How did one Vermont college take control of its energy savings?
Landmark College built its MacFarlane Science, Technology & Innovation Center in 2015. At that time, Director of Facilities Kyle Skrocki couldn’t imagine that the building would be a candidate for major energy savings a few years later. But in 2019, Landmark partnered with Efficiency Vermont on a project that cut the building’s energy use in half.
This project was the latest in a long partnership with Efficiency Vermont. Many small colleges are facing financial challenges, which COVID-19 have exacerbated. Kyle Skrocki says energy efficiency has helped Landmark College continue serving its students.
“Energy costs are a third of my budget. It’s a big number. If we had never done any projects with Efficiency Vermont, we'd be paying almost a quarter of a million dollars more for electricity right now.”
Landmark College’s mission is to transform the way that students learn, educators teach, and the public thinks about education. The college focuses on serving students who learn differently due to ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and more. This mission guides the college in every aspect of their work, from designing physical spaces to the curriculum. Adding the MacFarlane Center helped Landmark include more four-year science and technology programs.
Efficiency Vermont partnered with Landmark as they were constructing the MacFarlane Center. The college had installed four rooftop heat pumps to help with heating and cooling. They installed submeters to track how much electricity the heat pumps were using. A building controls system automated the heating and cooling system based on the outside temperature.
Efficiency Vermont Energy Consultant Marcus Jones understands building controls systems. He spent five years as a controls technician before coming to work at Efficiency Vermont. One of his clients during that time was Landmark College. He’s continued the relationship with Kyle and his team in his capacity with Efficiency Vermont. In 2018, he started talking to Kyle about ways to improve the controls system and the rooftop heat pumps.
After looking at the submetering data, they decided to upgrade the controls software. The new software uses real-time feedback from the building and the temperature in each zone. Instead of running based on the “worst-case” scenario, the new software turns the system on only when it’s needed. The result is that the building’s heating and cooling system, including the heat pumps, run much less frequently. The only changes were to the software for the controls system, but the impact was huge. Looking at the submetering data they were collecting, Kyle and Marcus found that the total energy use for the building dropped by 57%.
“I expected to find some savings, but when we did the math it blew us away. We re-did the numbers to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake. But the energy bills were the proof: they paid half as much on that meter as they did last year.”
– Marcus Jones, Energy Consultant, Efficiency Vermont
A few of the key benefits of optimizing your buildings control systems are:
- Saving energy and money by turning off equipment when it's not needed
- Giving facility managers more control over their systems
- Making buildings more comfortable for occupants
“By working with Efficiency Vermont, we were able to control the four rooftop units on the roof a little differently. We utilized the heat pumps more effectively, and we were able to save half the fuel that the building uses in a year's time.”
The new software and increased control over the heating and cooling system allowed Landmark College to enroll in a flexible load management pilot with Green Mountain Power. Green Mountain Power works with large energy users to reduce their electricity usage during peak periods for the grid. These peak periods can result in rate increases for everyone. Reducing power usage during these times can help reduce costs for all utility customers. In 2019, Landmark College was able to reduce their load by 25% during the New England summer peak.
Landmark College's efficiency investment will save them more than $220,000 on heating fuel and electricity in the next ten years.
Kyle is eager to identify other opportunities for efficiency projects in the college’s future. He recognizes that technology is constantly advancing, and costs are coming down. A project that was out of reach for the college a few years ago might be possible in the future. The history of successful projects with Efficiency Vermont help pave the way for future energy saving projects. The more energy and money they save, the more the college can invest in its students and in its mission.