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High School Plumbing Retrofit Combats Rising Water Bills

As the Southeast Delco School District learned, sooner is better than later to take on a project aimed at curtailing energy and water consumption. Faced with increasing water costs and the increased tightening of school budgets in recent years, district officials shudder to think what their costs would have been had they not started a project that included significant plumbing upgrades at the district's lone high school in 2006.

"With what the water would have cost us with the old fixtures, it would have been a great deal higher," says Harry Young, facilities and operations director for the district, which is located in Folcroft, Pa., near Philadelphia.

"At a time when we should have had more dramatic reductions in water use, the cost of the water went up 24 percent."

In 2006, it was apparent that the district's Academy Park High School, with an enrollment of about 1,250 students, was using too much electric and water. To control water use, officials decided a plan was needed to replace and upgrade electrical equipment and water fixtures.

Between the lighting project and the plumbing upgrades, the lighting project was the costlier and the No. 1 priority — "the consumption of power associated with lighting is staggering," Young says — and the plumbing upgrades were "icing on the cake."

"Don't forget, you use a lot of water, and it affects two aspects, both as water goes in and water goes out," Young says. "We're charged on our sewer rates pretty much by the amount of water we use. If we reduce our use, we're cutting two ends of it."

To pay for the combined projects, Young recommended an energy performance contract with the local utility, allowing the school district to finance the project through guaranteed savings.

"With performance contracting, the cost is absorbed through the savings," Young says. "Whatever the amount of savings involved, that's what paid for the contractors installing all of the equipment."

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