A new Tracer panel provides direct digital control to one of the university's air-handling units.
Competition for funding is a reality in most of today’s businesses, including colleges and universities. In addition, rising costs in higher education have caused universities to scrutinize every dollar to ensure investments are consistent with their mission.

This reality makes it necessary that administrators consider alternative funding mechanisms when they’re evaluating facility investments.

The facility department at Texas Lutheran University (TLU), Seguin, TX, needed funding to replace an aging central plant and other infrastructure items. Not wanting to draw from the endowment fund, the department heads decided to explore performance contracting as a means to fund improvements.

“Our hvac equipment was too old to be efficient and was breaking down in increments of $100,000 nonbudgeted repairs. We needed to stabilize our expenditures for hvac,” says Alan VanBodegraven, vice president for business and finance.

“We did not have the expertise on campus to design a system, monitor subcontractors, and make the right equipment choices,” he continues. “Our system went down and we had very little time to get it up and running before the cooling season started. We did not have time to do an in-depth study. The performance contracting method made it feasible.”

The utility profile for Texas Lutheran University compares energy costs before and after the PACT program was in place.

Performance Contracting, Rebate Fund Project

TLU eventually decided to fund its facility modernization project using the “Performance Agreement for Comfort from Trane” (PACT). The $3.1 million project is being funded using the resulting $577,000 in annual energy and operational savings. A one-time utility rebate of $238,000 also helped fund the improvements.

Trane met with the staff at TLU to better understand their current and future facility needs. Then the manufacturer’s staff analyzed TLU systems and proposed options for them to consider. The project was soon fully underway.

The primary goal of the project was to provide reliable comfort with little or no upfront capital. The specifics of reaching this goal addressed the antiquated central plant and operating inefficiencies.

New Equipment

The central plant was reconfigured to include new boilers and chillers for more reliable operation at a lower cost.

Variable-flow pumping was designed into the system for further efficiency. A new cooling tower and switchgear were added to serve the new equipment.

In addition, modifications to the existing plant and the new roof were included to improve the functionality of the facility. “Building aesthetics were especially important to us,” comments Tom Dodgen, physical plant director.

New air-handling units were installed in the Schuech Fine Arts Center, Knutson Hall, and Hahn Hall, to help improve comfort and indoor air quality throughout the buildings.

Additional air distribution improvements were made at the Beck Administration Center. A dual-duct system was replaced with a vav system to optimize comfort and energy conservation.

On the controls side, control valves were replaced throughout the campus to optimize energy conservation, and a Tracer Summit® building management system was installed to improve consistency and efficiency in facilities operation.

“Our staff is able to respond to complaints and emergencies much quicker than in the past,” says Dodgen.

Extensive construction and project management tools were necessary due to the complexity of the project. Schedules were developed to speed along the installation with careful consideration to classroom occupancy.

To ensure that the results are as anticipated, PACT is administered through a performance management program. Service, monitoring, and training are provided to maintain the installed systems operating efficiencies. The risk management aspect of the program ensures TLU long-term project performance.

Sidebar: TLU Project Overview

Customer Profile:Texas Lutheran University is a private liberal arts university. The campus is comprised of over 30 buildings.

Customer Issues:

  • Comfort control in classrooms;
  • Additional mechanical capacity to accommodate campus expansion plans;
  • Reliability of comfort systems and system uptime; and
  • Lack of funding.

Project Objective: Reduce operating costs and renovate the university’s hvac infrastructure.

Results: $3.1 million in capital facility improvements, including —

  • Campus-wide lighting retrofit;
  • Central heating and cooling plant installation;
  • Building management system; and
  • Air distribution system upgrades.