Philadelphia, The Greenest City Of Them All
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Philadelphia, The Greenest City Of Them All

The program was part of a larger city-wide effort, entitled Greenworks Philadelphia, to make it “the greenest city in America” and retrofit 15% of its housing stock by 2015.

Holmes Report

Philadelphia…The Dow Chemical Company…Cool Roofs....A Block Party. What comes to mind when these phrases are placed together? The RetroFIT Philly “Coolest Block” Contest!

From February to August 2010, The Dow Chemical Company, the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) of Philadelphia, and the city of Philadelphia executed a city-wide weatherization endeavor entitled The RetroFIT Philly “Coolest Block” Contest in Philadelphia. The program was part of a larger city-wide effort, entitled Greenworks Philadelphia, to make it “the greenest city in America” and retrofit 15% of its housing stock by 2015. Recent city-wide legislation also requires installation of energy efficient reflective roofs or green roofs on all new no- and low-slope roofs.

With divisional headquarters in Philadelphia, Dow wanted to support the city’s initiative to set the standard for urban sustainability. Not only did the company provide practical solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change and urban heat island effect, but Dow also helped lower resident energy bills and enable the city of Philadelphia to become less energy dependent.

Gibbs & Soell’s RetroFIT Philly campaign for the Dow Chemical Company targeted a range of audiences in the Philadelphia area including homeowners, community leaders and government officials, preservation groups, architects, builders, contractors, as well as the local and national media. The campaign also had several objectives:

• Heighten Dow’s position as an expert in energy efficiency, weatherization, and cool roofs;
• Raise Dow’s mission to meet its 2015 Sustainability Goals;
• Boost energy efficiency on the winning block through lower energy bills for homeowners.
• Increase awareness of Dow Building & Construction’s cool roof technology and air sealing and insulation product offerings;
• Inform target audiences about the benefits of proper installation of energy savings technologies, including cool roofs, insulation and air sealing.
• Build interest and excitement among builders, architects and roofing contractors about the business opportunities involved in “cool roofing” and air sealing; and
• Attract registrants to the “coolest block” contest and persuade non-contest participants in Philadelphia and other cities to weatherize their homes.

Dow learned that proper insulation and air sealing of the home can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30% (source: U.S. DOE). Air infiltration – which often occurs between walls and floors, around windows and doors, and through other gaps and cracks – can account for as much as 40% of heat loss in homes (source: U.S. DOE). What’s even more compelling is that cool roofs can be 50 to 80 degrees cooler than typical black asphalt rooftops and require less maintenance. They reflect the sun’s heat and help prevent it from transferring into the home, compared to asphalt roofs that absorb 95 percent of the sun’s heat.

With this in mind, Dow chose to retrofit row homes because they make up approximately 75% of Philadelphia’s

housing stock. When one home falls into disrepair due to roof failure, it can not only turn into an eyesore for the neighborhood, but may eventually need to be removed. Since walls and roofs are shared between row homes, neighbors on either side of a teardown no longer benefit from radiant heat –and their heating bills can double. In other words, cool roofs not only help to preserve the integrity of the block, but they also reduce heating costs.

The RetroFit Philly “Coolest Block” Contest encouraged residents to join together in competing to win an energy efficiency upgrade for their entire block. Strategies for the campaign consisted of strengthening long-standing community relationships between the ECA and the City of Philadelphia to coordinate the contest and get the word out, organizing high profile events to create a sense of excitement and generate visibility for the contest both locally and nationally, and engaging local and national media outlets to create a “buzz” and inform homeowners, as well as the general public, throughout the contest.

With much anticipation and excitement building, the contest was kicked off at City Hall by Mayor Nutter with guest speaker, Gil Sperling from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program. Each block had to submit an extensive group entry form through a dedicated “block captain,” which included a written essay about why their block deserved to win. Each entry also required a commitment from every homeowner on the entire block. The winning block was announced in a ceremony held on a cool rooftop in downtown Philadelphia, and in celebration of the 144 residents from the winning block, along with marking the commencement of the energy efficient upgrades, Dow hosted a “Coolest Block” Party on the winning block. Food, fun, games, and music drew residents young and old out of their homes and into the street, where the Mayor stopped by to praise them for their hard work and community spirit. In addition, several homeowners, as well as members of the media, even went up to see an actual cool roof coating applied.

With a budget of approximately $107,000 plus expenses (confidential and not to be disclosed), Gibbs & Soell was able to execute a successful campaign for The Dow Chemical Company that reached thousands of target audience members and met campaign objectives. Key results of the RetroFit Philly campaign include:

• Met Dow 2015 Sustainability Goal of working with a community where Dow has a heavy presence to help further community goals;
• 74 blocks across the city participated, exceeding the goal of 30 participating blocks;
• Energy savings estimated at 20-30% reduction in energy bills; exact homeowner savings will be available in Summer 2011;
• Held information sessions around the city for community leaders and block captains;
• Created a dedicated website for the contest that received 5,200 hits and 17,000 page views, and held the #1 and #2 spots on Google key word search on contest announcement day;
• Increased awareness of Dow and its energy efficiency offerings and reinforced Dow’s commitment to sustainability with more than 210 total media hits in target consumer, local and builder media outlets including: USA Today, ABC 6, NBC 10, Green Builder Magazine,, Philadelphia Row Home Magazine, KYW Newsradio, and the Philadelphia Daily News; and
• 177, 199, 967+ estimated total circulation/reach from hits in target publications.

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