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In 2011, Hamilton County, Ohio, embarked on an energy conservation project that covered three office buildings, two courthouses, and a jail. In total, the facilities spanned 2.36 million square feet.
Prior to the project, budget constraints had resulted in a slashing of the annual capital budget from $3 million to $500,000. “We were in ‘deferred capital maintenance mode,’” says Ralph Linne, director of county facilities. A growing number of repair parts were obsolete, making equipment maintenance and repair difficult and expensive.
Hamilton County engaged Ameresco, an energy services company, to audit its building systems and energy and water use, determine which equipment needed to be replaced, and identify the investments with the quickest return.
“Investments that gave the biggest bang for the buck earned highest priority,” Linne says. The remaining life of existing equipment also factored into the decisions, he says.
The initial project was divided into two phases, each covering three buildings. A combination of federal grants and an energy performance contract through Ameresco helped to cover the initial investments. Phase 1 began in early 2011, and Phase 1A started about six months after the completion of the Phase 1 design stage. Phase 1 was budgeted at $5.8 million, and Phase 1A, at $10.6 million.
To save time and money, a “design build” approach was used, Linne says. “One key was including my staff in the project at the beginning,” Linne says. The building managers could monitor and schedule the work at their sites. In addition, each building manager would be accountable for the performance of his or her building after the first year.
All the buildings in the project received upgraded lighting, plumbing fixtures, and direct digital controls. A number of motors were retrofitted with variable frequency drives.
Two data centers within the juvenile court were consolidated. The steam boilers in the county administration building were replaced with high efficiency ones. Domestic hot water solar water systems were installed at the courthouse and jail.
Since the project’s completion, electricity and natural gas use has fallen to an eleven-year low, water use is at an eight-year low, and greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 7,212 metric tons. Total annual savings across all projects tops $1 million. In addition, five of the buildings earned an Energy Star Award, and the building housing the juvenile court earned LEED-EB: O&M certification.
“Because of the data we have, and our new building systems, we’re able to quickly make changes to keep energy usage as low as possible,” Linne says. The project also eliminated the problem of deferred maintenance, he adds.
Top photo caption and credit: Since the energy conservation project’s completion, Hamilton County’s electricity and natural gas use has fallen to an eleven-year low. Credit: Hamilton County
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