Energy program launched around Ann Arbor schools this fall

From AAPSNews Service

The Ann Arbor Public Schools has launched a four-year energy-saving initiative called Energy Awareness and Sustainability Education, or EASE.

The program will address energy use in all 33 schools, comprising 3.5 million square feet of facilities. It will target all major utilities, engage staff, students and facility users to conserve energy and work on changing attitudes and habits of those who use school buildings. Point persons are being sought at each building to lead the education effort with students, staff and parents.

Creating the new program was one of the goals in the district’s Strategic Plan. The school board approved a contract with Johnson Controls, Inc. in May 2010.

The idea is to have the program be self-sustaining when the four years are completed, according to Randy Trent, the district’s executive director for physical properties.

JCI has guaranteed the district a positive cash flow of $265,000 over the contract’s term. Behind the scenes this fall, JCI has done energy audits, reviewing general maintenance and conditions at each building, which will provide a baseline point from which each school can aim to improve energy consumption.

George Roush, a building efficiency engineer for JCI and the on-site energy manager assigned for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, said visits to the buildings “have already generated work orders for things to be repaired. We’re trying to get ahead of that curve.”

Plans include a comprehensive annual check of each building to see how the use of energy has progressed. “We will also go out and spot check throughout the year,” he said.

Energy consumption will be tracked monthly against goals for each building.  The goals will be adjusted for weather, occupancy and building changes.

Brad Mellor, school district coordinator for this program, said the results of the energy audits have raised some early issues that can be addressed. “Johnson Controls has looked at our buildings in an exhaustive way – it speaks well to the company,” he said.

The program is developing a website that will have profiles and a history of each district building and school, a searchable database of information and tips for energy consumption and educational information for the public. The site will be linked from the school district’s web page.

Roush and other JCI energy experts are supporting the program strategically throughout each year. It is estimated that the program could produce a positive cash flow for the district of $3 million with 100 percent involvement of students, staff and parents.

JCI has done work for the Ann Arbor schools in the past, achieving more than $13.2 million in energy savings since 1993. The utility budget in 1984 was $5.4 million and has been reduced to $5.1 million this year, Trent said.

During the contract’s duration, the company also plans to put an energy team in place in local high schools to learn about the business of energy savings and prepare them for a future in college or work in the field.

Three firms from a total of five bid proposals were interviewed to handle the project for Ann Arbor. The interview committee recommended JCI based on the company’s global experience, past success in the district, guaranteed cost savings and student involvement.

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