Feature Article - April 2018
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Still Going Green

Sustainability Plans & Equipment Help Create Eco-Friendly Facilities

By Deborah L. Vence

The key to being eco-friendly is committing to it in all aspects, not just one—that's how facilities save both money and energy while helping the planet.

Since implementation of the pilot project, the M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks staff has received only one request for maintenance service of the LED lighting in the parking lot since the original installation. Though LED technology costs more up front over traditional lighting, the cost savings in maintenance and energy consumption over their lifetime cannot be understated. LED lights produce high-quality illumination and, on average, consume anywhere from 30 to 60 percent less energy over traditional lighting for similar applications.

Aparicio noted that high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that meet EnergyStar or equivalent standards are installed in all new and retrofit construction projects. Additionally, exposed piping and ventilation ducts are insulated to LEED Silver or equivalent standards. What's more, facility thermostats are replaced with programmable and Wi-Fi-enabled units. These units allow for real-time remote programming, assessment, troubleshooting and, oftentimes, resolution of HVAC system issues.

"Being able to remotely make system adjustments and address issues allows for greater system control and efficiency. This also reduces the need to mobilize technicians out to sites for small issues. However, when technicians are mobilized, they are better prepared with important diagnostic information to complete the job," Aparicio said.

At Portland Parks & Recreation, regenerative filters are used in pools. "As we renovate PP&R swimming pools, such as the existing Grant Pool and Matt Dishman Pool, where work has been completed in the last two years, we are using a regenerative filter system that uses far less water than a traditional sand filter," Ross said.

"We also have installed ultraviolet (UV) systems that reduce the amount of combined chlorine in the pool. This increases efficiency. It reduces the amount of times that we have to backwash our filters. This practice will be in place if we build any new pools going forward," he said.

In addition, gymnasium lighting retrofits have been completed in multiple PP&R community centers. High-performance T-5 fluorescent light fixtures were installed in the fall of 2011thanks to Energy Efficient and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) grant funding.

"T-5s are a new generation of high-efficiency lights that often replace metal halide and magnetic ballasted T-12 fluorescent lights, providing higher-quality light, and lamps with a much longer life, up to 10 years. PP&R electric bills fell by $1,700 as a result of this upgrade," he said.

At Peninsula Park Community Center in Portland, daylighting is used to conserve energy. The center has large spans of windows. However, in the winter, the large spans of glass tended to result in a lot of lost heat, and a cold interior for the building.

But in 2011, Portland Parks & Recreation repaired old wood to replace broken panes and hardware, and to add energy-efficient storm windows. The work also preserves the historic look of the site and appeal of the windows, and greatly improves indoor comfort and helps cut wintertime heating bills.

When it comes to efficient water use, the Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation also have made efforts to install weather-based, centrally controlled irrigation systems in parks and low-flow components in buildings. Eighty PP&R parks currently use this network, which includes localized weather stations and soil moisture sensors. Each newly developed park is equipped with the necessary components to monitor and manage the irrigation systems, replenishing only the water required.

When it comes to innovations in design, modern facility design has incorporated a wide variety of sustainable options. Large windows with reflective glass increase natural lighting in a space, while rejecting the sun's heat, paints, glues, custodial products all are made to have a lower impact on the environment and should be considered.

Soderman added that people often think about lighting when talking about sustainable facility management, and for good reason. "The strides made in lighting efficacy over the past five to 10 years have been dramatic. Many facilities were (or still are) using high-wattage metal halide lights. These lights were a mainstay in parks, athletic and recreational venues since coming onto the scene in the 1960s," he said. "They have the ability to produce a lot of light, but are not efficient."

An example of cost savings (paired with energy savings) was replacing 30 450-watt HID lights with 130-watt LED lights.

"The overall payback on the project was less than two years, and then each year's energy cost savings equaled $5,000," Soderman said.

"There are, of course, many other sustainable things that can be done to increase overall sustainability. Some companies make water bottle fillers that are connected to water fountains. Many times, government grants can be applied for to pay for units like this," he added. "At a previous building I managed, in 4.5 years, more than 3 million bottles of water were saved by using the refilling feature."

Meanwhile, Avina noted that other than sustainable equipment, facilities can install eco-friendly light bulbs (LED) and use eco-friendly paints and cleaning products.

"All of these things help to not only conserve energy, but save the environment," he said. "I think the key to being eco-friendly is committing to it in all aspects, not just one—that's how facilities save both money and energy while helping the planet."