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By Anne Cosgrove
From the March 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
The administrators at Dunklin R-V School District located in eastern Missouri are expecting recently completed improvements to four of its facilities to save nearly $27,000 a year while enhancing the academic environment and avoiding future capital costs of up to nearly $300,000 annually. Completed in September 2013, the project was initially focused on the district’s Senn-Thomas Middle School, Pevely Elementary, and Taylor Early Childhood Center. Once the project was set in motion, a subsequent energy audit revealed that it would be beneficial to include the Butterfly Building, a facility also serving the early childhood and special needs programs.
The Dunklin R-V School District is comprised of the cities of Herculaneum, Pevely, Horine, and southwest Barnhart in Missouri. The district has three educational campuses: Pevely Elementary, Senn-Thomas Middle School, and Herculaneum High School.
Commenting on the project, Stan Stratton, superintendent of the Dunklin R-V School District, says, “These upgrades not only increase energy and operational efficiency and reduce energy costs, but they also enable the district to avoid significant capital costs which would have been needed to keep the buildings operational. Most importantly, they improve the academic environment to help us better fulfill our chief objective: educating our students.”
Broad Improvements In Order
Heading up the project for the district was Russ Waugh, maintenance director there since 2007. In discussing the impact this project has had on his department, he says, “Simply put, it has freed up our staff up to focus on additional tasks.” Inefficient HVAC systems and roof leaks were among the challenges Waugh and his staff had contended with in the past.
In late 2012, the district put out an RFP for a guaranteed energy savings contract. Under this contract structure, the energy services company (ESCO) hired for the project would guarantee a certain level of energy savings over a specified period of time. Those savings are used to pay the ESCO for its work for the district.
“After the resulting energy savings have paid for the improvements,” says Waugh, “our energy costs, which will only increase over time, will be reduced due to the improvements we’ve made. Simultaneously, we have increased the comfort of our occupants.”
Superintendent Stratton and Waugh collaborated to identify the company best suited to provide project services. Says Waugh, “We began by selecting five possible firms, narrowed down the list, and ultimately chose Trane for the project.” In January 2013, that company began evaluating what course of action to take for the district’s needs.
Waugh was a daily point of contact for the Trane team, working closely with Tiffany Duncan, an account executive there. Notes Duncan, “The biggest challenge was the need to complete major renovations and infrastructure upgrades in the early childhood center within a tight budget and schedule. We teamed up with Dunklin R-V School District to develop a plan to address both of these challenges while accomplishing the majority of their goals and objectives.”
The largest impact can be found in the Taylor Early Childhood Center and the accompanying Butterfly Building. These buildings were in need of major improvements, and these also house revenue producing programs. Explains Waugh, “These facilities are also central to the district’s special needs program. That program is also expanding, so it is important to continue making improvements for the students.”
Upgrades to the Taylor facility included modernizing the HVAC systems, upgrading electrical systems, and replacing domestic hot water piping and an electric water heater. Meanwhile, a partial roof replacement addressed comfort and leak issues. “The through the wall heating and cooling units we had been using there were very inefficient. We now have energy efficient rooftop units. Coupled with the work on the roof, this has made a huge difference in the comfort and indoor air quality in that facility,” says Waugh.
He continues, “The old HVAC units were working as hard as they could, but teachers and students still complained they were cold. Now we have adequate heating. This past winter, even when the temperatures [dropped into the negative or single digits], we didn’t have those types of complaints.”
Other improvements to the Taylor building were restroom renovations, which made these spaces compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and age appropriate. The upgrades included replacing plumbing fixtures, updating toilets with battery operated flush valves, adding three station lavatory systems (also with battery operated automation), and installing an epoxy coating over a ceramic tile floor.
Rounding out the work in that facility was the installation of new acoustical ceilings (and reducing heights from 12′ to 8′), exhaust fans, and T8 fluorescent lighting with electronic ballasts. In some areas, lighting occupancy sensors were used to save energy further. Outside, a walkway between the Taylor facility and the Butterfly Building was modernized, and LED lighting was used there for evening illumination.
HVAC and lighting were top items for replacement across the board. The Butterfly Building, which houses the early childhood program’s meal and nap areas, received new HVAC rooftop units and T8 fluorescent lighting and electronic ballasts. A full roof replacement was performed, which addressed issues with leaks. This facility also contains the IT department for the district.
The improvements for Pevely Elementary School and Senn-Thomas Middle School also focused on HVAC and lighting. The elementary school renovation included replacing hot water boiler systems in two areas of the facility as well as installing efficient lighting.
At Senn-Thomas, a significant impact from the project involved the gymnasium and locker room cooling systems. Two high efficiency packaged rooftop units now provide those spaces with comfort levels not possible before the project. Explains Waugh, “Air conditioning was virtually nonexistent in the gym before this project was done, and the new equipment has made all the difference in the world.” Other improvements at Senn-Thomas were to the heating and lighting systems.
The New Normal
Nearly six months on, the new equipment and interior items are easing both daily and long-term tasks for Waugh and his staff. Offering one example, Waugh says, “Here is a basic example. Before this project, when it would rain or snow the custodial staff would be kept busy addressing any leaks, cleaning wet areas, and examining the roof for perforations. The new roofing allows us to focus on the task at end when it rains or snows.”
Other time consuming activities related to rain and snow events included replacing damaged ceiling tiles, drying out materials, and preventing mold growth. “There had been a good deal of redundancy,” says Waugh.
The more efficient lighting has also eased facilities maintenance by reducing the replacement frequency. “I don’t believe we’ve needed to change a light bulb during this school year thus far,” quips Waugh.
Tying all these changes together is the district’s new energy management system (EMS), and Waugh is pleased with the capabilities this technology is delivering to his department. “The system has really increased our productivity. We are using our resources in a much more efficient manner,” he says.
“At Senn-Thomas, for instance, even before this project, we had other fairly new rooftop units, but it was not connected to an energy management system,” adds Waugh. “Now, after the project, we have 31 rooftop units, and it’s not uncommon for an air conditioning unit to throw a belt or have a fan motor go out. Now, when we receive a complaint call, I do not have to dispatch someone to the roof first. Rather, a mechanic can bring it up on the computer through the EMS to find out what is happening. This saves us a lot of time.
The EMS is also easing the task of tracking energy use and costs, and the district will be keeping tabs on this data. “That is an important part of our project, and we will be tracking utility costs for each campus,” says Waugh.
“I’ve been involved in $19 million worth of projects while working for the district,” he adds, “and this one was one of the most enjoyable. Working with [Duncan] and the rest of her team from St. Louis provided us access to a great deal of expertise.”
As the Dunklin R-V School District prepares for the end of the 2013-14 school year, Waugh and his colleagues continue to refine the new equipment at these four facilities. “We are very pleased with the technology that is now available to us,” says Waugh. The new building systems, coupled with the EMS and materials improvements, have enabled this district to enter a new era of efficiency.
This article was based on an interview with Duncan and Waugh.