Madison Centralizes City Service with LEED Gold Fleet Building
LEED Gold fleet building centralizes services, creates energy saving, electric vehicle charging opportunities for city of Madison, Wisconsin.
Like most cities across the United States, Madison, Wisconsin, has a climate plan that includes achieving net-zero operation of city buildings by 2030 – seven years away.
Mahanth Joishy is serving on the front line of this challenge as the city’s fleet superintendent. His goal is to convert Madison’s fleet to operating completely on Wisconsin biodiesel or electricity by 2030.
While Madison and Joishy have a long way to go before reaching both decarbonization, the city took a significant step toward achieving net-zero operations when it opened a new state-of-the-art fleet services building in December 2020.
Not only does the building make fleet operations more efficient for the growing city, but the new facility is the first LEED Gold certified building of its kind by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The No. 1 priority of this building is, ‘Let’s build a world-class facility that for many decades will serve the needs of the frontline agencies and the types of vehicles we need for that’,” says Joishy, whose fleet team is part of 40 city employees who work out of the building located on the east side of Madison. “And we wanted to do it in a way that would fight climate change.”
Years in the making
When Joishy accepted the fleet job in Madison in 2017, the current building was in the planning stages.
“The project was sort of midstream,” he says. “This was an empty lot. It used to be a grocery store.”
But Madison’s planning process started well before the groundbreaking took place in 2017.
“It took probably nine years of planning and work, multiple mayoral administrations involved and multiple city councils,” says Joishy, who worked in fleet management for New York before coming to Madison. “Not because of COVID, but prior to COVID this was delayed by several years as the city debated funding and various features and location. It was a priority for the city, but the city has a lot of priorities. This is just one of the many capital projects the city worked on during that time.”
As Madison’s population increased and fleet needs expanded, the city explored ways to make its operations more efficient. The main fleet headquarters, radio shop and other maintenance responsibilities for city fleet vehicles were spread around to aging facilities around the city. The main fleet headquarters served the city from 1954 until the current building opened in 2020 and were beyond showing their age.
“We consolidated three other facilities into this one, which adds a lot of efficiency to the city and a lot less miles driven for the work we do,” Joishy says. “Its main function is an auto garage. Obviously, we have other things — the administrative staff, my team that helps run the place, the radio shop staff, mechanical, and the parts room.”
The city engineering department designed the fleet service building with LEED recognition in mind. When Joishy came on board, his team helped put the finishing touches on the design features that would help all the agencies inside the building work together more efficiently. Joishy says the building can see up to 70 vehicles come and go every day for various reasons.
“It’s helped (efficiency) a lot,” says Andy Oliver, the city’s communications operations supervisor. “We would shuttle cars back and forth, so that really streamlined things. We work closely with fleet, with repairing lighting and installing bumpers and roll cages on vehicles. It cuts down on travel time, fuel and staff time, which are all money savers. Staff don’t spend as much time on the road so they can do other stuff. The efficiency we’ve gained is excellent.”
Seeking energy savings
Madison was seeking the best of both worlds with its new fleet service center. Not only was the city seeking a more efficient way to maintain its fleet, but the city also sought an energy-efficient building from where to operate.
Joishy’s department had some specific needs, such as maintenance shops with high ceilings to repair fire trucks. It was also important to keep in mind this building would be in operation for a long time.
“Something that is very fulfilling to me is that this is a legacy project,” Joishy says. “We expect to run this building until 2090, on a 70-year timeline if things go well, if we take care of it. That’s not just going to rely on me and my team, but many more teams.”
The 116,000-square-foot building cost the city $33 million and includes many design features that will take the building well into the upcoming decades. The building's features include spacious administrative offices, a conference room, workout facilities and a multi-purpose room that can be used for community reasons such as a voting site.
The building includes an overflow of natural lighting throughout the facility, from the windows in offices to the radio shop, body shop and repair garages. Nearly every area of the building has some access to natural lighting.
“That was purposeful in this building,” Jon Evans, city engineer and building design project manager, said during an Engineering Department podcast released around the building’s opening in late 2020. “We wanted to reduce energy consumption, and we wanted an improved indoor environment to ensure it was a more pleasurable place to work.”
A radiant floor system throughout the building helps keep the heat closer to the floors for increased comfort for mechanics working on vehicles.
“It’s a very efficient way to keep people comfortable without using a lot of natural gas in the building,” Evans said in the podcast.
Solar energy is also a key aspect of the building and a critical aspect of the city’s efforts to decarbonize its buildings. Evans described the fleet building setup as “a solar hat trick” in the podcast. The building has more than 800 solar panels, and when the final panels are installed, the panels are expected to “take care of 60 percent of the building’s power needs, the majority of the building’s hot water needs, and a fair amount of the building’s heating needs in the winter.”
Two other innovative solar projects include solar tubes, which are built into the roof and provide natural light to individual office spaces and hallways, and a large solar heating wall, located on the south side of the building.
During a tour of the facility, Joishy showed the lighting capability of one solar tube installed in a conference room and explained how the heating wall operates.
“We’re in a windowless space, and we get a lot of natural light,” says Joishy, who conducted the tour on a cloudless, sunny day, of the conference room. “We can run a meeting on a day like this without having to turn the lights on.
“On cold winter days, the wall traps the sun’s heat and helps heat the building on the light duty side. This is very new and innovative technology that was part of the initial construction that we’re proud of.”
Solar panels are also being used to power electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for the city’s almost 100 electric-powered on and off-road vehicles and EVs driven by city employees. The fleet station is equipped with three solar charging stations that can power up to two EVs simultaneously. The charging station’s solar panels can move with the sunlight automatically to maximize charging capability.
Evans estimates that the energy-saving projects tacked more than $2 million on to the building’s cost but says that the city is already seeing savings on operational costs.
“We’re probably saving the city on the order of $300,000-$400,000 a year on operational costs and lower utility bills, so when you factor it all together, there’s a real return on investment.” Evans says. “This is a benefit for the city.”
Dave Lubach is the executive editor for the facility market. He has more than eight years of experience writing about facility management and maintenance issues.