february 12, 2003

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Universities See Early Benefits of Cost-Cutting Measures

Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, and the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, may be miles apart in distance, but when it comes to thinking of saving money, they might as well be next door neighbors.

Aesthetically pleasing with its manicured gardens, flowing fountain and equally attractive buildings, the new campus of NSU has been called the jewel of Broken Arrow. Serving a record 2,167 undergraduate and graduate students from Tulsa and the surrounding area, the campus was designed to be beautiful, practical and cost efficient. Two Tulsa-based companies, Bates/LZW and Martin Engineering Design, laid the groundwork for the high efficiency campus and together created what has become a benchmark for future projects.

“The architect and engineer did a fantastic job, working together to design these buildings to be not only beautiful and functional, but energy efficient as well,” said NSU President Dr. Larry Williams. “Building this campus was a tremendous opportunity for Northeastern to set new standards in educational facilities.”

Through a specially designed geothermal heating, ventilation and cooling system, NSUBA has saved more than 50 percent in utility costs. This is more than $180,000 in savings per year when compared to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) 2000 Standard for a campus of its size. With high utility rates, NSUBA’s system is very cost efficient, at least 25 to 40 percent more efficient than comparable systems.

In addition to the tremendous cost efficiency, the system has other very pronounced benefits. The out of sight, out of mind system is quiet with no cooling towers with associated fog, noise and spotting of cars and no unsightly, noisy chillers. The system is also easy and convenient to maintain with equipment modules located in the attic catwalk. Repairs and service can be made without disturbing classes and other use areas.

Throughout the past several months, UCO has purchased and installed about $8 million in new heating, air-conditioning, lighting and plumbing equipment without having to ask for additional taxpayer money. The university is paying for the much-needed improvements with money saved on utility and maintenance costs through a concept called performance contracting.

UCO entered into a performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc. in 2001, and began replacing outdated, inefficient furnaces and air conditioning units with new, more energy efficient units in Feb. 2002.

Steve Kreidler, UCO vice president of administration, said the new equipment uses a lot less energy to operate than the old units, which results in utility savings. Kreidler said the money saved through lower utility bills would be used to pay for the new equipment over a period of 20 years.

"In effect, we are borrowing against future utility savings," Kreidler said."We're not spending any more money, and we're not really saving money, either. Basically, these utility savings are helping us to pay for improvements that we couldn't afford any other way."

To date, UCO has replaced worn and outdated heating and air-conditioning equipment in Thatcher Hall, the Art Building, the Music Building, Murdaugh Hall and the Central Cafeteria. Inefficient lighting fixtures and outmoded plumbing equipment also has been replaced in most campus buildings.

Modifications to the university's central plant are underway, as well. The central plant provides hot and cold water for heating and cooling to most major buildings on campus through an underground loop pipeline system.

Work is scheduled to begin in February to connect the Administration Building, Evans Hall, Howell Hall, Business Building and Liberal Arts Building to the central plant. New boilers will be installed at the Health and Physical Education Building, Mitchell Hall and Wantland Hall.

During the next year, nearly all of UCO's buildings will have their heating and air-conditioning equipment worked on to improve performance. Kreidler said UCO has struggled with breakdowns of inefficient, outdated heating and air-conditioning systems for the past several years.

"It's unacceptable to have our students and faculty being either miserably hot or freezing cold inside our buildings," he said. "Our performance contract with Johnson Controls is helping to make it possible for UCO to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment."

Story Contact: Jennifer Zehnder, NSU Media Relations Coordinator, 918.456.5511 x 2851
Charles Johnson, UCO News Bureau Director, 405.974.2315