By Anne Cosgrove
From the April 2022 Issue
In July 2021, the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Missouri completed a district-wide lighting retrofit. Addressing both interior and exterior lighting, this project comprised new LED lighting technology across all 34 buildings within the school district. The district and its energy partner, cleantech integrator Ameresco, estimate the project will result in more than $1.25 million in cost savings in utilities, operations, and maintenance. The Hazelwood School District is the third largest in St. Louis County and the 11th largest in the State of Missouri. Its schools encompass just over 3.1 million square feet. With a student population of over 17,000, the district’s facilities comprise 11 preschools, 21 elementary schools, six middle schools, three high schools, and an administration building.
The Hazelwood School District initially began working with Ameresco 18 years ago looking to reduce its overall energy spend and leverage the savings to improve the district’s learning environment. For this most recent project in 2021, Ameresco identified needed facility upgrades throughout the district—a project that utilized the company’s Asset Planner software, which utilizes embedded data to recognize energy savings opportunities.
“We have had the privilege of working with the Hazelwood School District for almost two decades now,” said Louis Maltezos, Executive Vice President at Ameresco. “We’re excited to continue to make a positive impact on the learning environment and create a more sustainable future for Hazelwood School District.”
Longstanding Lighting Projects
Ameresco’s relationship with the Hazelwood School District dates back to 2003. Since the inception of this partnership, the two organizations have completed projects that have included the installation of acoustic ceilings, security upgrade enhancements, and the replacement of outdated HVAC systems across the district.
Said Christopher Norman, CFO/Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Facilities, for Hazelwood School District, “The district has been working with Ameresco as a partner for many years to continually improve efficiencies, reduce our energy consumption, and work towards being an energy-responsible school district. We believe the new LED lighting systems will enhance the overall school experience for our students and staff and will allow us to reallocate the savings towards academics and student services.”
The 2021 LED lighting retrofit project was awarded two separate energy savings awards from Ameren Missouri, the local electric utility, through the BizSavers Program. Hazelwood School District won the Energy Efficiency Champion award and Ameresco won the Trade Ally Star award.
Ameresco’s Maltezos shared insights about the most recent project, and about his company’s work for the district over nearly 20 years:
“In 2003, we kicked off our first project with the Hazelwood School District, centered on energy savings solutions. We replaced old fluorescent lighting technology with the [then] new energy efficient fluorescent lighting. The District utilized the savings it generated to offset other capital improvements that we implemented as part of the overall project. Now, almost 20 years later, technology has improved so much so that another round of lighting retrofits are needed. In fact, LED lighting technology has matured to the point where we proactively approached the District about doing another self-funded, lighting retrofit project.”
He continues, “The lead-up to the lighting retrofit project was rather straightforward. We deployed portable occupancy sensors in prescribed areas within numerous buildings to establish accurate operating hours for each of the spaces and building types. During that time frame, our crews performed a building-by-building and room-by-room audit of all available lighting fixtures, including exterior lights. Based on our findings, the return on investment for the District was very favorable and so, they chose to move forward.”
The project began in earnest in early 2020. “We kicked off the latest project with the District shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began,” recalls Maltezos. “To comply with health and safety concerns, we developed a plan to minimize our germicidal presence in educational spaces prior to deploying any of our employees. These measures went well beyond the usual PPE requirements to include things like temperature checks on entering, gloves, sanitization of touched surfaces, and breaks to maintain social distancing. The District also instituted additional sanitation measures after our installation teams had completed work in spaces.”
With the need to cover nearly 3 million square feet of lighting retrofits, it took the Ameresco team roughly six months to reach project completion. “One of the construction challenges we encountered centered around the fact that the local utility provider we worked with proposed added rebates for exterior lighting installations by the end of 2020,” explains Maltezos. “Our original installation schedule had site lighting installation saved for last, but following that news, it quickly became our highest priority and allowed for us to secure additional incentives for the District.”
In the end, post-installation measurements confirmed that the project exceeded Ameresco’s savings guarantee by over $25,000, resulting in significant total O&M savings for the district. In addition to the tremendous savings achieved, the Ameresco team the Trade Ally Star of the Year for 2020 from the local utility.
Evaluating Lighting Retrofits
Maltezos offers the following advice to facility executives as they plan a lighting retrofit project:
“Just start! We always encourage our customers to minimize energy usage first when considering ways to reduce carbon impact, and lighting retrofits are a great first step to reduction. We also know that it’s important to identify any odd or specialty lighting fixtures within your facility prior to project launch. It can be challenging to source retrofit parts for unique lighting fixtures. We’ve seen a number of customers discover this far into the fixture retrofit when it’s a costly realization. If you can identify these sorts of issues upfront, it will save time, money and delays.”
Finally, Maltezos advises facility executives to engage a specialty company that regularly performs this type of work to help formulate a plan from start to finish. “By engaging a trusted energy partner early on, you can have additional oversight of the procurement process, equipment sourcing, subcontracting and project timeline,” he concludes.
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