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Tulsa (Okla.) Community College


Every person who is familiar with marathons – much less participated in them — knows the level of commitment necessary to run 26.2 miles. The self-discipline, the strain, the sweat, the pain, and the mindset to come back and work hard again the next day to meet the goal. This isn’t a story of a marathon runner but of a facilities department that together competed – and reduced its overall energy usage 26.3 percent in one year.

What led Tulsa Community College to drop its gas and electrical (KBTu) by such a large amount? The story begins when the state of Oklahoma asked its agencies and institutions to reduce their usage by 20 percent by the year 2020. The baseline or benchmark year was fiscal year 2013 (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013). The college is the third largest higher education institution in Oklahoma, just behind Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, with approximately 25,000 students on four campuses comprising 1.7 million square feet. To make this task more challenging, the college in November 2011 completed a $13.7 million energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, which included a collegewide retrofit of lighting, as well as chiller and boiler replacements. This work achieved significant savings for the college but not enough to qualify for an exception from the State.

Partially in response to the state’s request and partially out of continued infrastructure necessity, a second energy performance contract with Johnson Controls began, this one roughly one-half the size at $6.5 million. The most significant outgrowth of the second phase was the upgrade to the controls, which provided tools the engineering team needed to better monitor temperature and equipment.

Because the energy performance contract was never intended to bridge the 20 percent gap necessary by 2020, other significant measures were necessary, particularly given the uncertainty many inside and outside the department had in our ability to reach this goal. Several steps were taken.

To create buy-in for the project, department leadership went to each campus and solicited ideas and input on possible improvements. Management used these ideas as a focal point for discussions within the department and, with a smaller steering committee, to discuss specific operational improvements.

Having early success with the project was instrumental in creating momentum. In our meetings with key engineering staff, one engineer provided an idea on a way we might conserve energy in the building he was responsible for, and in three months, usage dropped 15 percent. This success served as a springboard for the entire department at a critical early junction.

Rick Kennedy, who served as a facility manager, transitioned into an engineering operations manager. He served as the “boots on the ground” commander. The college needed someone to dig deep into the numbers and make sense of it all and put it in layman’s terms for the various stakeholders. Qi Moss, assistant director of facilities, served in this role.

Campus buy-in was critical, and facilities leadership reached out to campus leaders and the college Sustainability Committee for support throughout the project.

Finally, a little healthy competition never hurts. As Moss tracked the data and gave monthly updates, the campus that reduced its energy the most was recognized with a trophy. This trophy would travel from campus to campus – or stay put, pending the results. Needless to say the campus team members enjoyed seeing that trophy on their campus, and it served as a reminder of the hard work they were doing.

With key staff and systems in place, we worked in earnest to achieve the goal. In fiscal year 2016, the efforts of the engineering team started to show, as our KBTu per square foot dropped from 120.6 to 102.2. The mantra from day one was that we are focused on energy management which includes the comfort of our students, faculty, and staff, and not just savings!

As June 2017 approached all signs looked positive, and then it was confirmed. We crossed the finish line. For FY 2017 our KBTu reduced 26.3 percent compared to FY 13 (again, the State benchmark year). Our KBTu/sf was now 83.7.

Prologue: After any significant achievement, it is natural to take the foot off the gas. That was not the case at Tulsa Community College. Through the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018, the KBTu reduction compared to fiscal year 2013 is now 30 percent -— even more than in fiscal year 2017. This serves as a reminder that a singular focus, hard work, collaboration, and a bit of competitive fun can help departments achieve goals otherwise unexpected.

In-house Participants

Steven Cox, director of facilities; Qi Moss, assistant director of facilities; Carrie Warren, administrative assistant; Rick Kennedy, interim engineering operations Manager; Mike Logan, facility manager; Ronnie Sink, facility manager; Denny Aldridge, maintenance engineer supervisor; Carl Johns, maintenance engineer supervisor; Mike Reyes, maintenance engineer supervisor; Sandy Logue, maintenance engineer supervisor; the entire maintenance engineer team.

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