Board of Education plans new energy efficiency program

Max Miranda, A&E Editor

Over the past ten years, rising awareness of the human effect on the environment has forced people as well as institutions to change the way in which they operate.  The school district is poised to become one such institution.  Next month, the Board of Education will vote to approve a $5.6 million contract with Johnson Controls that, if passed, will save schools significant amounts on heating, lighting, water conservation, school kitchens, and even vending machines.

On Nov. 12, Johnson Controls gave a presentation to the Board of Education that proposed to implement dozens of changes to schools across the district.  The most expensive of which would be a $1.3 million lighting retrofit, contributing to the projected 17.7% on electricity overall.  As a whole, the project is expected to save the school nearly 23.41% in energy costs per year, which would allow the contract to pay for itself within 17 years.

“We are always striving for energy efficiency, it is an ongoing process.  This contract is another step in the process.  It will allow us to make upgrades to the mechanical systems which should have an energy savings and make the buildings more comfortable,” said Facilities Director James Ristano.

In this presentation, the project was referred to as the second phase of a 2006 project.

The company, established in 1885, is currently listed as 67th in the Fortune 500. Their business includes retrofitting existing buildings such as the Empire State Building and working on maximizing the efficiency in new construction such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  Along with gigantic towers, Johnson Controls has done work for over thirty school districts on Long Island.

This project, even if voted on by the Board, would not yet be fully approved.  After that, the proposal would need to be sent to the State Education Department (SED), who oversees all construction projects. Due to the fact that Johnson Controls is promising to pay the difference if the project does not pay for itself, the SED will primarily be looking to see that the project meets their standards and regulations.  When it returns from the SED, it will need to be affirmed by the Board once again. The district will most likely adopt the plan sometime in the spring.

“Once the contract is accepted by the Board, then the information relative to the project will go up to the State Education Department… then it gets put into a queue to have an engineer and an architect review the information, and that can take up to six months,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Mary Callahan.  “Then, Johnson has to line up their vendors. We would want most of the work done over next summer if it’s possible.  Things move very slowly in schools.”

Although the work would be done over the course of what will most likely be a one and a half year period, the payment for the construction will be done over the course of a 15-year period.  However, it appears the program will be both energy and economically efficient.

“The cost benefit is in our favor as the positive changes and savings survive the payback period and continue to provide financial benefit long into the future,” said Board of Education member Alan Baer.