Lisa Saurborn, an engineering manager, is looking at a computer in her office on West Virginia University’s Evansdale campus.
She’s flicking through electronic pages of switches that monitor what mechanical systems in campus buildings are working and how well they’re performing. It’s a graphic representation of some of the changes that have taken place at WVU in the last four years.
Before, she couldn’t know without being on site whether an air conditioning unit was working, but now she can just pull up the right page and take a look. This is one efficiency among hundreds that the University is creating as it engages in what is called a performance contract.
In 2006, WVU contracted with Siemens Industry, Inc., to target energy losses and correct them through building modifications such as switching to more efficient light bulbs, low-flow faucets and overhauling heating and cooling systems.
So far WVU has invested millions of dollars into targeting its buildings’ energy losses and plugging those holes. By 2016, it is estimated that the University will have spent $50 million on this project.
So far, the University has spent $20 million in retrofitting parts of its main and regional campuses and has begun the third phase on its Health Sciences Center.
Cost: $8 million
Buildings: Mineral Resources, Engineering Sciences, Engineering Research Building, National Research Center for Coal and Energy, greenhouse, Evansdale Library, Agricultural Sciences Annex, chiller plant, Creative Arts Center and Brooke Tower
Annual savings: $990,000 a year so far
By its nature a performance contract is designed to guarantee a return on investment. When the contract began, Siemens set up a schedule of guaranteed savings that the University would expect to make back every year. If the savings aren’t achieved to the guaranteed level through any fault of the contractor’s, Siemens would pay WVU the difference.
Eventually, the cost of the project will be paid back through annual savings. The University estimates that in the next 15 years, the work done through the performance contract will save WVU $36 million in utility costs.
Already, the actual savings from the contract’s first year to be measured exceeded the guaranteed savings to reach nearly $1 million.
The project’s size makes it one of the largest university energy efficiency retrofits in the country, said Jim Platz, project development manager with Siemens.
Platz, who is working with WVU on the contract, said there’s no single dominant trend in the way universities and companies across the country are conserving resources. Each has different budgets and different focuses.
At WVU, the university has made reducing energy consumption of campus buildings the core of its sustainability initiative with other aspects, such as recycling and using green cleaning products, fitting into place around it. Platz said it is this large-scale planning that distinguishes WVU from other institutions.
“WVU offers its peers a leadership role when it comes to their holistic approach to sustainability,” he said.
Cost: $12.5 million
Buildings: Mylan Puskar Center, Indoor Practice Facility, stadium complex, Agricultural Sciences, Percival Hall, Allen Hall, Bennett Tower, Lyon Tower, Braxton Tower, Summit Hall, Student Recreation Center, Faculty Housing, Fieldcrest Hall, Coliseum, Natatorium and Shell Building, Women's Gymnastics Center, Physical Plant, Communications Building, Law School, Mountainlair, WVU Tech and WVU Parkersburg
Guaranteed annual savings: $1.1 million
Clement Solomon, WVU’s director of sustainability, says the project is a large-scale commitment with only positive outcomes.
“This project clearly demonstrates a systemic path taken toward energy management at an enterprise level with the future in mind,” he said.
By using fewer resources, the environment and human health benefit, and with a performance contract, guaranteed savings from decreased utility costs return the investment costs and create future savings.
“The performance contract is a remarkable project that yields value in terms of the economic, environmental and social elements of sustainability,” Solomon said.
The first step in the contract was to examine every way that WVU uses electricity and find more efficient ways to use that energy. From replacing light bulbs with the latest fluorescents and installing low-flow toilets and faucets to connecting cooling systems and monitoring electronics, the University is using as many ways possible to cut down on energy usage.
Cost: $6.9 million
Buildings: Health Sciences Center
Time: Began in 2010 and estimated to be completed in 18 months
Guaranteed annual savings: $586,311
An improvement on the Evansdale campus, the first WVU campus to be completed, was the installation of a plate and frame heat exchanger to connect the Evansdale chiller plant and absorption units in the engineering section of campus, which improves system reliability while optimizing efficiency.
The University now saves $100,000 a year on one aspect of the project – the installation of power factor correction equipment at Evansdale. When a power customer doesn’t regulate power internally to the power company’s standards, the customer has to pay for that.
“By adding capacitor banks to our system, we improved our internal grid to reduce the power factor correction costs from Allegheny Power,” Saurborn said.
Following the completion of the Evansdale Campus, WVU Tech and WVU Parkersburg, Siemens contractors and WVU Facilities Management employees moved onto the Health Sciences Center this summer. Next up will be the downtown campus and Potomac State College.
Buildings: Student Services, Dadisman Hall, Stalnaker Hall, Stewart Hall, Clark Hall, Chemistry Research Building, Wise Library, Wise Library Addition, White Hall, Boreman North, Boreman South, Arnold Hall, Arnold Annex, One Waterfront and Potomac State College
Estimated start date is 2012
Each phase is financed over 15 years until the guaranteed savings are met, and once each construction phase, of about two years each, is completed, the project may still not be done.
“If there’s money to be saved and efficiencies that can be done then we’re able to do so and we’ll just keep going as long as we need to,” she said.
For Saurborn, who has reviewed every contract and its results, the project is about delivering an efficient service to students.
“I’m very happy with the project,” Saurborn said. “It helps the reliability of the University. It helps reduce the operating costs and hopefully gives us a better product to offer to the public.”
Buildings: Life Sciences, Business and Economics, Chitwood Hall, Woodburn Hall, Martin Hall, Brooks Hall, Knapp Hall, Armstrong Hall, Hodges Hall, Eisland Hall, Colson Hall, Purinton, Elizabeth Moore Hall, Oglebay Hall and Admissions and Records
Estimated start date is 2014
The performance contracting does more than save taxpayer money and the planet from unnecessary energy usage. Sustainability is becoming a huge selling point for the millennial generation, which is increasingly making it one of their top criteria when choosing a university.
“More and more students are looking at institutions that have made a commitment to sustainability, because as institutions we are the incubators for innovation,” Solomon said. “We are a conduit for employers who are looking for people who have this holistic thinking experience.
“You could look at the Fortune 500, and everyone has a serious commitment to sustainability.”
By Diana Mazzella
WVU University Relations-News
CONTACT: WVU University Relations- News
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