There can be comfort, savings in aging schools

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — The natural beauty surrounding this area is truly an inspirational setting for learning. But during the school season and particularly autumn, students in the Widefield School District 3 here were distracted to some degree by poor comfort.

The school administration was distracted by increasing energy costs.

Both students and the administration are starting to benefit from a facility modernization project using the “Performance Agreement for Comfort from Trane” (PACT) program from The Trane Company.

The $2.6 million project is being funded using $322,000 in annual savings resulting from building improvements.

“The program has impacted our district by improving the classroom comfort levels, especially in the fall. More learning can be attributed to the improvements made by PACT,” said Gene Cosby, Widefield Schools superintendent.

Limited funds, more demands

Among most school districts, demand is high for increased funding to address needs such as lower student-teacher ratios, special student services, new classroom technology, and building improvements. Yet federal, state, and local sources provide fewer and fewer resources to address these demands.

Furthermore, no matter how efficiently schools are run, there is always pressure to be even more cost-effective.

Many of Widefield Schools’ 18 buildings were in need of capital funds to make infrastructure im-provements and building additions.

“Funding for aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance has become increasingly tight,” remarked Dave Overlin, director of building and grounds. “We needed a program that could provide facility improvements without capital funding.”

Trane had recently completed a large Integrated Comfort™ system installation at the local high school when it learned of the district’s situation. Company reps evaluated potential cost savings and facility improvement strategies, and soon presented a comprehensive program that met the district’s schedule.

Overlin commented that “We always felt a part of the team, [with] more control over the outcome.”

Customized for deferred maintenance

The program was customized to include as many deferred maintenance projects as possible using the available savings. The project balanced utility and operating cost savings with needed building upgrades:
  • A Tracer Summit™ building management system was installed throughout the district to improve occupancy scheduling and lower utility consumption.
  • A lighting retrofit was completed to improve light levels and reduce energy consumption throughout the district.
  • Heating-cooling units in Martin Luther King and Janitell schools were replaced to provide more reliable comfort and improve indoor air quality.
  • And an inefficient, high- maintenance boiler at Wilson Elementary School was replaced.

The aggressive project schedule allowed seven months for completion. Close communication with the district was critical to ensure classrooms weren’t disrupted and seasonal systems were available.

The Martin Luther King project and the lighting upgrades were finished “without any classroom distraction,” said Overlin. The remainder of the work was completed behind the scenes, without disruption to the learning environments.

The program is administered through a performance management agreement. Service, monitoring, and training are provided to maintain the installed systems’ operating efficiencies. The risk management aspect of the program ensures Widefield Schools of long-term project performance.

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