Reducing energy usage, costs at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High

Published June 27, 2009 | Energy and Sustainability Committee | Automatically Archived on 9/1/2009

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It’s the nerve center of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.

Every heat pump, thermostat and light switch in the school is regulated by computers, carefully monitored and programmed by the Building and Grounds Department.

“There’s really nowhere in the building that isn’t on the computer, inside or out,” said electrician Fred Egizio, who also serves as one of the department’s general maintenance staff.

According to B&G Coordinator Kevin Rossley, the school has significantly reduced its energy consumption and corresponding expenses by switching to a Building Automation System (BAS) to manage the lighting and HVAC systems. For the past several years, Rossley has tracked the school’s energy efficiency through ENERGY STAR, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to ENERGY STAR’s energy performance comparison, since Rossley began benchmarking the facility in 2006, the average annual energy bill at the high school has decreased from just over $785,000 (as of Nov. 30, 2006) to just under $600,000 (as of Dec. 31, 2008). This translates to a cost of approximately $1.56 per square foot at L-S, compared to the national average of $2.68 per square foot.

Rossley credited the school’s business office for contributing to the savings by negotiating a low rate for electricity.

Ninety percent of the improvement, however, is due to the implementation of the BAS, which he said has enabled the school to dramatically reduce its energy usage. Since 2006, the school’s “Energy Performance Rating” has increased from 86 to 92 — a rating of 75 or above qualifies as an ENERGY STAR rating and the national average is just 50. Greenhouse gas emissions at the school are also down over the past two years, according to the ENERGY STAR report.

“You can always get better. That’s what we believe,” Rossley said.

One major benefit of the BAS is the ability to program each individual light panel and thermostat on the school grounds, he said. By tracking how the facilities are used throughout the day and night, the B&G staff can develop an optimal schedule to ensure the systems are only working as hard as they need to. When rooms are not being used, the lights are shut off and the thermostat is adjusted.

With 314 heat pumps, “one degree means a lot of use,” Rossley said.

HVAC technician Donald Foss said there are times during the week when certain rooms are vacant for a few hours at a time and that being able to turn off the heat or air conditioning can make a big difference in reducing total energy consumption. Under the old system, there was only one schedule for the whole building, whereas now each individual thermostat can be programmed to run on a specific schedule, he said.

“It’s just been easier. The system works very well,” said Foss, who also serves as a general maintenance worker and the backup wastewater treatment plant operator.

Water usage at the school has also been reduced with the installation of low-flow toilets and sinks with auto-timers.

“We’re really saved a substantial amount of water,” he said.

The department has also saved money by participating in a demand response program, which rewards the school with periodic payments in exchange for reducing electricity consumption during times of peak demand.

While the B&G Department has been successful in cutting costs, Rossley is keenly aware that he could face staffing reductions and other cuts to maintenance as the L-S School Committee finalizes its fiscal 2010 budget.

The department currently includes three full-time maintenance staff, each with a sub-specialty, one full-time wastewater treatment plant operator, three full-time custodians and one part-time custodian, and 2.5 groundsmen, who are responsible for all exterior work at the school, including athletic fields, courtyards and parking lots. Rossley said 99 percent of all work is done in-house and the entire department is “cross-trained” to perform various different functions related to the general maintenance of the school facilities.

Rossley said he and his staff would continue to look for ways to improve the school’s energy efficiency and cut costs.

“We’re trying to do the right thing as far as the budget goes. We’re trying to save money … and put money back into our operating budget,” Rossley said. “We’ll be doing good things for the school and hopefully save some jobs.”