Board of Regents pass spending on energy audit

Matt Kelly / Washburn Review

The Washburn University Board of Regents approved a proposal Tuesday for a heating, ventilating and air conditioning company to be selected to perform a detailed energy audit of both Washburn and the Washburn Institute of Technology and make recommendations for a comprehensive energy program.

Qualified proposals to provide the conservation and improvement services were received from Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Schneider Electric and Trane according to the WBOR agenda. But Honeywell didn’t “make the cut.” Only the remaining three companies were selected to proceed in the selection process.

Washburn should be able to recoup its expenses from the program in no more than nine years according Vice President of Admissions and Treasurer Rick Anderson.

“We don’t want to take any money away from our other purposes, so anything that we do will be at least revenue neutral or better in terms of further energy savings,” said Anderson at the WUBOR meeting on Tuesday. “A number of institutions have done this around the country. What I’m looking for here is how to improve our energy efficiency and improve our infrastructure in the same process without spending any more money.”

In the WUBOR meeting agenda, Washburn University President Jerry Farley recommended the contract be awarded to Trane, who has a long history of helping institutions save money by reducing energy expenses. In 2009 the University of Central Missouri signed a $36.1 million contract with Trane that addressed necessary upgrades in energy efficiency and maintenance. The project generated $500,000 in savings before it was completed in 2010, and is still paying for itself.   

Regent David Moses summed up his understanding of the initial project expenses at the WUBOR meeting.

“If we don’t make any improvements, it will cost us about $60,000 for the audit,” said Moses. “If we do some things it will still cost us $60,000 plus whatever it costs to do the work. We will then recoup those dollars over time.”

Anderson mentioned that the University of Missouri Kansas City, where he used to work, replaced its chiller plant and, among other things, improved its lighting in a similar program. The project cost was  $19.4 million, and was funded through utility savings from the improvements.

“I have had the pleasure of being able to do this at several institutions,” said Anderson. “The recommendation here is that Washburn, through a request for proposal, move toward selection of an energy services company to perform a detailed energy audit and from there we will make recommendations to the board on what types of energy savings and investments the institution could make.”