Interview with Trent Lowe: Allied Parking LED Retrofit
Published December 2016
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.
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.
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!