Public Works/Maintenance Facility Design Essentials – Part 4 (Save Money with Sustainable Design)
Practical design strategies reduce toll on energy bills and long-term expenses
When it comes to facilities improvements, budgets are usually tight for public works and campus maintenance providers. Municipal public works facilities take a backseat to more civic buildings like village/city halls and police stations. Similarly, colleges set aside more money for facilities that relate directly to students.
So it isn’t a surprise that public works/maintenance facility operators that need building upgrades feel intense pressure to find ways to reduce costs. Sustainable design has proven to be one of the most effective means of doing so. Yes, sustainable design is good for the environment, but it also slashes energy use and therefore leads to long-term savings.
The College of DuPage (COD) and Joliet Junior College (JJC) campus maintenance facilities set a standard for energy-efficient building design. The buildings are among the first of their type to achieve LEED Gold certification from U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainable strategies applied to these facilities can be carried over to any public works or maintenance building.
Use Building Energy Modeling
It’s best to start early in the facilities planning process to identify energy use patterns. The software tool that is used to do so is called a building energy model. It calculates existing building energy performance and allows consultants to calculate the effect of proposed energy-consuming equipment (e.g., heating, air conditioning, and lighting) on operational expenses.
At JJC’s Facility Services Building, a building energy model showed how different examples would impact energy consumption, utility bills, and life cycle costs. This allowed decision-makers to achieve greater savings.
Let in the Light
Applying sustainable strategies to public works and maintenance buildings can help cut electrical costs. It begins by bringing natural light as deep as possible into the buildings to reduce the need for artificial light.
In both the COD and JJC facilities, individual offices with windows are grouped around the exterior. Glass panels separate the offices from corridors so more natural light penetrates interior spaces. The introduction of natural light provides another benefit: views to the outside, which have been proven to enhance performance and workplace satisfaction.
The introduction of natural light doesn’t need to stop in the garage/storage area. Glass doors and clerestories like those at COD’s Campus Maintenance Center reduce the lighting toll.
Still, artificial light is a must, and the most cost-effective solution for that is LED lighting. Light-emitting diode fixtures use half the energy of traditional lights, and LEDs are used throughout the COD and JJC facilities.
Embrace High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Systems
Outdated HVAC systems can take a huge toll on public works and maintenance facility operating expenses. There are many options and price points for energy-saving systems.
The JJC Facility Services Building uses a geothermal system to reduce heating and cooling loads. The system’s underground coils rely on the constant temperature beneath the earth to help heat and cool the facility. It saves the college up to 40% over a conventional HVAC system.
The JJC facility also uses a rooftop solar preheat system. It heats up winter air before it enters the air handling units. Although it’s only a few degrees difference, it does make a difference with the energy bills.
Additionally, the COD and JJC facilities have white roofs; on hotter days, they reflect the sun’s rays and therefore reduce heat gain. The cooling systems don’t have to work as hard. Finally, something as simple as operable windows can bring in that outside air to cut artificial ventilation.
Though lighting and HVAC systems remain the primary sources for sustainable cost savings, there are other strategies, such as the following:
- Heated storage extends vehicle and equipment life and reduces warm-up times.
- Native vegetation, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and rainwater harvesting systems can drastically reduce water use.
- Operable windows improve ventilation and ease the burden on the mechanical system.
See other posts in the “Public Works/Maintenance Facility Design Essentials” series:
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