4  FM quick reads on lighting

1. Lighting Retrofit Brings Savings and Inventory Efficiency


Before moving forward with energy-efficient lighting retrofits in May 2012, Harford County (Md.) Public Schools first needed to take a step back. The district had been expanding, constructing new buildings and renovating others to meet growing enrollment.

One result of the expansion was that the district's inventory of lighting-system parts expanded — but not efficiently. The inventory of unused fixtures created frustration for maintenance technicians who already were dealing with too many work orders.

"I used to go into a stockroom, and you'd have 50 lights for 50 different fixtures," says Vivian Comes, building engineer for the district's Southampton Middle School.

Through a series of lighting projects, the district streamlined its inventory management practices, curtailed energy use and produced major bottom-line benefits in the process.

Reducing operating costs in the district was the primary goal of a wide-ranging retrofit program. The projects included upgrades in 42 of the district's 53 buildings, which are spread over 525 square miles and house 38,000 students and a staff of 3,600. To help offset the costs of upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems and kitchen and refrigeration equipment in dining areas, the district participates in the local utility's incentive program.

"Within the past two years, we've collected over $1.5 million in incentive funds," says Andrew Cassilly, the district's resource conservation manager. "What we were able to do with our projects was to keep from elevating our utility budget. Even though we're building new schools that produce more energy and (have) more devices in them, we haven't raised our utility budget in over eight years."

Money from the incentive program paid for new lighting technology at 35 schools. The upgrades included installing LEDs, T8, and T5 fixtures and motion sensors throughout the district. The lighting upgrades helped the school system save more than 4 million kilowatts of energy per year and $443,000 annually in energy costs.

"With the energy-efficiency incentives that are out there, we really wanted to try and maximize and capture as much of those incentive dollars as possible," Cassilly says. "We really went from doing one, two or possibly three lighting retrofits a year to going full tilt on a large project."


2.  Challenges Seeking LEED Status in Older Buildings

Pursuing certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system can create major challenges for maintenance and engineering managers. The task is even greater when the institutional and commercial facilities date back to the days of Thomas Jefferson.

"It certainly presents a challenge for us to access the HVAC and lighting systems to repair and replace them without causing any further damage to the building," says Ryan Taylor, zone maintenance superintendent for central grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, whose responsibilities include many of the original buildings designed by Jefferson. "We have to work closely with our historic preservation team to make sure we're following the appropriate procedures and using proper materials for the repairs. We work closely with them to identify major problems that we need to focus on and make sure we're taking the right steps to prepare them properly so those buildings can be preserved."

The university has 23 LEED-certified buildings — including one building at the platinum, four at the gold, and 12 at the silver levels — and infuses sustainability and LEED into its capital development process, from pre-planning to post-occupancy. The maintenance department plays a central role in the LEED-certification process from the development stage.

"On the maintenance side, we are involved in the design review process and work with the architects and engineers to make sure the systems being installed are maintenance-friendly," Taylor says. "It's a combination of looking at LEED and looking at maintenance-friendly systems that we can continue to maintain once the building is constructed or renovated."

3.  LED Retrofits Pave the Way for More projects

When maintenance and engineering managers with institutional and commercial facilities seek to upgrade their outdoor lighting, they are more often turning to LEDs. Staples Inc., the office supply retail giant, followed that script in 2011 when it sought to curb energy use at its corporate headquarters, a 650,000-square-foot building in Framingham, Mass.

The decision did not come without a great deal of research and testing, after which the company realized that LED technology could provide the most effective option for its needs.

"The advancements in technology keep coming faster and faster, and we are constantly evaluating when it makes sense to get in the game," says Bob Valair, the company's director of energy environment and management. "When we decided to pursue the project, the time was right in terms of technology and cost and return on investment."

Staples replaced more than 150 parking lot lighting fixtures in its three parking lots — two employee lots and one for visitors — on campus. The project resulted in a 14 percent energy reduction from the retrofit and was so successful that the company is rolling out LED retrofits elsewhere at its corporate headquarters, as well as at Staples facilities nationwide.

"LED has been making inroads," Valair says. "It's just a matter of when you transition that lighting system to an LED product."

The parking lot project opened the door for more company LED projects, both at the corporate headquarters and beyond.

Since the project, the company has added a 63,000-square-foot parking garage that has four levels and 800 parking spaces, including designated spots for carpool parking and plug-in stations for electric cars. The addition of the parking garage brings the total number of parking spaces at the headquarters to 3,200.

Other LED projects at the headquarters include the renovation of the 50,000-square-foot cafeteria and adding LEDs to the dock lights in the shipping area. LED projects are also taking place at Staples distribution centers and stores across the country.

4.  LED Retrofits Offer Lessons in Savings

The University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis is poised for major changes. The university is looking for new technology applications that will help hold down costs related to building operations and maintenance.

Most of the attention being paid to savings relates to retrofits of existing buildings involving LED lighting of campus parking structures and lots. The success of the university's LED retrofits required careful planning and execution, along with the support of the department's front-line technicians.

"Parking and Transportation (department) technicians were instrumental in providing access to the facilities, as well as coordinating area and space closures within the ramp as necessary for the installations," says Alicia Phillips, an engineer and senior energy auditor with the university's facilities management department. "They also provided assistance with troubleshooting existing wiring issues as a result of the changes. The new wireless system we chose to install with the LED fixtures created additional responsibilities of monitoring and reporting through a web interfaced program with and e-mail alerts for operations staff."

The retrofit of the Oak Street Ramp, the university's largest, also provided a lesson in knowing the experience level of contractor partners.

"The wireless control company that we decided to go with had not done a facility that large before, so they underestimated the size of the router needed to run the wireless controls," she says. "So we had to order two additional routers to cover that number of fixtures. Also, the time of year we started, it was brutal weather here in January. That slowed the project down quite a bit." With a number of retrofit projects under its belt, the department finds itself in position to take full advantage of the opportunities for greater savings and efficiency that are available in its 857 buildings with 27.8 million square feet — once the cost of LEDs reaches an attractive point.

"The cost (of LEDs) has come down quite a bit, but there's still room to go," Phillips says. "Once that changes, I think that will make it an easier decision to retrofit."


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