Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In Check

By Anne Cosgrove
From the January/February 2016 Issue

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In CheckFacility improvement projects have the potential to improve the quality of operations as well as the bottom line. The trick for facility management professionals is to identify and execute those projects that will deliver the best overall results for the specific facility, and the organization overall. In Hamilton County, OH, the director of county facilities, Ralph W. Linne, MBA, CPM, BOC has implemented several initiatives that individually and together are improving the building stock leased, owned, and occupied by the county.

In his position since 2001, Linne manages a facilities department of more than 200 employees that maintains nearly 300 facilities totaling approximately 3.5 million square feet. The Hamilton County Department of County Facilities responsibilities include: property management, facility maintenance and operations, design and construction services, energy management, procurement services, grounds and landscaping, cleaning, space planning, parking, foodservice, and security services.

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In Check
The Hamilton County Courthouse was included in the energy performance contracting projects Linne and his team executed recently. (Photo: Hamilton County, OH)

Under Linne’s leadership, improvements to department operations and facility efficiencies have flourished, even in the face of budget limitations.

Most recently, he oversaw the implementation of a three phase energy performance contract that was completed in June 2015. The energy conservation project included three main phases of performance contracting work on 15 major buildings under the jurisdiction of the facilities department.

The majority of work was done in five county buildings, located in downtown Cincinnati. These are:

  • Hamilton County Courthouse (603,856 square feet);
  • Justice Center (houses the county jail, 383,244 square feet);
  • William Howard Taft (Law) Center (193,524 square feet);
  • 800 Broadway Building (includes sheriff and Jobs and Family services offices, 364,933 square feet); and
  • Hamilton County Administration Building (209,063 square feet).

The energy performance contract included upgrades throughout these buildings, including new boilers, chillers, air handlers, lighting, plumbing fixtures, direct digital controls (DDC), cooling towers, and thermal solar panels (to heat water at the Justice Center).

Since these projects began in 2010, Linne reports for these and other facilities included in the contract activity an annual electric usage decrease of 10,779 megawatts; an annual natural gas usage decrease of 28,523 therms; and an annual water usage decrease of 18,234 kilogallons. These savings have delivered an approximate avoided cost of $1.96 million; $590,000; and $40,900, respectively, over the past five years.

2016 Winner Profile

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In Check
Ralph W. Linne
Director of County Facilities
Hamilton County, OH


Overview: Energy performance contracts, from 2011-15 significantly reduce consumption and costs. Software implementation streamlines multiple facets of department.

Type of Facilities: Offices, courthouse, correctional facilities.

Square Footage: 3.5 million, in 270+ facilities.

Annual Budget: $20 million annual; $153 million five year capital.

2016 FEY Judges

Ted Bielicky, CFM
Senior director of facilities, Novo Nordisk, Plainsboro, NJ

Michael Berthelsen
Associate vice president, facilities management, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus

David J. Lenart, P.E.
Director of facilities and materials management, Columbus Regional Hospital, Columbus, IN

Maria C. Vickers, CFM
Regional manager, Workplace Services, Americas & EMEA, Advanced Micro Devices, Boxborough, MA

For his role in launching and executing this energy project, coupled with ENERGY STAR achievements and initiatives in technology, Linne is recognized as this magazine’s 2016 Facility Executive of the Year.

Linne is an active member of USGBC, IFMA and BOMA organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area; a trustee for the Ohio Public Facilities Maintenance Organization (OPFMA); and serves on the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio Service Corporation Natural Gas Program Board. He has achieved a Building Operator Certification (BOC), Level 1 from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, and teaches several BOC certification courses.

Additionally, Linne is certified as Level III in Homeland Security from the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute. This was a requirement for Hamilton County employees after 9/11, and maintaining certification as Linne has done is now optional.

Tackling Energy Improvements

Performance contracting discussions started in 2009 and began to be implemented in 2010, with the last phase complete in mid-2015. Having a 20 year replacement plan in place was significant to justifying the project and the return on investment, explains Linne. “When I came to Hamilton County, we put together a 20 year replacement plan for our buildings. I drew on my experience in capital budgets and forecasting.”

Working with three design partners—structural engineer, MEP engineer, and architect, the facilities department identified when equipment had been installed and life expectancy. “When the opportunity for performance contracting came up, and there were some grants available, having the 20 year plan helped to get the project approved,” says Linne.

As part of his 25 years of facility management experience, Linne was heavily involved in managing public construction projects, including two nuclear power plants. As such, project management and energy are two areas of strength.

Prior to the recent energy performance, his department was already actively doing energy efficiency projects throughout Hamilton County facilities. These efforts were recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program. Five county owned buildings in downtown Cincinnati earned ENERGY STAR certification for 2015, which signifies that the buildings perform in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA.

The facilities earning ENERGY STAR most recently are: Hamilton County Administration Building; 800 Broadway Building; William Howard Taft Law Center; Alms & Doepke A&D) Building; and 250 William Howard Taft Building.

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In Check
Solar thermal domestic water heaters located on the roof of the north tower of the Hamilton County, OH Justice Center provides all of the heated domestic water for the building. (Photo: Hamilton County, OH)

In addition both of the County’s Justice Centers (jail facilities) have shown scores in excess of the certification minimum; however, ENERGY STAR does not yet recognize penal institutions.

One of Linne’s goals, as it relates to ENERGY STAR, is to achieve certification for the Courthouse. “The obstacles is that the courthouse boilers are used to also heat the Justice Center,” he explains. “Our natural gas usage is very high, since we’re heating two buildings with the equipment. We are working with the EPA, and also ThermalTech Engineering to try to track usage separately.”

A significant achievement for Linne and his department has been improving the ENERGY STAR score for the A&D Building from 41 to 90. After taking over management from the occupying department in 2008, the facilities department set to work to on this historical building, built in 1878.

When asked about staff related strategies he has used to ensure ENERGY STAR progress, Linne explains, “Each building manager is reviewed on their ability to control energy usage, and they are involved in the replacement of equipment, including receiving training on the proper operating procedures.”

He continues, “This includes working with the building tenants to help them understand the saving to the county by using ENERGY STAR computers and turning lights out, for instance. Also, a very important that we inspect building exteriors every five years.”

Meanwhile, the 800 Broadway Building achieved LEED-EB: O&M certification in 2014. It was the first existing government building in Ohio to obtain this status. The building has also been ENERGY STAR certified for eight consecutive years.

Details on the county’s energy and utility usage during 2014 can be accessed in the “Hamilton County 2014 Energy Management and Utility Usage Report” published in April 2015 (go to Annual Reports section on the Hamilton County website page: www.hamiltoncountyohio.gov/facilities/).

Software Tools With Impact

When it comes to using facility management and real estate software to maintain, track, and evaluate the state of Hamilton County facilities, Linne has been a pioneer. In 2003, he decided to introduce a software module from ARCHIBUS, focused on tracking and managing space. Since then, modules have been added over the years, helping to increase insight into multiple areas of the facilities department. Currently, ARCHIBUS is the system employed the facilities department to manage the various aspects of facility management, including: capital planning, energy management, space management, asset and software management, building operations, management and cost estimating of projects (including LEED), management of information for various conditions within the buildings (including deferred maintenance), management of environmental assets, and employee safety.

The results that Linne’s implementation delivered drew interest from his counterparts in the county government. The ARCHIBUS platform, with multiple modules, has expanded into a county-wide tool enabling numerous departments to share information.

For instance, Linne introduced an inventory and property management module, and when the county auditor saw the type of data made available from the facilities department with this tool, they requested other applicable departments begin using it. “The county government requirements are that department heads must report their inventory of assets each year,” says Linne. “This makes this process easier and accurate.”

States Linne, “We have customized this system to work in a government environment as opposed to molding our policies and procedures around it.”

When the recently implemented energy performance contract was under discussion, the County referred to the ARCHIBUS energy and asset management applications to perform baseline energy usage and other data collection and analysis. The centralization of, and access to, all this usage, maintenance and other data is essential for establishing performance contracting compliance by both client and contractor alike, Linne explains.

“This is an investment of over $17 million dollars that includes capital equipment and other needs which will pay for itself through decreased usage, lowering costs as a result,” says Linne. “Our energy management application is the main tool to track energy usage and ensure taxpayers that our energy conservation measures were successful.”

Product Information

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In Check

Lighting (LED and fluorescent): LSI Industries.

Cleaning Services: ABM; Scioto.

Building Automation (Energy Management): Archibus; Tridium based server.

Building Automation (HVAC): Automated Logic Controls; Honeywell Controls; JCI Controls.

CAFM/IWMS Software: Archibus.

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineers: ThermalTech Engineering.

Energy Performance Contract: Ameresco; Clean Energy Solutions.

What’s Next?

Since 2008, Hamilton County has been impacted by declining revenue and strong service demands. General fund revenue decreased by over 28% between 2008-2013, with more reductions in other funding streams. During this time, overall County staffing has been reduced 27% (1,700 employees). And facility space was consolidated (with both rented and owned space reduced). Still, several departments see increased use, such as Probation and Juvenile Courts.

Linne and his team focus on identifying project needs within their managed buildings. For the near future, Linne says, “We are updating the County Master Plan for the downtown buildings, and from that will have a five year plan for relocations and remodeling. We are also in the process of securing a site to build a 90,000 square foot crime lab and morgue. The current facility is outdated, with a footprint of 35,000 square feet.”

To create a facility master plan, Linne explains, that several years ago, his department spoke with elected officials on what space they needed, and what growth they expected. “We are revisiting that now,” he says. “We were in a recession then, and some of the leadership has changed. So we want to make sure we have the right people in the right buildings. And, we need to determine which buildings we’ll keep long term, and where we will do improvements first.”

Reflecting on the past projects, those on deck, and daily operations, Linne shares that, in addition to understanding the budget process, honing his communication skills significantly contributes to getting things accomplished. He says, “I work with judges, law enforcement, elected officials, the cleaning company, the public, and news media. It is important to understand how to communicate at all levels in your organization.”

Facility Executive of the Year 2016: Keeping Costs In CheckThis article is based on project literature and an interview with Linne.

Please share your thoughts on this article in the Comments section below. To submit an overview of your new construction or renovation story for article consideration, send an e-mail to acosgrove@groupc.com.


  1. It should also be noted that some of the facilities that Mr. Linne is responsible for maintaining are on the National Register of Historic Places and as old as 142 years old. These additional complexities make his achievements related to energy efficiency and long-term maintenance even more impressive. Your organization certainly got it right in naming Mr. Linne this year’s recipient.

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