Jasper County Jail Resolves Decades-Long Energy and Indoor Environmental Quality Challenge
Products Used: Building Automation Systems,
Topic: Efficiency, Cost-Saving, Optimal Comfort, Air Quality, Lighting, IEQ,
Facility Size: 45,000 ft²
From the time it was built in 2007, the Jasper County Jail building proved hard to keep warm during harsh north-central Indiana winters. The facility proved so uncomfortably cold that the jail’s 70 employees were given space heaters and the approximately 80 inmates were issued extra blankets and sweatshirts.
Ongoing system failures were among the reasons it was impossible to maintain a constant, comfortable temperature. Poor and inefficient lighting only worsened the environment. After a couple unsuccessful attempts to resolve the facility’s challenges — with energy costs skyrocketing to $250,000 a year for this 45,000-square foot county jail — county officials knew they needed a more holistic approach. They wanted to collaborate with experts who could both identify what was impacting building comfort and energy costs, and complete the upgrades needed to resolve these issues.
Based on a referral contact who praised Trane’s holistic approach, county jail officials turned to the building technology and energy solutions company to help them solve their challenges. County officials were pleased that Trane subsequently proposed a comprehensive, investigative approach to resolving their building challenges.
“They studied the building before presenting their strategy,” said Kendell Culp, former President of the Jasper County Board of Commissioners. “We met with multiple companies on how to improve our energy system at the jail and Trane was the only one that recommended doing an energy audit before making any recommendations.” Trane took a two-phased approach, focusing first on needs assessment and identifying the right solutions, then on implementing those solutions.
Phase One: Assessment
During the first phase, the Trane team undertook a systematic audit to assess the building’s energy and mechanical systems, lighting, indoor air quality (IAQ), and energy usage at peak and off-peak times to determine the best solutions.
The audit included thermal scans that revealed a host of issues such as gaps in walls, insulation anomalies and poorly sealed windows, all contributing to massive heat loss. They also discovered that inefficient lighting and poor IAQ were contributing to the less-than-ideal living and working environment.
Phase Two: Improvement
Trane learned during the upgrade process that previous improvement attempts completely closed off outdoor air flow in a misdirected attempt to help improve building comfort. This had negatively impacted IAQ.
Trane sealed the building envelope and properly sized the HVAC system by increasing variable air volume reaching the building. This involved testing and balancing the system, then adjusting airflow and dampers to meet building needs. These adjustments, combined with reopening external airflow, helped improve IAQ. The Trane team also upgraded the building automation system, enabling 24/7 remote access to monitor system performance.
To improve lighting, the team retrofitted and replaced existing fluorescent fixtures with energy-efficient LED fixtures and bulbs, improving illumination while extending its life and reducing maintenance.
The holistic solution that Trane provided also included adding a solar array, in collaboration with Solential Energy, to power the jail. Leveraging an empty, county-owned, adjacent field, the array enables the county to generate its own energy for the jail and sell any overproduction back to the local utility. To reduce lawn-maintenance costs and serve as a good environmental steward, county officials also added a Trane-recommended pollinator habitat to the solar field.
The upgrades have significantly reduced energy costs. The building has used 28 percent less electricity, on average, over the past two years. During some of the hottest months, the jail has used up to 45 percent less energy.
And perhaps most critically, once the upgrades were completed, the jail proved comfortable for the first time. The sheriff’s office, for example, used to drop to 40 degrees on a cold winter day and now maintains a consistent, comfortable 72-degree environment. A quarterly maintenance agreement with Trane helps ensure that systems continue to perform optimally to help maintain building comfort.
“Now, I don’t get any complaints and with our own solar system, we can potentially generate 100 percent of our electricity needs”, Jasper County Jail Sheriff Pat Williamson said. “Saving taxpayer money on energy is also a huge benefit.”
“It was great to see the change in staff and the inmates and how much their attitudes improved once the building was upgraded,” Area Contracting Manager for Trane, Brian Barriger said. “The improvement is evident day in and day out, but especially during those harsh winter months.”