By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Opened in 1972, Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) is the fifth largest college in the state of Oklahoma, serving approximately 31,000 students in 2012. Since 1980, the number of students has more than tripled, the faculty has doubled, and campus square footage has also more than doubled.
When J.B. Messer began working at OCCC as director of facilities management in 1998, he was tasked with overseeing the operations of the 143 acre campus on a daily and long-term basis. With the college expected to continue to grow, a major focus for him to was increase efficiencies, with an eye on the next five, 10, or 15 years. The facility management (FM) team would play a crucial part in meeting the demands of increased enrollment, new programs, and new facilities.
As part of his solution, Messer headed up the creation of an “Energy Systems Master Plan” to identify areas in need and map out strategies to address these issues. Implemented in 2000, the ongoing plan focused on two critical needs: the cost of expected campus expansion as well as the additional cost of electricity; and the need for OCCC to provide state-of-the-art facilities and programs to students and faculty.
Since the inception of the master plan, OCCC has decreased its power consumption nearly 26% per square foot since 2000. And while the cost of electricity has increased by 40% in the last decade, OCCC has realized only a 6% increase.
In 2008, Messer oversaw the addition of 180,000 square feet of facility space; the college did not need to budget for any increase in utility spending due to savings put in place by the energy systems master plan. In addition, since the plan’s inception, OCCC has completed a data center renovation that reduced operating costs of IT infrastructure by 60%; moved campus printing services to facilities management (for a savings of about $120,000 per year); and created a student jobs program in the FM department.
These results, along with other innovative programs implemented by Messer, are the primary drivers in why he is being recognized as the Today’s Facility Manager 2013 Facility Executive of the Year (FEY).
Messer is a key point of contact for OCCC administration in exploring new and innovative technology for the campus. This is a task for which his background and technical expertise make him well suited. Prior to entering the FM profession in 1991 (working in utilities management at the University of Oklahoma), he had been a naval nuclear engineer with the U.S. Navy for 21 years.
“My previous education and military background enable me to be proficient areas that include research, attention to detail, quality assurance, and leading by example,” he says. “Since I’ve been working in facilities management I have attempted to focus on each task as an individual entity. What are our end goals? What is our timeline for completion? As I research each of these items, I break them down into their simplest components. I believe people can feel rewarded in accomplishing smaller portions, while working toward the end goal.”
Energy Savings Spill Over
In creating the energy systems master plan for OCCC, Messer quickly recognized that the FM staff was spending an inordinate amount of time in the field attending to equipment. Systems were launched and shut down manually, and there was a consistent stream of trouble calls into the department.
“If we were going to support the growth of the campus, we could not sustain that,” recalls Messer. “So we identified what we wanted to do and how we were going to get there. This centered around one component—the addition of controls system for campus equipment.” Once a building automation system was chosen and installed, the FM staff immediately began using it to perform many of the duties they had been performing manually. And the savings began to show fairly quickly.
“We began to see increased efficiencies,” says Messer. “And we began to see savings on utility usage, and we reinvested the savings to continue to move the improvement process forward. It has continued to build on itself every year.”
Executing the master plan included adding technologies such as underground water storage systems to provide cooler water conditions and an ice bank storage system to allow for power peak savings. Under Messer’s direction, OCCC also revamped its central plant to provide for a primary-secondary variable flow system. This change reduced system pumping power by 80% and allowed for expanded system capacity for the future. Meanwhile, the FM team engineered a standardized campus wide energy management system, which provides time-of-day and usage scheduling, troubleshooting, and monitoring.
Sustainable design practices continue to be a key piece of the energy systems master plan. And, although LEED certification has not been considered, OCCC is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and is active in the APPA International (Leadership in Educational Facilities) association. Active in several professional groups, Messer is a senior representative of the Central Association of Physical Plan Administrators (CAPPA) to APPA and sits on the Executive Committee of CAPPA and a past member of the Board of Directors for APPA.
For the past seven years, Messer has employed APPA’s Facilities Performance Indicators (FPI) annual survey into which he and his staff enter data about OCCC operations for comparison with other higher education institutions. The FPI not only facilitates information gathering on OCCC operations, it also combines data from the more than 450 participating institutions to provide benchmarking information.
Shares Messer, “Benchmarking is key to having clear numbers on operations costs. We track everything. This helps with our budgeting and purchasing process. We use a series of spreadsheets to categorize and track expenditures on all of the projects that we handle each year.” The benchmarking also pays off in that Messer and his team can access data quickly when needed.
Some statistics reflecting the changes at OCCC since 2000 (compared to 2012) include:
- Campus square footage: slightly under 600,000 in 2000; 1,000,000 in 2012
- Electricity cost per kilowatt: $.05 in 2000; $.08 in 2012
- Energy consumption: 15.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2000; Energy consumption: 16.6 million kWh in 2012 (6% increase)
- Energy consumption per square foot: 26.73 kWh annually; Energy consumption per square foot: 19.83 kWh annually (26% decrease campus wide)
When compared to other community colleges, OCCC is operating its facilities at a significantly lower cost. On a per student basis, OCCC operates at $245 less than the national average. Meanwhile, the college has relatively low energy cost per square foot ($1.65), compared to national ($2.03) and regional ($2.01) averages.
Another area where Messer made changes was campus printing services. All printing has been operated by FM since 2006. In that time, OCCC has doubled its output of printed materials while reducing costs and staffing needs.
Noted FEY judge, Tom Condon, “The reduction of energy usage across the board, extending even to printing, is very comprehensive. And the fact that [the college] operates at such a low energy usage compared to other schools makes it a model for other institutions.”
Commented FEY judge, David Lenart, “The results of increasing the campus footprint, while decreasing power utilization is the perfect example of how to live by vision and goals. The fruits of that alignment are providing tremendous advantage and benefit.”
Calling All Resources
Upon choosing the controls system for campus wide building automation, Messer’s efforts turned to ensuring he and his staff were properly trained on the system. “I’m a firm believer that once you select a system, you should invest in it to use it to full capacity and capabilities,” he says.
The system vendor regularly held training sessions at its headquarters, but Messer found it cost-prohibitive to send his technicians on a frequency that would be effective. After discovering there were end users in other organizations in the area interested in system training, he proposed the vendor conduct a series of training sessions on the OCCC campus.
“We developed a good relationship with the vendor’s local office in Oklahoma City and discussed with them how we might conduct the training on our campus,” explains Messer. “We identified the sequential modules of training needed over a three year time frame, and we offered to provide the facilities and infrastructure support.” This was launched in 2008.
“I now have a group of extremely well qualified HVAC technicians,” says Messer. “We still identify courses from time to time and may start the process all over again as new technicians or area end users arise. And it’s a great way to maintain a partnership with our vendor.”
In addition to the energy savings, Messer began offering facility management jobs to OCCC students four years ago. Funded through the federal work-study program and a commitment from the college itself, this program employs about 40 students each year, providing them with education and experience.
The students are able to delve into a variety of areas, including lighting, quality assurance, work orders, and other critical services. Citing one example, Messer explains, “We have a student lighting team that inspects and identifies lights that are out throughout the campus. They then enter information into our work order system and the staff receives the order to perform the work. The efficiency of this workflow builds on itself, so it’s a rare occasion that we find lights that are not working.”
FEY judge Maria Vickers comments, “I’m pleased to know that the employment of students on the facilities team helps to evangelize the profession as well as keep down costs.”
Messer also supports OCCC’s mission through funding and compliance efforts. The college received the EPA Brownsfield Grant to complete an asbestos abatement of its Capitol Hill Center. And now, Messer is evaluating the energy systems master plan to incorporate Oklahoma Senate Bill 1096 (put into place in May 2012), which directs state agencies, colleges, universities, and career techs to reduce energy costs by at least 20% by 2020. Energy audits have been conducted to prepare for compliance.
“We strive to stay at the top of our field in technologies and practices we use,” says Messer. “It’s important to explore options that can add effectiveness to what we do. We are a state funded institution, and the public needs to have trust in us. We do everything we can to be responsible stewards.”
This article was based on Messer’s nomination form, and supplemented by an interview with Messer.