NMCC to invest in green projects

Posted Sept. 03, 2010, at 8:06 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A significant investment is expected to pay even bigger dividends for Northern Maine Community College, as the Presque Isle college is slated to benefit from a huge push to make the campus more green.

The college has undertaken several projects in recent months designed to reduce both energy costs and the campus’s carbon footprint. The college has invested more than $2.2 million in the effort, and the scope of completed work includes building and lighting upgrades, mechanical renovations and insulation, and building controls installation.

Tim Crowley, president of NMCC, said Thursday that making the college more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly has been a major priority over the past few years. Crowley said the investments NMCC has made in its buildings and around campus “will pay dividends for years to come.”

The college has entered into a performance contract with Honeywell to upgrade existing facilities. The arrangement, approved by the Maine Community College System last year, allowed NMCC to borrow $1.36 million from the system to initiate energy conservation work on campus.

Under the contract with Honeywell, NMCC is guaranteed a minimum dollar amount in savings on its energy costs each year for the next 15 years as a result of the firm’s work to maximize energy efficiency on campus. NMCC would use the savings to repay the MCCS loan. If the savings do not achieve the targeted figure, Honeywell is responsible for paying the balance in that given fiscal year.

The project began early this year with a comprehensive energy audit of campus facilities. Several buildings and areas on campus were targeted for improvements, and work on the target areas began in early April. During spring break, campus buildings were better insulated and steps were taken to better prevent heat loss.

In May, work began on extensive updates to the building control mechanisms across campus. Many of the existing controls were installed in the 1970s and 1980s and had outlived their usefulness. As a result of the new computer systems installed, the college will have better control of the heating and ventilation in all buildings.

Individual rooms can now be scheduled for heat as needed, as opposed to the former method of heating a whole wing or floor. The system will allow NMCC to trend building temperature and equipment operation over long periods of time to help verify that everything is working properly.

The final area of work completed over the summer months involved campus interior and exterior lighting projects. Interior lighting was reviewed, and inefficient lighting has been replaced with high-efficiency lighting. The college has added new motion detectors and daylight harvesting controls, which turn the lights off if there is no motion in the room or if there is enough natural light.

Crowley said most of the efficiency improvement work completed on campus is the result of an energy conservation effort initiated by NMCC in 2007. An energy task force established on campus has worked collaboratively with the NMCC information technology and facilities office to identify areas in which the campus could reduce energy costs and simultaneously be more environmentally friendly.

“These efforts have really gotten the campus focused on energy and how to conserve it,” he said Thursday. “We have done a lot of work to upgrade our heating and ventilation systems and really tighten up our buildings to reduce heat loss, and to make sure we are only air conditioning parts of the buildings that need to be cooled.”

Two other building upgrades at NMCC, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will result in energy savings on the campus. Crowley noted that a $419,839 project to install a new roof system and other exterior repairs to the Mailman Trades building, which houses many of the trade and technical occupations programs at the college, had several components relating to efficiency. Roof insulation was doubled and many air infiltration issues corrected by exterior repairs to the facility. The project also included the installation of new solar tubes in the main corridor that bring in natural light and will help reduce the amount of energy for lighting during the day.

“I believe we are really going to see a difference because of the work that was done to the Mailman Trades building,” he said.

Crowley said that students and staff at the college have been “very involved” in making NMCC more green. That has led to changes in parts of the college curriculum. Plans are under way to revise the current building energy systems curriculum across NMCC’s construction trade programs. The revisions will allow for greater instruction around green building methods, energy audits and weatherizing existing structures.

The plans also call for the college to introduce new classes over the next year while revising existing courses to stress energy efficiency in construction and renovation practices. The construction trade programs will include additional courses in energy auditing and solar domestic hot water. The energy auditing class will be required for plumbing and heating program students, and will be offered as a technical-related elective for other construction cluster programs.

“I think those courses will get those students focused on energy efficiency here at school and in their own homes,” Crowley said. “It also will allow them to share their knowledge with others when they get into the work force.”

The president added Thursday that NMCC is set to erect a meteorological, or met tower on the north end of campus within the week to measure wind speed and direction. The tower will be used as a teaching tool for students enrolled in NMCC’s training program in wind power technology, and could lead to construction of a wind turbine on campus.

The final project, a $477,979 renovation to the mechanical systems in Andrews Hall, a residential facility, is expected to be complete in October. A new high-efficiency boiler is being installed in the building along with a new domestic hot water system. A new heat recovery unit for the entire building also will be installed to capture approximately 60 percent of heat that is normally exhausted out of the building.

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