Case study: Schools decrease energy costs through upgrades

The Turner County School District will save millions in energy costs, from its HVAC to its lighting systems.

By Keith Cowne, Education Specialist, ABM Building Solutions, Atlanta May 4, 2015

Turner County in Ashburn, Ga., is a scenic, rural community two hours south of Atlanta. Like so many other school districts across the country, Turner County was dealing with serious infrastructure and energy efficiency issues-primarily maintaining campus building standards in the face of financial challenges-when it sought the help of ABM in 2010.

Knowing studies have shown a better a physical environment-including indoor comfort, air quality, and lighting quality-impacts learning, productivity, and achievement, Turner County district officials wanted to upgrade their facilities and improve energy efficiency without increasing their budget or raising taxes.

When ABM initially met with Turner County, the majority of its buildings had old, inefficient lighting technology, inadequate control systems, high utility costs, and high noise levels due to faulty HVAC systems. The school district was spending more than $600,000 per year in utility costs, maintenance costs, and capital outlay.

Through its Bundled Energy Solutions program, ABM customized a solution for Turner County’s Board of Education to provide upgrades to all of the Turner County School buildings, including the high school, middle school, special services building, preschool building, civic center, board office, elementary school, and gymnasium. ABM’s Bundled Energy Solutions program drives costs out of a client’s operating budget, allowing savings to be reallocated to fund mission critical facility needs.

The project was calculated to save the school district an estimated $4.8 million dollars in energy and operating costs over the course of 15 years. Yearly energy audits have shown savings each year since the program was implemented. In 2013 and 2014, actual savings exceeded the guaranteed savings by over 25%, including more than $150,000 in energy (utility) savings.

The project began in late May 2010 and was completed in October 2010. Its scope of work included:

  • Equipment replacement and upgrades: Replacement of existing HVAC equipment, installation of new air conditioning equipment and wall-mounted heat pumps, ductwork modifications, and electrical connections
  • Installation of centralized energy management control systems: Individual controls added to more than 95 classrooms, offices, and learning centers
  • Lighting upgrades: Inefficient lighting upgraded with new high-efficiency lighting, fixtures retrofitted or replaced, and incandescent and/or compact fluorescent exit signs replaced with new LED exit signs.

Turner County School District will use the cost savings it received from this program to pay for most of the associated costs, in addition to the special local option sales tax (SPLOST) dollars for some other, related aspects of the program. SPLOST is an additional $0.01, 5-year tax that Georgia municipalities can approve (by vote in an election) to be used for clearly articulated qualifying projects. ABM is guaranteeing the energy savings for the duration of the program.

Explaining why Turner County Schools selected ABM, then-school superintendent Ray Jordan said, "We were looking to dramatically improve the HVAC and control infrastructure in all of our school district’s buildings, and ABM came to us at the right time with the right solutions. The Bundled Energy Solutions program not only provides us with the needed maintenance and upgrades, but also allows for much needed energy and operating savings. We looked at other programs in the past, but ABM’s approach and experience with other school systems in the state proved to be the best fit for our system."

Keith Cowne was an educator for 32 years, a superintendent for 6 years, and has worked for ABM for more than 7 years.