Campus Energy Saving Project Wins Award


Melinda Ebrahimi, Staff Writer

As on most campuses, Glendale College’s library is probably the most visited structure other than the parking lot. Students gather there to study, print assignments, check out textbooks, or even to escape the summer’s scorching heat.

Students may be happy to know that the library is undergoing a series of upgrades to make it more welcoming and energy-efficient.

Part of a three-phase energy savings project, the library falls under phase one of the plan, as do the Advanced Technology, Aviation Arts, Arroyo Seco and Health Sciences buildings.

Phase one of the project had a budget of $2.5 million and is expected to conclude within two years. The library building, however, took up a big chunk of the funding, as it alone required $1.2 million in upgrades.

The funding is provided by several sources, including Proposition 39, Glendale Water and Power rebates, and Southern California rebates, which gave the college $277,000 in on-bill financing. This allows the school to pay the amount over five to 10 years with no interest. Additional resources came through scheduled maintenance from the state and Measure G, a local bond.

Phase one is divided into four tasks; however, prior to starting the project, electric submeters were placed throughout the campus to measure how much energy the school uses.

“We are committed to saving money in energy that pays back,” said Nelson Oliveira, director of facilities.

Project manager Axel Walker said that submetering, which tracks the electrical consumption of equipment within a structure or a building,  was the first step because they wanted to collect as much data as they could about how and where energy was being used before they began upgrading lighting.

Task one, completed in January, consisted of updating the lighting in the Library and Advanced Technology and Aviation Arts buildings. The library alone consumed $110,000 of the budget.

“We used to have a museum of lights that were very energy consuming,” said Oliveira.

Those lights, however, were replaced with high efficiency ballasts, low wattage lamps and longer lifespan LED lamps, which consume less electricity.

The chandelier in the library was also replaced with high efficiency, 100,000-hour lights that will not need replacing for another 10 years.

Ceiling occupancy sensors were also installed in classrooms located in the library building, meaning the lights can turn off by themselves if no movement is detected within 20 minutes.

Task two of phase one includes the Health Sciences, San Gabriel and Arroyo Seco buildings.

“Our commissioning team went through a point-to-point check on all of the equipment in the buildings and checked the air balance and recommended efficiency measures,” said Walker.

The efficiency recommendations were directed toward improving air conditioning controls in addition to lighting replacements.

The Arroyo Seco building underwent a huge project that lasted five weeks. The second floor received 25 fume hood retrofits and 36 valves. Fume hoods are containers where experiments are executed to suck out air.

“[They suck] all of the fumes and odor out into the atmosphere,” said Walker.

The reliability of the equipment was improved by replacing all of the valves with new ones that enabled a high-efficiency system to run the fume hoods.

“It is going to be very beneficial to the students because the transfer of the toxic gas will dissipate properly,” said Oliveira.

This project alone will save the campus $30,000 a year.

The energy-savings efforts of the college have not gone unnoticed. The college received the 2014 Board of Governors Energy & Sustainability Honorable Mention Award for commissioning projects on the Chilled Water Plant No. 2 Optimization, which is part of phase one of the energy upgrade project. Oliveira accepted the award at the 21st Annual Conference for the Community College Facility Coalition on Sept. 9 in Sacramento.

The Chilled Water Plant No. 2 Optimization is the last part of task two in phase one and will be executed during the last week of November.

The campus currently has two 525-pound operating chillers that provide chilled water for the air handlers throughout the upper campus. Water chillers are mechanical devices that are used to provide heat or cool air for indoor spaces.

There is also a smaller third chiller that is not operating but, according to Walker, will be “up and running” so that it can regulate temperature when the campus is not occupied without using the bigger chillers. Walker said that this will considerable reduce energy consumption.

The library and Advanced Technology building will also receive mechanical and control upgrades starting in October; however, this will take about 12 weeks. The structures are currently numerically controlled, meaning all of the rooms are set to the same degree. However, the upgrades will allow the temperatures to be digitally controlled, and all the performance of the cooling and heating will be followed on a screen.

“We want to achieve reliability and comfort,” said Oliveira.

Once architectural permits are received, the air handlers on the roof of the library will be removed and replaced with high-efficiency handlers, which means the air can be distributed properly throughout the building. An air handler is a device that regulates the air of the heating and the conditioning system.

“We want to be proactive,” said Oliveira. “ We don’t want to wait for the things to break down and then try to fix them. We want to fix them ahead of time.”

Phase one is expected to be completed next July.