Sustainable Savings and Facility Improvements
By Amy Perry (04/07/2009)

RICHMOND, Va. — A large-scale water and energy efficiency project under way here is expected to save the Virginia Department of Corrections more than $3.1 million during the next 15 years.

The department, facing budget pressures and a gubernatorial mandate to significantly cut non-renewable energy purchases by 2010, developed an infrastructure improvement program with Johnson Controls Inc., a national energy services company, that targets 13 correctional centers to help cut annual expenses and reduce the department’s carbon footprint.

“The agency had a need for some infrastructure improvements because it wasn’t getting a lot of maintenance reserve funding from the state, which is used to upgrade and repair facility systems,” says John Poggi, project representative with Johnson Controls Inc. “This project was seen as a way to help them upgrade some of their facility infrastructure.”

The DOC also identified goals for water and energy usage at the facilities when it signed the contract with Johnson Controls in 2005, according to Poggi.

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Through collaboration with DOC staff, including constant updates about building conditions, maintenance challenges and equipment issues, the company developed a three-phased approach that targeted systems at specific facilities during each phase.

“The department had certain criteria from a facility standpoint that determined the phasing,” Poggi says. “Based on those criteria, we did some evaluating and that’s how we selected the facilities for each phase. The criteria were based on the type of facility, as well as building size and plant size.”

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The project includes a combination of replacements, upgrades and new installations, such as upgrades to lighting systems, water fixtures and building envelope systems, replacements of steam traps, HVAC units, and installation of facility automation systems, lighting occupancy sensors and temperature control systems.

“There are a couple of standard things we always look at, which are lighting, water, and some automated HVAC control systems,” Poggi says. “In addition to those, we’ve also done a lot of mechanical retrofits, where we’ve replaced some rooftop air conditioning units or air-handling systems.”

Other green features include absorption chillers, solar panels, maintenance support services and training.

Work is delivered through a performance contract, where the energy and water efficiency improvements are expected to pay for themselves through the savings they are expected to generate.

In addition to the projected $3.1 million return on investment, the energy- and water-efficiency measures are expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use throughout the state.

Officials estimate the project will generate electricity savings of more than 12 million kilowatt-hours, fossil fuel savings of more than 2 million therms, and reduce water use by more than 159 million gallons during the 15-year period.

Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced by 20.4 million pounds, nitrous oxide by 31,435 pounds, nitrogen oxides by 9,673 pounds and carbon monoxide by 8,717 pounds according to reports. Volatile organic compound emissions are expected to decrease by 3,198 pounds, and sulfur dioxide emissions are expected to drop by 7,026 pounds.

Phase one, which started in 2005 and included $8.2 million worth of energy and facility improvements at four correctional facilities, is complete. The renovated facilities are expected to generate energy and operational savings of $734,000 annually and a positive cash flow of more than $300,000 during the 15-year contract for the department.

Additional savings include a 4.5 MW reduction in annual electric demand and a water savings of more than 44 million gallons.

“Water conservation has been a big improvement for the agency and we’ve focused on it through every phase of the project,” Poggi says. “One of the issues in correctional centers is in the individual cells, where inmates are constantly flushing everything down the toilet, which can become a security issue.

“There are improvements that you can put on the toilets that will reduce the flow of water that goes through the system and control how many times a person can flush every half hour.”

Lighting upgrades formed a large part of the renovation process during all three phases of the project to help cut energy costs for the department. Johnson Controls replaced the T-12 magnetic ballasts used in several of the state’s correctional centers with T-8 ballasts, which use less energy than T-12s but provide roughly the same amount of light.

“All the lighting products go through tests and approvals to make sure they meet certain standards,” Poggi says. “We had to do that before we installed anything. We presented the agency with the type of fixture we were going to install and made sure they were OK with it.”

The project gained further impetus from an executive order issued in 2007 by Governor Tim Kaine. Executive Order 48 required executive branch agencies and institutions to reduce the annual cost of non-renewable energy purchases by at least 20 percent of fiscal year 2006 expenditures by fiscal year 2010.

“The executive order from Gov. Kaine came after the agency started phase one and it was another reason for them to move forward with more work after we had completed the first phase,” Poggi says.

Phase two, which included work at seven correctional facilities, was completed in 2008. The project included $10 million in energy and facility improvement measures that are designed to net $997,000 in energy and operational savings, a reduction of 1,500 kWh in annual electricity demand and 52 million gallons of water. The department estimates phase two facilities will generate a positive cash flow of more than $1.6 million during the 15-year contract.

During the second phase of the project, Johnson was able to install and recommission several unused solar panels belonging to the DOC.

“The agency had some solar panels that were never installed,” Poggi says. “When we got involved with the project, we said we could get everything working and get them installed and they’ve been working fine.”

The panels are now producing hot water for a kitchen in one of the seven correctional centers renovated during phase two.

Work on phase three started in fall 2008 and includes more than $14 million in energy and facility improvements at two correctional centers. The third phase of work is expected to generate an annual savings of $1.4 million in operational costs and a positive cash flow of more than $4.8 million for the DOC.

During phase three, correctional centers will receive low-flow plumbing fixtures designed to reduce water and sewage use, as well as increase security. Plumbing systems will be controlled from a central location, allowing staff to shut down bathrooms during a security check to keep from flushing contraband.

In addition to centrally located plumbing controls, the project introduced automation with other systems at Virginia DOC facilities.

“There is more automation as far as the mechanical systems,” Poggi says. “A lot of these facilities didn’t really have much automation when it came to controlling their heating and air conditioning systems.”

Mechanical systems within the renovated correctional centers can now be remotely monitored and repaired, reducing the need for facility operators to enter high-security areas.

“It’s a time saver for the maintenance guys,” Poggi says. “Now if they get a call from somebody in a facility who says their system is not working, rather than having to dispatch somebody into the facility and go through the gate they can just go to the computer in their office outside the fence, pull the system up and do troubleshooting and not have to worry about going into the facility.”

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