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High Performance Buildings Spotlight: Rock Creek Unified Schools Expects $154k Annual Savings from Energy Efficiency Improvements

April 09, 2012

Rock Creek Unified School District Expects to Save Nearly $154,000 Annually

As budgets tighten, school districts across the country are looking for ways to lower costs. For many districts, the cost savings of investments in energy efficiency upgrades can be significant enough to help districts avoid cutting back on staff or reducing school-funded programs to meet budget demands.

In one such school district, education leaders at Rock Creek Unified School District (USD) 323 in Westmoreland, Kan., expect recently completed energy efficiency upgrades to save the district nearly $154,000 a year while enhancing the teaching and learning environment.

Assessment and planning
For school districts, the key to successfully implementing efficiency conservation measures (ECMs) is to first assess the current performance of systems and plan for improvements that will reinforce the organizational mission while providing the best return on investment.

Prior to selecting the appropriate ECMs for the district, administrators and board of education members directed completion of a formal audit and building assessments. Based on the findings, administrators and board members selected the ECMs that best met the district’s upgrade needs while improving energy and operational efficiency.

The improvements at Rock Creek USD 323 were funded with a performance contract which allowed the district to use future energy and operational savings to finance infrastructure improvements up front. Performance contracting is a funding option that provides measurable business results to support strategic objectives.

Going under the hood - improvements at Rock Creek USD 323
Improvements included lighting upgrades in classrooms and hallways in all district buildings. High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems were implemented to improve indoor air quality, increase ventilation and provide more comfortable classroom temperatures. Automated controls were installed to maximize efficiency of both the lighting and the HVAC. Plumbing was updated with low-flow fixtures.

Improvements in the junior/senior high school building included replacing an end-of-life air-cooled chiller and replacing the original pneumatic controls with a direct digital control system. The new direct digital controls monitor manages all HVAC systems in the building. It allows for uniform temperature control and provides the ability to schedule occupied and unoccupied room temperature set points for energy savings.

At Westmoreland Elementary, the old steam boiler, steam radiators and window air conditioning units were replaced with a high-efficiency variable refrigerant flow system. Each classroom received an indoor heating/cooling unit which provides a quiet, comfortable learning environment.

The split system HVAC units in the 1993 classroom additions were replaced with new high efficiency units. A gym ventilation system was added to allow for cooling and ventilating on a mild day. A direct digital control system was installed to control, monitor, and schedule all new and existing HVAC equipment.

Upgrades to the Westmoreland Elementary building also included replacing all windows with double-pane high-efficiency windows and replacing all doors.

Retrofits at St. George Elementary included upgrading the existing HVAC system and its digital controls. Staff training further ensures that the system will run at optimum performance.

The improvements represent a major step in transforming district facilities into high performance buildings that tie to the schools’ educational mission.