Three Strategies for Improving School Building Comfort this Winter
By Rob Sullivent and Dave Newman
Rob Sullivent, PE, CEM, CMVP, CBCP, CDSM
Vice President of Technical Services
By David M. Newman, PE, CEM,LEED-AP, CEA
Vice President of Engineering
It’s wintertime and for many districts that means balancing energy efficiency with classroom comfort. As we noted in an earlier article, we have visited many district buildings in the northeast with their windows open during the winter season, warm air pouring out because there was no other way to keep an extremely overheated classroom comfortable. But that’s not a way to run your systems! In fact, an energy performance contract (EPC) project can provide the mechanism to make the necessary upgrades you need to operate more energy efficiently while simultaneously providing a comfortable building in the winter (and other seasons as well).
Three Effective Energy Efficient Strategies for Supporting School Building Comfort
Upgrading your HVAC systems and building envelope to be more reliable gives you greater ability to effectively implement energy efficient strategies during the cold season. Here are three key strategies to consider for your district:
Use proper optimal start scheduling to provide comfortable classrooms and save energy
You want to ensure that your buildings are comfortable during occupied periods of the day, which seems simple enough. You just set the temperature to go up before the building opens and down after classes. However, older, unreliable systems may not have the ability to implement the energy strategies you need or they may not be capable of maintaining a set temperature throughout the day. Additionally, basic time-of-day scheduling may not be the best method. Newer heating systems use an “optimal start” strategy where you can set building temperatures back very deep at night and then use a predictive algorithm to raise building temperatures prior to occupancy. We have also found that many older boilers may simply be past their usefulness when it comes to providing energy efficiency. We have visited school districts where the facilities staff have been afraid to turn off a boiler over a weekend or vacation because they don’t know whether it’s going to fire again after the break.
Use demand control ventilation (DCV) methods to balance fresh air and energy savings throughout the day
It’s critical to provide fresh air throughout your building during the day, but it’s also important to reduce the amount of outside air you bring in when the building is unoccupied to save energy. Newer HVAC systems employ a demand control ventilation (DCV) strategy that is quickly becoming a required element of most state energy codes. Using DCV, facilities managers are able to ensure proper ventilation (outside fresh air) during occupied times while reducing the amount of heat and energy used during unoccupied times throughout the day.
Use proper building envelope weatherization techniques to provide comfort throughout the day/strong
Weatherization, in its simplest form, requires sealing cracks and gaps that allow outside air to enter your building uncontrolled. If your building envelope is in poor condition, it undermines your ability to be energy efficient in the cold months. By assessing your building envelope during an EPC project, you can address more than simple gaps, including improper window sealant, broken or missing weather stripping around your outside doors and more that affect your overall ability to maintain a comfortable learning environment.
We know that many districts struggle to find the financial resources to upgrade, modernize and rebuild healthy facilities that benefit teachers, students, and communities. Each of the strategies we have discussed above can be addressed during an EPC assessment and walkthrough of your facilities. A properly managed EPC project can provide the balance you want between building comfort and energy efficiency without high costs to your district.
Also of Interest
Four Ways to Leverage an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) to Improve Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) for Your School District
Ossining School District’s Energy Performance Contract is a GO!
What to do NOW Before the Windows Close for ARP ESSER and IRA Funding