Energy upgrades at WU ahead of schedule

PHOTO By: Brian Dulle, Kansas First News
PHOTO By: Brian Dulle, Kansas First News

TOPEKA – As students return to the Washburn University campus this week, several changes may be obvious.

In the past six months, the appearance of Morgan Hall was rejuvenated with the installation of new windows, which act as a thermal break, low-flow water fixtures were installed campus-wide to conserve water and reduce sewage and high performance lighting systems were installed to provide optimal lighting and reduce utility costs.

The changes are the result of a 20-month, $12.3 million facility improvement project to reduce energy consumption and diminish the university’s carbon footprint, which in turn makes significant improvements to the learning environment. With the new energy efficient upgrades, the University anticipates saving nearly $618,000 annually in utility expenses. Additionally, 41 percent of the savings, or $253,853, is from the already completed lighting, water and window upgrades. The University is about to realize a utility savings of approximately $21,000 a month, one year before construction on the project was scheduled to be completed. Trane purposely scheduled those upgrades to occur during the first phase of construction so the University could begin experiencing significant savings early in the project.

The project began in February 2013 and was originally projected to be complete in the fall of 2014. The improvements are projected to be complete in June 2014, three months ahead of schedule.

Improvements scheduled to occur this fall include high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and control system upgrades to the Memorial Union, Henderson Learning Resources Center, Petro Allied Health Center, Garvey Fine Arts Center and Morgan Hall. These upgrades will improve indoor air quality, ventilation and classroom comfort. To view a detailed schedule of when upgrades are scheduled for each building and view before and after photos, visit the project website at Tranemidamerica.com/Washburn.

The remaining upgrades will produce minor inconveniences in the buildings, such as minimal construction noise, construction workers present in the buildings and slight temperature fluctuations. However, Trane has scheduled the design and construction in phases to allow occupancy and instructional activities to continue with minimal disruption. The construction phases also were planned to occur off-season to minimize the inconvenience to building occupants. For example, air conditioning units will be replaced in the winter when they are not in use.

With the new energy efficient upgrades, energy savings will be realized along with reducing the amount of money the University spends maintaining aging equipment that has exceeded its useful service life. The anticipated reduction in energy use is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 520,812 gallons of gasoline consumed. Additionally, by replacing aging infrastructure the University will reduce its deferred maintenance backlog while preparing facilities for decades of future use.

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