Shippensburg Area School District: Energy Conservation Success Story

Shippensburg Area School District gymnasium lighting


Shippensburg Area School District (SASD) is a mid-sized, suburban school district that straddles Franklin and Cumberland Counties in the rolling hills of south-central Pennsylvania. Encompassing approximately 129 square miles, it serves approximately 3,200 students in grades K-12.

Today, the district’s six buildings’ operating systems hum with efficiency and SASD is the poster child for energy conservation program success. But that wasn’t the case almost a decade ago. In 2010, bogged down by supersized utility bills and inefficient energy practices, the district sought to enact a guaranteed energy savings project to bring their energy costs under control. Their goals were to minimize the effects of the impending electrical deregulation by substantially reducing electrical usage, improve systems efficiency district-wide, extend the life of their existing infrastructure, and implement a comprehensive energy project. Under Reynolds Energy Services’ guidance, the district implemented a conservation program, but just as importantly educated faculty, staff, and students on the value and benefit of energy conservation efforts for long-term success and sustainability.

Project Overview

Working with the school board and administration, Reynolds developed and constructed a guaranteed energy savings project at all district buildings, which included the high school, middle school, intermediate school, two elementary schools, and the district administrative offices.

The high school was converted from electric heat to natural gas heat. The district’s natural gas consumption in the first year of performance only increased by 0.1% even though an additional 300,000 square feet of building space was being heated by natural gas. Reynolds utilized existing piping and terminal units and tied in pool heating for year-round use. The district exceeded the first-year guaranteed savings by more than 50%.

At the intermediate school, Reynolds’ retro-commissioning services provided a building tune-up. The building’s HVAC system was returned to its design and operational intent, and operations were modified to meet the standards for current building use. At the time, the building was less than five years old, but had a significantly higher than expected energy usage intensity, meaning that the building consumed more energy per square foot than buildings of similar age and size. Reynolds uncovered several areas of simultaneous heating and cooling, circulator pumps running uncontrolled, and numerous other controls issues. Reynolds recommended solutions and assisted the district in saving more than $31,000 per year at that facility alone.

The middle school was converted from steam to hot water boilers. Reynolds installed efficient condensing hot water boilers and addressed heating delivery issues as well as implemented demand-controlled ventilation on select air handling units. In the administrative offices, Reynolds replaced the windows and improved the steam system efficiency by performing boiler combustion and control tune-ups, testing and repairing steam traps and condensate returns, and insulating piping. A comprehensive lighting system retrofit and envelope improvements rounded out the conservation efforts in both buildings, as well as in the elementary schools.

In all buildings, users were educated on energy awareness, particularly in the implementation of room-by-room conservation plans. By implementing other low-cost/no-cost programs, such as computer load and refrigeration management and demand response, the district capitalized on behavior change to make a big impact on their energy bills. Those programs, in combination with lighting improvements and building tune-ups, added up to measurable energy savings.

For a total cost of just over $2 million, SASD is guaranteed to save $175,000 annually over the course of 20 years. In the first five years alone, the district has saved over $1 million.

Shippensburg Area School District boilers

Benefits of a Performance Contract

SASD’s former director of operations, Matt Ulmer, recognizes the benefits of enacting a performance contract. “Shippensburg Area School District benefitted greatly from our project with Reynolds,” Ulmer said. “One of the most beneficial aspects of the project was the ability to fund two high-efficiency natural gas boilers at our middle school. These new boilers yielded a great return on investment, as the heating efficiency provides a more comfortable learning environment for our students at a much lower energy cost. Another beneficial aspect was the establishment of occupied and unoccupied set points for our HVAC system. Pre-project energy data versus post-project data justifies the district’s energy usage and shows the community the effort that is being made to be responsible energy consumers.”

Happy School, Happy Planet

With less money devoted to energy consumption, more of SASD’s budget can be spent on programs and other building improvements, improving students’ learning environment.

Other benefits of a performance contract include:

  • Ability to improve facilities funded through energy savings
  • Guaranteed savings
  • Maximized ROI by leveraging capital
  • Designs and implemented solutions based on long-term operation, cost, comfort, and ease of operation and maintenance
  • No change orders
  • Ability to specify equipment and select sub-contractors
  • Prevent negative financial impact caused by future utility hikes

Interested in implementing a similar program in your district? Contact Reynolds to learn more about how energy performance contracting can benefit your schools.

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