The mission of the Cook County School District 104 is to promote and instill the love of learning, but it was challenged to provide a comfortable learning environment for its students in an energy efficient manner. With an economic downturn interrupting the progress of facility improvements, only three of the district's five schools had been upgraded, causing a lack of parity within the district. The boiler system in one of its schools was failing. Two of its other buildings were not air conditioned, resulting in classroom temperatures at times reaching over 90º F, causing class cancellations and the moving of students to other locations. “Our students are not as productive, engaged, or ready to learn when they are horribly hot,” said Amanda Deaton, principal, W W Walker Elementary. “We expect them to perform well on high stakes testing for the State, and we’re not providing a comfortable learning environment to enable them to do that."
Having worked together in the past, the district superintendent and Trane team members engaged in conversations regarding the needed renovations. "Trane was clearly vested in making sure the classrooms were safe, efficient and quiet to provide an exceptional learning environment," said Dr. Troy Whalen, superintendent, Cook County School District 104. "They had the interest of our district, students and community at heart."
After performing feasibility surveys and an energy usage analysis, Trane presented a comprehensive plan that provided the solutions needed to improve the existing learning environment, while minimizing energy consumption to conform to the district's tight budget. These included a complete redesign of mechanical systems, asbestos abatement, design and installation of a building automation system, connection to the Trane energy center, and even replacement of classroom cabinets. Workshops were scheduled with the district facilities committee, school board, and the community to explain the proposed upgrades and benefi ts they would provide for the school district.
Demonstrating quiet operation of equipment
Trane retrofitted a classroom with a working unit ventilator to demonstrate its quiet operation. “After they turned off the old rattling unit, there was a significant drop in the decibel level and most assumed that both ventilators were off,” said Whalen. “When it was time to go back into our meeting, the Trane unit ventilator was turned off and many board members were shocked to learn the unit had been running. A great example to show how changing the equipment can provide a much quieter environment, and a very impressive demonstration for my school board.”
Improving energy efficiency and comfort
The boiler, pumps and piping configuration were replaced at one school location. Trane unit ventilators with electronically commutated motor (ECM) technology were installed at two other district schools. ECMs, standard on Trane unit ventilators, optimize performance to provide energy savings up to 66 percent compared to conventional motors.
A web-based Trane® Tracer™ SC building automation system (BAS) provides the district with convenient access to its systems, allowing them to adjust classroom temperatures and perform daily tasks such as scheduling, troubleshooting, alarm management and data analysis. Trane® Air-Fi™ wireless technology was used to eliminate the need for communication wires between the BAS and unit controllers, reducing installation disruption and costs.
The Cook County School District 104 superintendent and district school board utilized Trane energy solutions to increase parity among district schools, enhance the classroom environment and improve sta morale. “When I walk into a classroom, the first thing I look for is how engaged the students are,” said Principal Deaton. “I would definitely say that I have seen a huge difference in student engagement.”
The electricity cost increases due to the upgrades are nearly $70,000 below school district expectations. "Surprisingly, our electric usage, which I thought would go through the roof because of the additional air conditioning units, was almost a third less than expected," said Dr. Whalen.
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