Huntington Place- formerly named Cobo Hall, Cobo Center, and TCF Center -opened its doors in Detroit, Michigan in 1960. The 2,400,000-square-foot space has hosted a multitude of events and gatherings, including the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which has been held in that venue since 1965. Huntington Place is a place where people gather, a place for the community- with that in mind, when COVID-19 hit, Huntington Place’s team knew they needed to continue their existence as a Detroit staple and step up for their community. This goal and their actions that followed are the foundation to their energy reduction and efficiency.
During COVID-19 Huntington Place became a place that worked for the community to promote health and safe practices. They adapted to their environment and the needs of their community not through just one practice, but multiple. They became a hospital, a food bank, a vaccination and testing center, and a center for the homeless with medical services, laundry services, meals, and shower services, and on the coldest days, a shelter. Huntington Place not only adapted what was in their space, but they adapted the building as well. They strategically picked where to put each entity so that they would be in the safest and most energy efficient spot. They adapted for air flow and negative air in the spaces that were not directly in use, and built a decontamination area for masks. They held their vaccination center in the garage, where they pumped 13 million BTUs of heat. They also practiced smarter temperature regulation- controlling temperatures in the building based on the season to use less energy, and conditioned the specific spaces being used, using energy to make those spaces comfortable and saving energy in the connecting spaces. In the same realm of smart energy usage, they emphasized the use of natural light or “daylight harvesting” more and used electricity when absolutely necessary.
Huntington Place was able to accomplish this by improving their technology and investing in infrastructure. They spent $8 million to change switchgears, generators, and other related technology to better control and monitor their utility usage. As Engineering and Facility Services Director, Al Vasquez stated in an interview, “if you can’t read it, measure it, or monitor it, you can’t save it or control it.” Their goal with updating these technologies was to read and fix the energy in real time, through constant monitoring, before it even made it to the utilities. They continue this constant monitoring, even in the improvements they can carry out, such as their future plan to replace their current LEDs, which were state of the art at the time of installation, to more up-to-date and efficient LEDs.
During our interview, Al Vasquez also talked about Huntington Place’s existence as a “building belongs to the people…to the taxpayers”. Their constant goal is spending energy and tax dollars as little as possible. They do a lot of calculations to reduce and save energy cost and taxpayers’ money. For example, in 2009 the building was supplemented by State of Michigan $20 million a year, that number has inched down over time to a point that, before COVID-19, they broke even and did not depend on that state supplement.
Huntington Place continues to monitor their energy usage and move forward in energy efficiency. As for future plans, they are working towards getting back to breaking even by continuing to invest, expand, and listen to what the industry needs and what the community wants. Their constant improvements are allowing them to hold larger shows and events, which allows less supplementing by the state.
We were very excited to celebrate Huntington Place in their energy efficiency and community accomplishments on June 15, 2022 at our 8th annual Michigan Energy Summit! They were awarded for their achievements in energy reduction in the Venue Category.