a full facility audit. This means all of the existing fixtures were counted, along with their rate of energy consumption and hours of operation, and a cost of operating was established. The new, more energy-efficient system was also proposed in the same way. The difference in energy usage totaled $14,430 in annual lighting cost savings. 

Kw and kWh were both reduced by 76% annually with this LED retrofit. The client qualified for $23K in energy-efficiency rebates from their local utility company, and an additional cost sharing program amount was awarded to them by the city of Minneapolis' Green Business Cost Sharing Program

Carbon Savings: What does it mean? 

Based on kWh reduction from our facility lighting audit and using a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, we can determine carbon savings of 110.6 tons of CO2 for this energy efficiency project. This is equivalent to keeping 21.7 cars off the road for a year, 12,395  gallons of gasoline saved, or 38.5 tons of waste recycled instead of land filled!

 

After Retrofit Parking Garage HID to LED.png

Find out how you can start saving energy & money today.

get a smart start to your lighting project

Parking Ramp Lighting Retrofit Case Study

parking garage lighting ret

You can see this dramatic before and after, side by side while this lighting retrofit project is taking place. This client qualified for more than $23,000 in utility rebate incentive when they upgraded. They now have better light quality in their facility, increased safety for their patrons, and they are saving money and resources at the same time!

Facility Statistics: The Benefits of a Lighting Upgrade

Common lighting issues in parking garages include dark, shadowy areas and poor light quality. By replacing the existing High Pressure Sodium lighting with energy efficient 2 Lamp Vapor Tight Fluorescent High Lumen Fixtures that consume only 74 watts each, this facility is taking advantage of major energy savings. At the end of this project the client was saving 114 watts per fixture, reducing energy usage by over 50%!

Cost Savings: Does is really add up?

Before completing this project, TRC performed a full facility audit. This means all of the existing fixtures were counted, along with their rate of energy consumption and hours of operation, and a cost of operating was established. The new, more energy-efficient system was also proposed in the same way. The difference in energy usage totaled nearly $20,000 in annual lighting cost savings. 

Carbon Savings: What does it mean? 

Based on Kwh reduction from our facility lighting audit and using a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, we can determine carbon savings of 380,740.7 pounds of CO2 for this energy efficiency project. This is equivalent to keeping 37.4 cars off the road for a year, 16,699 gallons of gasoline saved, or 58 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled!

 

Find out how you can start saving energy & money today.

get a smart start to your lighting project

Safety & Savings: Parking Ramp Lighting Retrofits

Parking ramp lighting and other exterior lighting applications are the latest frontier for energy-efficiency projects, and a lot of savings opportunities exist for building owners and managers in these projects.  Utility companies are even offering rebates for exterior lighting improvements, in some cases. Additionally, long-life lighting technology, like LED’s, and rugged fixture designs that perform well in varying weather are now available, making the feasibility and return on investment of these outdoor lighting projects even more appealing.

The importance of lighting design should take into consideration the function of a space, and this is true for parking garages and ramps, as well. For the tasks of driving and navigating a ramp as a pedestrian, fixture choice will influence the spread of the light and therefore the safety and security of the facility. Generally, these applications will shy away from a “cut off” fixture, which results in a cave effect, or dark ceiling which can strain the eyes and make it difficult to distinguish objects and shadows in an area. Not a great choice for place where people will be driving.

Instead, a better option would be semi-cut off or refractor, which will brighten the entire driving area, parking area and walls. Most parking ramp applications will want 5 foot candles per square foot as an appropriate amount of light for the basic tasks required in that space. With the semi-cut off or refractor style fixture, especially now with directional LED options, light can be directed to the places it is needed, without glare and without ‘spilling’ light beyond the intended area to create light pollution.

The Department of Energy offers this checklist to guide decision making for parking garage lighting, and recommends the following steps for a successful project:

1)  Conduct a complete inventory, including information on every fixture: wattage, burn hours, and existing light level.

2)  Decide whether to retrofit or install new fixtures is the best option. Consider fixture condition, and whether or not new lamp replacement options would fit into the existing fixture.

3)  Consider light quality and quantity. Be sure to take into account the importance of lighting design and the function of a space. Ask “what task must be lit?” and “where is it taking place?” In the case of a parking ramp or garage, the tasks will be driving, walking and identifying people and vehicles.

4)  Consider controls for transition areas. “Lighting Controls” can include daylight harvesting and occupancy sensors for dimming during no or low-traffic times.

5)   Take time to investigate utility incentives or rebate programs to help buy down the initial cost of the lighting products used in your energy-efficient retrofit project.

6)  Determine specifications for replacement or retrofit of the existing lighting system.

7)  Solicit bids.

8)  Create your life-cycle cost analysis, include your energy savings, cost reduction, simple payback and return on investment. What is important to you? A lower up front fixture cost, or the best long-term investment? Consider these when you create your life-cycle analysis.

9)  Purchase and install the new lighting system.

This reads like nine concise steps, but keep in mind that an entire industry exists to address your lighting needs. There really should be a funnier punch line to the joke, “how many lighting contractors does it take to change a light bulb?” – But in all honesty, every single lighting contractor you talk to will likely have a different answer for how to save energy and reduce your overhead. Most of them will probably be able to do that for you, but be sure the lighting products and installation configuration you choose is one that has your needs and lighting requirements at the forefront. Arm yourself with knowledge and the ability to choose the best project for you. Read the full DOE check list here

Also, read  11 Questions to Ask a Lighting Contractor for additional insight on organizing a lighting project. 

11 questions to ask a lighting contractor

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