Rochester's new Castle Community a model for energy efficient redevelopment

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Castle Community

A unique collaboration brought energy modeling and efficiency measures into the renovation of the former National Guard Armory in Rochester—now dubbed the Castle Community. The measures are expected to reduce energy use by 20% when the building reopens as a multi-use space consisting of a restaurant, artist studios, gallery, and community gathering and events center.

Building a Team

General contractor Benike Construction wanted to promote efficiency in the Castle Community redevelopment. They approached the project owner, Scott Hoss, and then enlisted the help of Dru Larson from Rochester Public Utilities (RPU), and Kevin Bright, Energy and Sustainability Director at Destination Medical Center (DMC). Together the team applied for a CERTs Seed Grant. The grant was to fund a whole-building modeling approach that looked at the envelope and mechanical systems with a goal to implement any efficiency measures that could provide a simple payback of 3 years or less. RPU supported the project as exploration of a potential future energy efficiency retrofit incentive program, and DMC to educate and spur change in private redevelopments.

Exploring Efficiency Opportunities

The awarded CERTs Seed Grant funding was only $1,000—not nearly enough for the proposed energy modeling—but the team had the expertise to work with what they had. Ultimately, Minnesota Energy Resources, the natural gas supplier, was able to provide baseline energy use estimates and recommendations through their Design Assistance and Modeling Program. The Armory wasn’t a perfect fit for the available tools since not all of the mechanicals were being replaced and the building had some complexities—the existing system had been modified over the last four decades. The modeling revealed that lighting, a direct digital control system, and upgrades to variable frequency drives for pumps and motors had the greatest potential savings.

Making Improvements

As a result, LED lighting with an advanced control system was used and various components of the HVAC systems were upgraded or rebuilt when cost effective, including zone controls installed in the hydronic heating system. Prior to these zone valve controls, the hot water heating system “ran wild” all throughout the heating season. The kitchen for the Cameo restaurant was fitted with an on-demand variable-speed exhaust hood and a ventless dishwasher was installed that condenses water vapor for the final rinse, saving both energy and water.


Kevin Bright and Mike Benike examining rebuilt boilers for the hydronic heating system


Mike Benike and Dru Larson check out the electrical panel in the Cameo Restaurant kitchen

Reflecting on the Project

Over refreshments in the Cameo Restaurant in Castle Community after a tour of the building, Mike Benike shared that for small developers, “having numbers to back up the potential savings from energy efficiency choices is critical.” For Mike, the Castle Community project was “definitely worth the effort.” DMC’s Kevin Bright said the project was successful because lessons learned would “provide future guidance on community projects and programs.” Dru Larson indicated that RPU had already used the information to support use of more robust tools in subsequent pilot projects they are working on.

Public Tour in February

The Castle Community Project Team is planning a public presentation to share additional details and provide a tour of the building. The event is planned for Wednesday February 20th, 4 pm, at the Castle Community Building, 115 North Broadway, Rochester, MN. Join us!


CERTs awards seed grants to community groups for energy efficiency and clean energy projects across Minnesota. We’ve awarded over $1 million in Seed Grants since 2006. Click here to see more Seed Grant blog posts or click here to see more past funded projects.

CERTs Seed Grants

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    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission