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Unit 5 To Make $3M In Energy Upgrades At Kingsley Junior High

Unit 5 is planning $3.1 million in upgrades at Kingsley Junior High School in Normal as part of districtwide energy efficiency improvements.

The work includes replacing aging HVAC equipment, including failed boilers and rooftop units, and building a new mechanical space to help address what administrators call “major safety concerns” for maintenance staff. The school will also get geothermal and digital control upgrades throughout much of the building.

The work is part of a multiyear plan to improve efficiencies at the district’s six largest facilities.

Unit 5 has already completed over $5.2 million in upgrades at Parkside Junior High, Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School.

Jason Vogelbaugh is the director of energy solutions at Alpha Controls & Services LLC, the company contracted to help the district meet its energy efficiency goals. He told Unit 5 board members Wednesday night the work completed to-date has saved the district over $550,000.

Vogelbaugh called Kingsley one of the district’s “worst energy offenders.” Vogelbaugh said the school uses about $282,000 in energy costs annually. Built in 1957, the school is also one of Unit 5’s oldest buildings.

Vogelbaugh said the work will lead to an estimated $170,707 annual energy savings at Kingsley.

The district is financing the project in part by issuing health and life-safety bonds. It also plans to use federal and state grants to help pay for the work.

However the district won’t see a return on its investment at Kingsley for 17 years after the project wraps up. In comparison, together the projects at Normal Community, Normal West and Parkside have a nearly eight-year return on investment.

Board Vice President Mike Trask said while some may say that’s too long, “At this point we’ve bled this building to death with utilities, and it’s only going to get worse.”

“And we’re planning to use this building far beyond that period,” Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker said. “So when you think about how much more we would have spent over that 17 years and the future years, it makes all the sense to try to stop the losses at this point and to improve it so that it will go into the future well.”

Vogelbaugh said while Parkside is now an all-geothermal facility, Kingsley has “immediate needs” that can’t wait for a total system replacement.

Moving to an all geothermal system would also mean an additional $1 million in project costs.

Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said the project is about more than just energy savings; students and teachers perform better with improved air quality and temperature control.

“Depending on the season, if the boilers are running, we have some rooms that are full blow the entire 24 hours a day,” he explained. “That’s not an efficient use of energy, and that’s also not creating a climate or culture that’s conducive to learning.”

Daniel said the upgrades also help the district move from a disaster-response to preventative maintenance approach.

“As you’re able to monitor things through system analysis, you’re actually looking at things as beginnings of failures, not total failures,” he explained. “You’re then able to have the intervention to correct that, or examine it and come up with a plan to correct the problem, versus a crisis mode.”

The district is planning similar upgrades to Chiddix Junior High School, set to begin after work is finished at Kingsley.

Unit 5 Director of Operations Joe Adelman said administrators will bring construction bids to the board for approval in March.

Vogelbaugh said the HVAC work at Kingsley should be wrapped up by the start of the 2019-2020 school year, while the new geothermal system will be fully installed by the end of next summer.

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Breanna Grow is a correspondent for GLT. She joined the station in September 2018.
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