School Struggles to Turn Out the Lights

School officials discovered the original installer of the system had been sold multiple times.   January 25, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

Maintenance and engineering managers go to great lengths to track down and eliminate energy waste in institutional and commercial facilities. They regularly scour building automation systems, lighting systems, and boilers, among many other building components and systems, to locate even the smallest opportunities to improve energy efficiency and cut utility costs. This focus on efficiency makes the circumstances in one Massachusetts school all the more confounding. 

Lights throughout a relatively new Massachusetts high school building have been lit at all hours of the day and night for nearly a year and a half because no one can turn them off, according to WCVB. Minnechaug Regional High School was completed in 2012. About a decade later, in August 2021, the lighting system failed. 

Memos obtained from the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District reveal that the system's safety measures and its connection to other systems made it impossible for building managers to turn lights off without impacting other systems. One year after the problem began, staff was manually shutting off breakers to cut power to exterior lights. Some bulbs were simply removed to keep them from burning power around the clock. 

As school officials tried to find someone to repair the system, they discovered that the original installer of the system had been sold multiple times. The memo says school officials struggled to find someone at the new owner who was familiar with the system but were eventually given a rough estimate of $1.2 million to replace the entire system. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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