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WSU will save $35.8 million by reducing energy consumption

Wright State University will save $35.8 million over the next 15 years with an extensive plan to reduce campus energy consumption — making more funds available for the university to tackle its growing list of deferred maintenance.

The Wright State Board of Trustees will vote on Feb. 15 to approve a $25.2 million contract with ABM Industries Inc. to modernize heating and cooling plants at its Fairborn and Lake campuses. The plan includes eliminating 30 major pieces of equipment, tying the entire main campus to one main boiler system, replacing light fixtures with LED and using the pond near the Nutter Center for year-round geothermal cooling.

The investment will cut campus energy consumption by nearly 40 percent, according to WSU.

“This is a game-changer for us in terms of sustainability,” said Mark M. Polatajko, vice president for business and fiscal affairs and university treasurer.

Polatajko said the plan will not only save taxpayer money, it will position the university “as a regional leader in energy conservation initiatives.” WSU will be one of the first public universities in Ohio using these types of energy conservation measures on such a large scale, he said.

ABM general manager Gregory Hahn said his team spent 3,600 hours on campus developing the plan.

“We’re excited about this at the highest levels because we know walking in the door that we can achieve the results. We’ve already gathered the data that tells us we’re right,” he said.

A key piece will be the use of pressure independent control valves — a nine-year-old technology Hahn called “the glue that makes everything we’re going to do work” — that will allow the company to monitor the energy use of every piece of equipment on the campuses.

“We’re putting the technology in not just to control the energy, but then we can take a look at it every day, anytime through the day, to find out how every building and every system is performing,” Hahn said.

Polatajko said the new system will save $225,000 a year in maintenance costs and pay for itself in 12.7 years.

The savings will help the university address its more than $28 million in deferred maintenance, which Polatajko said is important to help offset dwindling state capital appropriations typically used for basic renovations.

Wright State worked with ABM in 2010 for phase one of an energy conservation project. The company, based in New York, employs 3,000 people in Ohio and more than 100,000 in the United States and internationally, according to WSU and ABM.

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