Steadily Moving Towards Sustainability
While to some, the goal of “sustainability” is a relatively new concept, the efforts at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Massachusetts have been meticulously planned and implemented over the last ten years, starting with an irrigation well designed to capture and reuse storm run-off water to irrigate the quad in from of administration building, Wentworth Hall. Other earlier initiatives have included low-flow shower heads throughout the institute’s buildings, a rigorous recycling program, and designated VIP parking for those who carpool.
BOC graduate and WIT’s Assistant Director/Energy Management Michael Bergeron has been a pivotal part of the institute’s ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Bergeron has been in facilities management at the institute for 23 years and has had his BOC certification for almost a decade. Some of the projects he has spearheaded have included lighting upgrades in all buildings and the installation of motion detectors where applicable. The boiler systems have also been updated to natural gas systems, with long-needed insulation fitted on pipes.
Another major project was the replacement of an old cogeneration unit with a 595 kWh natural gas engine at the institute’s power plant. Positioning of this unit, which went on line in January, makes it possible for the power plant to supply both steam heat and 200 tons of cooling, making it a year-round asset. It also supplies close to two thirds of the power needs of the main campus. Estimated energy cost savings of $140,000 annually and a rebate from National Grid of $100,000 give this project a seven-and-a-half year payback.
Bergeron reports, “We’ve worked with National Grid (the local utility) on a number of money-saving options, rebates for installation of energy-efficient equipment, the NSTAR Demand Response Program among several others.” He indicates that over a seven–year period, they have received rebates totaling $158,000 for co-gen units, autoflame combustion controls, and a heat recovery rooftop unit.
Bergeron’s National Grid account manager, Yvonne Flanagan, lauds his efforts in working with the utility to improve energy efficiency at Wentworth. “Mike Bergeron has taken a leadership role among National Grid’s Key Accounts in energy efficiency via his many pursuits with emerging technologies. He’s a pleasure to work with and sets a terrific example for his peers in maximizing green and innovative technologies in facilities management,” states Flanagan.
Additionally, as a participant in the Demand Response Program, Wentworth receives financial incentives for its ability to reduce usage on request at peak demand times. “We are required to respond and have emergency generation equipment up and running within half an hour’s time. We have just over 1000 kW of emergency generation and have committed 900kW to any one event. We also shed as much load as possible with the use of our energy management systems during these events. Just last August, Wentworth received a check for $8,200 for participating in the program and responding to an event,” Bergeron explains.
Many of the changes to date have been in the realm of facilities management, requiring little understanding by building occupants since there was no direct effect. But encouraging energy-efficiency consciousness also requires pattern changes. To that end, in January of 2008, a “sustainability committee” was formed, on which Bergeron serves, to provide continuous input from all segments of the school: faculty, students, representatives from facilities management, accounting, planning and construction, IT and student housing. Getting everyone involved encourages an exchange of ideas and raises awareness for recycling and energy conservation efforts so that all those affected can buy into the changes.
For 2009, things on the energy efficiency front look promising as well. With the purchase of an FLIR infrared camera, Bergeron (who was certified as a level one thermographer) hopes to do both facility troubleshooting and predictive maintenance as well as checking for heat losses around doors and windows for even more energy efficiency savings.