Even older buildings can produce sizable energy efficiencies when properly retrofitted, based on a recent project in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services (DGS) has completed a project with Siemens Building Technologies to reduce energy consumption at the state government’s Health & Welfare and Labor & Industry buildings. The structures, each 50 years old, are located in Harrisburg, Pa., the state’s capital.

The package of improvements to the two buildings is expected to achieve a 30 percent reduction in energy throughout the 750,000 square feet of office space at both locations. Those improvements included a 10-kilowatt solar energy system, building automation control improvements, heating ventilation and air conditioning system enhancements, and low-flow plumbing fixtures. The project also included the replacement of more than 2,000 of the original windows in the structures. Siemens, based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., made the improvements as part of its $8.2 million performance contract.

The contract, awarded December 2007, was completed last month. Under the terms of the performance-based agreement, the company guarantees the reduction in energy use over a 15-year period. Pennsylvania will save the equivalent of $800,000 in energy costs during the first year, escalating by 5 percent per year thereafter. Total program energy savings could reduce equivalent energy expenses some $15 million over the life of the contract. Net energy cost savings to the taxpayers, as estimated by DGS, should exceed $2 million.

According to Siemens, the environmental impact of the project translates into annual greenhouse gas emission reductions equal to 104,276 acres of forest preserved, 639 railcars of coal left unburned, 27,206 cars removed from the roads, or 291,002 barrels of oil left unused.

A touch-screen display console in the lobby of the Labor & Industry Building displays real-time energy data and other information, including output from the building’s solar photovoltaic energy system.

Pennsylvania has a large number of energy-saving projects on tap, said Bruce Stultz, director of energy management at the state’s Department of General Services, Bureau of Facilities Management.
“Right now, we have a signed contract for 38 construction projects, so we have a total of $369 million worth of work being done to boost energy efficiency in government structures,” Stultz told Govpro.com. “In fact, the guaranteed energy savings for those projects is valued at $434 million.”

The DGS’ Energy Management Office within the Bureau of Facilities Management administers Pennsylvania’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) performance contracting program. The program assists and enables Pennsylvania agencies in existing facilities to contract for energy conservation measures without an up-front capital budget allocation. The Energy Management Office provides services, including developing, coordinating and structuring projects, as well as assisting agencies with project management. The office helps local and county governments, K-12 schools, and other governmental entities investigate GESA projects, also. Stultz noted that many retrofit projects can trim 20 to 25 percent off of an agency’s annual utility bill.

Pennsylvania local governments can get more bang for their federal stimulus funds through the DGS’ performance contracting program, said Stultz. “In Pennsylvania, municipalities and school districts have the ability to take their federal stimulus dollars and leverage them through this process, so it allows agencies to get much more work completed. There’s a multiplier factor at work that allows agencies to complete bigger projects.”

For government officials who might be contemplating an energy-savings construction program, Stultz offers this advice: “I would reach out for a good knowledge-base, including consultants that have a good understanding on the customer side (of energy consumption). It’s very helpful in developing a good performance contracting model.”

Editor’s note: Government administrators may want to check out the following ARRA resource page at the National Association of Energy Service Companies’ web page.