Building Upgrades in Mesa County Valley School District Address Outdated Infrastructure Systems

Although the average age of the 47 buildings in Mesa County Valley School District 51 is 38 years, the buildings now boast the latest in infrastructure systems, thanks to $8.63 million in upgrades being installed across the district. These improvements have created a better academic environment and are anticipated to save the district more than $617,000 in annual energy costs.

In addition, the upgrades will save nearly 5.6 million kWh of electricity and over 100,000 therms of natural gas annually. This is equivalent to the carbon that would be offset by 115,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years. The renovations are also expected to save an additional $390,000 in operations and maintenance costs over the next five years.

As a result of these improvements, administrators at Mesa County Valley School District 51 will receive the Trane "Energy Efficiency Leader in Education Award" for their sustainable energy and operational efficiency improvements. The award recognizes the importance of the upgrades and the administrators' commitment to optimizing the teaching and learning environment while increasing energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Details of the award presentation:

  • Stacey Hieb, district manager, Trane, will present the award to Cal Clark, facilities and maintenance director, and Harry Butler, school board chairman.
  • The awards presentation will be at 2 p.m. on May 3 at East Middle School located at 830 Gunnison Ave., Grand Junction, Colo., 81501.

District buildings required improvements to address aging and outdated infrastructure systems. The systems were becoming increasingly expensive to repair as the frequency of failure continued to increase.

The current project is funded from savings with a performance contract supported by the Colorado Governor's Energy Office (GEO) program, which uses funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to provide rebates to Colorado businesses that invest in renewable energy technologies. A performance contract is an option for funding energy-saving improvements in buildings. It provides a method for schools to manage and optimize their energy use, allowing them to leverage the energy use and operational savings to support strategic educational objectives.

"In such tight budgetary times, we're pleased that we can increase energy efficiency in our schools while also achieving one of our most important goals, which is optimizing the teaching and learning environment," said Cal Clark, director of facilities and maintenance at Mesa County Valley School District 51. "It's even better that we can pay for these improvements without new taxes."

District Selects Customized Energy Conservation Measures

The selected improvements address the business objectives identified at the outset by Mesa County Valley School District 51 administrators in an "Education Excellence" Workshop held in 2008:

  • Use energy savings to fund up-front capital costs
  • Update aging infrastructure
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce the district's environmental impact
  • Incorporate alternative energy solutions
  • Create local jobs
  • Protect the district's investment in existing buildings

The improvements were initiated through an energy study in February of 2009. After completing a detailed audit of district buildings, school administrators selected energy conservation measures to best meet their needs. These included replacing lighting throughout the district with high efficiency systems that require less energy while providing better illumination. These lighting improvements saved the district over $1.1 million through XCEL demand side management rebates. Other improvements included replacing aging electric ovens with high efficiency natural gas ovens and installing a building automation system to enhance and maintain comfort. Upgrades also featured boiler and HVAC retrofits to provide reliable and efficient heating/ventilation and to improve air quality in the classrooms.

The district also received funding from the GEO's New Energy Economic Development (NEED) Grants to install solar skylights and electric demand limiting technology that will be used as a classroom laboratory for students. This summer, the skylights will be installed in Dos Rios and Pear Park elementary schools. Next fall, students will begin studying the benefits they provide to their respective schools.

Over the summer, the district plans to launch a third phase of energy efficiency improvements with additional solar photovoltaic and water conservation projects currently in design. These forthcoming upgrades will be funded through the Governor's Energy Office with ARRA funds and through $2 million in low-interest Qualified Energy Conservations Bonds.


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