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Centre County Completes Energy Savings Project

by on February 12, 2020 2:47 PM

Work on Centre County government's guaranteed energy savings project recently wrapped up, with the $4.2 million in renovations to county-owned buildings ultimately expected to net $1.7 million in savings.

McClure Company, which has offices in State College, was selected in 2018 as the contractor for the project and work took place through part of that year and throughout 2019, with the most substantial work at the correctional facility, courthouse, sheriff's office and Willowbank Building.

During an overview of the completed project at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting, deputy county administrator Bob Jacobs said it was made possible through Pennsylvania's Act 39, which encourages local governments to leverage wasted utility dollars to fund building improvements through energy saving opportunities. The act allowed the county to select a single contractor that provides a single point of accountability, guarantees the cost and eliminates change orders, and tracks guaranteed savings over a 20-year period.

"It really helped the county in terms of project selection for a contractor and then also as the project went along working with just one contractor made it a lot easier," Jacobs said. "We knew what the price was going in and it worked quite well."

McClure performed an energy audit throughout county facilities and identified 10 conservation measures.

The biggest savings will come from replacement of bulbs with LED lighting at each facility, inside and out. At a cost of $464,472, it is projected to save the county $1.2 million in the long-term.

High-wattage lamps were converted to LEDs at all of the facilities, which McClure project manager Chris Howe said involved retrofitting applications in existing fixtures or, when that was not possible, providing new fixtures. New lighting controls were added to common areas and anticipated rebates total $40,000.

Of the LED upgrades, the biggest savings beneficiary is the county jail, which also saw installation of a new residential hot water heater and fluid cooler system.

"Talking to the users of the prison this past summer when it was humid and hot they commented on how much different the facility felt," Howe said. "It was much cooler, it wasn’t as humid and they definitely felt a difference."

At the Willowbank Building, boilers dating back to the 1980s were replaced and new controls added, along with a fluid cooler upgrade and addition of a make-up air unit, which takes in fresh air, conditions it and circulates it through the building.

The sheriff's office received HVAC upgrades, window replacements and interior repairs.

"That was a big issue as you folks know. The sheriff’s office was in very bad disrepair," Jacobs said. "This project really created almost an entirely new working space for the sheriff’s office. Well worth the effort."

A new HVAC system and controls at the courthouse proved the trickiest of the work, Howe said.

"The courthouse was a very big challenge with the historical status that facility has, the age of the building and the many renovations that have gone through it," he said. "As we ran pipe through the building and made upgrades, we needed to remove ceilings and walls and were able to patch those back and give a better look to the facility inside."

Howe added that the project went well, thanks in part to the collaboration of facilities management director Lee Sheaffer and cooperation from courthouse staff. Shaeffer called the teamwork "seamless."

HVAC replacement is part of a series renovations that have been ongoing at the longest functioning courthouse in the state. First floor office renovations were completed in 2018 and the next phase — which includes a fourth-floor security vestibule, renovations and reconfiguration of the second and third floor and installation of a new sprinkler and fire alarm system — recently got underway.

For the energy savings project buildings countywide also received envelope upgrades such as sealing of doors, windows and cracks

Shayne Homan, McClure vice president for energy services, said the company next will provide the county with regular measurement verification reports, the first of which will come this spring.

Jacobs said the county has already begun to see savings on electricity costs. In 2016, $168,666 was spent on electricity at the correctional facility. For 2019 that was down to $94,775. The jail is expected to see further energy savings with a new solar panel array, a separate project that is currently under construction.

Willowbank's electric costs dropped from $115,000 in 2016 to $79,767 in 2019, while the courthouse went from $37,517 to $20,515. Jacobs said the county is seeing similar decreases in natural gas costs.

"Those numbers should get better now that systems are in place and finely tuned," Homan said. "It all kind of ramps up slowly."

Homan noted that the renovations were not only a matter of energy savings, but also addressed deferred maintenance needs. Shaeffer said that it will save facilities management staff on making repairs.

"We’re not just saving the natural gas and electricity, but for our facilities management department, instead of having to change light bulbs a couple times a year in 225,000 square feet of facilities, now it’s every five to 10 years depending on how long the LED bulbs last," Commissioner Mark Higgins said, adding that at some facilities light fixtures are in places that are difficult to reach and replacements took some time.

Working in Bellefonte, meanwhile, was also appreciated by McClure's local staff.

"For our crews that are Centre County men and women, they were glad for almost a year they got to come to work within a nice traveling distance from home," Howe said.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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