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How district energy is supporting Philadelphia’s burgeoning life science market

By District Energy posted 09-08-2021 09:44


Philadelphia Business Journal


Even before the pandemic, the life science sector was on the rise. From 2009 to the end of 2019, the amount of lab space in the U.S. grew from 17 million to 29 million square feet. However, certain U.S. markets are seeing an acceleration, attracting more biotech companies to their cities, Philadelphia among them. According to the Select Greater Philadelphia Council, Philadelphia is now recognized around the world as a leader in cell and gene therapies with more than 30 companies and over 60 labs specifically conducting this research. Further, in their Business is Greater Here report, they state that no county in the entire nation produces as many degrees in biomedical engineering as Philadelphia County.

Labs and research centers have very unique space and energy demands, including specific ventilation systems, temperature and humidity requirements, and sterilization needs for tools and equipment. When evaluating options, biotech companies need to consider how they are going to meet these distinct specifications.

In Philadelphia, many life science companies are turning to Vicinity Energy, the owner of Philadelphia’s district energy system, which is one of the largest in the nation. Through a vast network of underground pipes across the city, Vicinity delivers thermal energy in the form of high pressure, low carbon, green steam to end use customers. It’s a resilient, sustainable and economical energy solution for biotechnology and life science companies.

Financially, district energy typically requires less up-front capital and, operationally, much lower ongoing maintenance costs. Further, laboratories require 24/7 energy service to ensure uninterrupted research, sanitized equipment and tools, and preservation of delicate procedures. In order to ensure this level of reliability, costly system redundancies must be built in to the plans for any on site mechanical room; this is not a requirement with district energy, which incorporates layers of back-up infrastructure and redundancies, ensuring greater than 99.99% reliability.* Finally, steam provides building owners and developers with flexibility. Connecting to the district energy network allows property owners and developers to adapt their space to attract tenants and transition their buildings to meet changing market demands.

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