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LED Retrofits Offer Lessons in Savings




February 10, 2014 - Maintenance & Operations

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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