Like many school districts across the country, Southwest Licking School District, located near Columbus, Ohio, was facing the unwelcome trio of aging facilities, shrinking budgets and a growing student population. With five schools serving more than 3,000 K-12 students, the district had to find a way to fund critical repairs and upgrades.
The answer to the district’s dilemma was found in Ohio House Bill (HB) 264 - a piece of legislation that allows schools to implement a performance contract with a vendor to create capital and pay for improvements with energy savings. Under the bill, Southwest Licking Schools initiated an energy savings performance contract (ESPC) with Honeywell, its energy services provider.
The project enabled the district to make $1.6 million in infrastructure improvements with no new tax dollars. In addition, it allowed Southwest Licking Schools to head toward green, renewable energy with a solar installation, which also provides opportunities for learning in the classroom.
Upgrades Improve Comfort
Honeywell and Southwest Licking Schools pinpointed the areas where energy-efficient improvements and other upgrades would be most effective. Honeywell retrofitted lighting systems, balanced heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, and installed low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures that reduce water consumption and sewage bills without affecting performance.
In addition, Honeywell installed upgraded temperature and humidity controls and implemented measures to prevent air leakage in the building envelope. It also upgraded existing building controls to allow for night temperature setbacks, and added new insulated glass panels to exterior doors and windows.
Superintendent Yocum found the HVAC upgrade component of the contract to be especially compelling, given the state of the school district’s systems. “As with any concrete building, it’s difficult to maintain a steady temperature when it’s below zero outside and the doors are opening and closing all the time,” he said. “Improvements were necessary to ensure a continuous level of comfort. It has made a world of difference.”
Southwest Licking Schools used the funding to also add solar energy to a middle school and incorporate energy awareness into the district-wide program. Honeywell, with support from the Foundation for Environmental Education and the State of Ohio, installed a photovoltaic solar energy panel to support science curriculum initiatives and promote energy-efficiency awareness and education.
The solar installation includes monitoring equipment that continuously streams data to science classroom computers, allowing more than 250 science students to witness how solar energy is created. In addition to making renewable energy a tangible concept for students, the use and analysis of the panel also helps fulfill state science standards.
The district’s work toward improved energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy education led to a Rebuild America EnergySmart Schools partnership award from the U.S. Department of Energy. As one of only 100 schools nationwide to be awarded the EnergySmart distinction, the district now has access to a network of professionals who can provide energy-related advice.
SAVINGS BENEFIT COMMUNITY
The $1.6 million needed for facility improvements and the solar panel are paid for by the projected energy and operational savings - more than $175,000 annually over the next 15 years. If the savings of the project do not equal the estimate, Honeywell will make up the difference. As a result, the community gets better, more comfortable schools without a tax increase.
Yocum refers to a more comfortable climate in schools and the EnergySmart Schools award to highlight the value of the Ohio HB 264 energy legislation.
“Without this program, we wouldn’t have been able to make the necessary improvements or upgrades,” Yocum said. “This is an extremely worthwhile endeavor, especially at a time when money is tight for schools.”