AMHERST, Mass. – In partnership with Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo), the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently completed an energy efficiency project expected to save the campus more than $220,000 in energy costs per year and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 metric tons in 2013 and beyond.
To achieve this, WMECo and campus Physical Plant staff use a technique called “continuous commissioning” to identify low-cost operational and maintenance improvements in buildings where the original operating parameters may have changed or slipped over the years. This involves, for example, assessing temperature and ventilation needs for a space and setting valves and timers to deliver what is needed for current uses and no more.
“Essentially it’s a whole-building tune-up, resulting in improved indoor air quality, occupant comfort and energy efficiency,” says Patrick Daly, director of UMass Amherst Physical Plant. “Use of space changes over the years, equipment goes out of calibration after many years. It’s becoming worthwhile to do such a project now, as we adopt a stronger focus on efficiency.”
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this first phase of continuous commissioning,” Daly adds. As the largest energy consumer of all state agencies in Massachusetts and with the campus still growing, he adds, “anything we can do to reduce our energy costs and carbon footprint in existing buildings is good for us and helps the state.”
The first phase completed in December identified annual savings of 1.25 million kilowatt-hours and 97,500 therms (natural gas units) in three research buildings on campus: the Integrated Sciences Building, Conte Polymer Research Center and Lederle Graduate Research Center. UMass engineers, with WMECo’s consulting firm B2Q plus the campus energy contractor Johnson Controls, researched nine energy saving measures, verified the savings and implemented them. Where needed, improvements included steam and chilled water valve repair.
This project addressed the first three of several campus buildings targeted for future continuous commissioning as proposed by students, faculty and staff members on the Green Building Committee of UMass Amherst’s Environmental Performance Advisory Committee. Itwas formed as part of the campus’s Climate Action Plan, a blueprint for advancing sustainability efforts. If implemented over the next five years, future continuous commissioning projects could save more than 9 million kWh annually.
WMECo administers energy efficiency programs in its service territory, which includes Amherst, for its parent company, Northeast Utilities (NU). Penni Conner, NU chief customer officer, says, “We’re excited about working together with UMass Amherst to build a long-term energy efficiency partnership. We know that continuous commissioning is a priority for the university and we’re pleased to assist in exploring this approach and realizing its huge savings potential.”
Recently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy named Massachusetts the most energy efficient state in the country, retaining the top spot in the state scorecard rankings for the second year in a row by overtaking California in 2011.
Peter “Rupert” Roy-Clark, a UMass Amherst control technician, checks readouts from an environmental test, part of a recent “whole-building tune-up” effort to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions on the campus.
Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst