Engineering students at Arizona State University (ASU) are getting an education about energy efficiency, while local apartment complexes and businesses are benefiting from their expertise.

Beginning in the summer of 1997, the ASU College of Engineering, under the auspices of “Rebuild Arizona,” embarked on a five-year program to perform building audits on area businesses and recommend improvements to building owners.

To date, ASU students have performed audits on 1.8 million sq ft in the Valley of the Sun. Buildings include retail space, apartment complexes, office buildings, an elementary school, and city and state government facilities (such as a water treatment plant).

The program exposes the students to existing building equipment and to the technologies available to substantially upgrade them, and prepares them to make appropriate recommendations for energy-efficiency improvements, says Rebuild Arizona partnership leader Jim Westberg, Arizona Department of Commerce-Energy Office.

According to ASU associate professor of engineering David Chau, students have identified $700,000 in energy-efficiency improvements that would yield annual savings of $400,000 if implemented.

He says the students are an independent third party and do not recommend contractors or specific products to building owners; nor do they participate in energy-efficiency installations.

The improvements that have been made based on student recommendations include lighting, electric motors, hvac equipment, chillers, variable-frequency drives, and air compressor cooling towers.

In addition, daylighting techniques help reduce heat gain.

Students also have recommended the use of controlling devices such as occupancy sensors, timers, and photocells.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety used a matching state grant to install a new chiller, energy-efficient motors, occupancy sensors, and 350 efficient light fixtures.

Apartment savings

The students also teamed with the Arizona Department of Commerce’s Housing and Energy Offices to help lower utility bills for residents of the 124-unit Mercy Court Apartments in Phoenix.

The Energy Office helped prepare bid specifications and monitored the installation of the following measures:

  • Testing and sealing leaks in heating and cooling equipment ductwork in each apartment;
  • Installing shade screens on all east-, west-, and south-facing windows, to help reduce the cooling-heating loads; and
  • Converting lighting at the apartment entry walls and back patios, exterior parking lot, and kitchens.

    The property manager says the residents are pleased, especially with the added privacy provided by the shade screens. The installation of all of these measures cost $70,000 and is expected to save the apartment building owner and residents more than $20,000 annually.

    For more information, contact Jim Westberg of the Arizona Department of Commerce at 602-280-1434; (e-mail).