The DeKalb County Board of Education is looking to partner with Johnson Controls to bring more energy efficiency to existing school buildings.
During Thursday night's meeting, the board voted to enter into a project development agreement with the company to continue a study already begun to determine what improvements are needed that would deliver a certain amount of energy savings over a period of time. After the study is completed, officials of Johnson Controls will return to the school board with a detailed scope of the work to be done and the savings projections. At that time the board can vote to proceed with a contract with Johnson Controls or opt out. The cost for the study is $11,000.
But the costs of making any facility and infrastructure retrofits or renewal projects recommended by the study could be offset from the energy and operational savings that are achieved as a result, according to Joe Bond of Johnson Controls, who addressed the board. Project improvements may include lighting system enhancements; HVAC upgrades; and water conservation measures. "We were able to come out and do a preliminary assessment a couple of month ago," said Bond. " Our engineers came on site and spent a couple of days walking the buildings with your maintenance director and what we found was an opportunity to help upgrade the buildings with no extra tax dollars affected. This is money you are already spending today. You just happen to be writing the check out to the utility company whether its TVA or your natural gas provider or water company. This money will be redirected back into your buildings and to upgrade your facilities especially at the high school. The high school is the culprit of a lot of the energy use in the county but that's not unusual because most high schools are going to run a lot more than elementary or middle schools. What we learned here in DeKalb County is that you spent a little over $570,000 in utilities last year. You have right at 412,000 square feet. The buildings vary in age. Some of them are over thirty years old and with various updates and additions throughout them," said Bond
Once the study is completed possibly by early March, Bond said he will return to the board with a detailed scope of the proposed work to be done and the savings projections. If the board votes to proceed with a contract, the work will begin, mostly after school and possibly at night.
If Johnson Controls doesn't achieve the guaranteed savings for the school system, the company would pay the difference between what was guaranteed and what was actually achieved, according to Bond. "A performance contract generates guaranteed utility savings. Our firm does guarantee the savings and we do write you a check if we fall short of those savings," he said.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said he believes this is a great opportunity to make school buildings more energy efficient and save money. "The costs for the study is $11,000 but that money could be absorbed through cost savings if the school system later decides to proceed with work to implement the recommendations of Johnson Controls," said Willoughby. "They work with several different school systems in basically saving them a significant amount of money on energy and utilities. He (Bond) and his company have done a preliminary study and he would like to present to the board the study thus far. If we did enter into a contract with Johnson Controls we would not be using any additional money from the school system. We would not be using any additional tax dollars to do this project. If we do this, it would upgrade our climate control systems, possibly our use of water in the schools, and make everything more efficient. And the savings would go toward funding these projects where each year we're spending several thousand dollars on replacing air conditioning and heating units at schools. This is a way that we could possibly go ahead and do everything and get upgraded so we're not trying to do catch up all the time. We have some units that have been running since 1963. Our maintenance people do an excellent job patching them and keeping them going. But we could replace some of those and save a lot of money. We could enter into a contract with Johnson Controls and they would come out and do a study. The study cost $11,000 and if we do business with Johnson Controls and they come in and update our facilities then we wouldn't ever pay that ($11,000). That (fee) is absorbed through the project. If we vote tonight to let them do the study then we can decide by April whether we're going ahead or not," said Willoughby.