Constructed in 1921, the Jackson County Courthouse in Holton, Kan., had an Energy Star score of under 50, meaning it was less efficient than more than 50 percent of peer buildings. Discomfort issues were frequent, given the 34,390-sq-ft building's original steam-boiler heating system, window air-conditioning units, and single-paned windows, as well as the state's notorious temperature swings. The building’s control system consisted of "on" and "off," while the 3-ft-thick stone walls sealed in temperature, for better or worse. When court was in session, the court reporter could not hear over the air conditioning, so it was turned off. The sheriff recalled being very uncomfortable testifying while wearing his bulletproof vest.

Jackson County worked with Kristi Hubbard, CEM, of McElroy’s Inc.'s Building and Energy Solutions Team on a detailed energy-conservation plan that would allow it to operate the building's mechanical systems at peak performance while lowering operating costs and increasing comfort.

The key challenge was maintaining compliance with the National Register of Historic Places. Upgrades that would alter the appearance of an historic building, such as the removal of radiators, are not allowed. This not only limits retrofit options, it drives up their cost.

The original boiler was replaced with a Thermal Solutions high-efficiency boiler. The window units were replaced with a chiller system. Control flexibility was added with a four-pipe delivery system. The project total was $498,750, with an estimated lifetime savings of $102,319.

Stage 2 was a window replacement to reduce air infiltration and capture the improvements from the HVAC upgrades. The window-replacement project cost $130,000 and provides additional energy savings. With glazing applied to the windows, the comfort level of occupants increased significantly.

BuildingAdvice, an energy-services platform from AirAdvice, provides automated data collection, analysis, reporting, and expert support. BuildingAdvice uses technology and human resources to deliver Energy Star benchmarking, immediate utility savings from low- and no-cost operational recommendations, and return-on-investment projections.

Using BuildingAdvice, Hubbard examined pre- and post-project utility data. The courthouse is using 35-percent less energy and emitting 35-percent less greenhouse gases than it was before and using 65-percent less energy than the national average for courthouse facilities. Additionally, the building’s Energy Star score has risen to 99.

For a building to become Energy Star certified, its energy information has to be accessible through Portfolio Manager, Energy Star's interactive energy-management tool.

The transfer of data from Portfolio Manager to BuildingAdvice was possible, but the transfer of data from BuildingAdvice to Portfolio Manager still was on the horizon. BuildingAdvice product developer Lucas Klesch and Hubbard tested and refined the transfer of data from BuildingAdvice to Portfolio Manager to implement two-way integration, known as push integration. Now, push integration is a standard BuildingAdvice feature.

BuildingAdvice's greatest advantage is its "sales component," Hubbard said.

"You could do ASHRAE Level I, II, and III audits, which would cost more and confuse the customer," Hubbard said. "You can do all the reports in the world, but it's the one that actually gets to the sale that matters. How do you convince the client to invest in a capital-improvement project? It comes from having an easy-to-read report that is packed full of specific data."

In March 2011, the Jackson County Courthouse received official notification of its Energy Star certification. Dan Beal, president of McElroy's, and Hubbard presented the associated plaque and certificate to the Jackson County commissioners and custodian Teresa Scheidegger.

Despite an increase in the cost of energy since the project's completion, the courthouse is enjoying natural-gas-consumption savings of 58 percent and annual cost savings of 26 percent.

Information and photograph courtesy of AirAdvice.

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