COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia College here recently partnered with two Linc Service Contractors — Raleigh-based Linc Services LLC and Columbia, S.C.-based Total Comfort Solutions, a Linc Service Franchise — to complete major renovations and implement energy-efficiency improvements on all of the main campus facilities to enrich the environment for students and faculty while reducing its carbon footprint.

The renovation and upgrade project, which began in June 2010 and was completed in March 2011, will be financed over a 15-year period. Columbia College is expected to realize significant energy and operational savings from the newly installed systems, generating $6 million in capital funding over the term of the financing agreement.

As with most private colleges, Columbia College faced very strict financial borrowing rules, limiting the College’s ability to address renovations and upgrades across its campus buildings through new debt.

Columbia College’s President Dr. Caroline Whitson sought the financial and technical acumen of the Linc team to help design and deliver a way to replace aging infrastructure without increasing students’ financial burden or launching a charitable fundraising campaign.

According to Dan Dowell, director of energy solutions at Linc Network, there were issues with how much the college wanted to borrow, so it became important to prioritize the needs of the college.

“Linc evaluated numerous approaches to improving the systems in order to provide a proper balance between debt and operational efficiency gains,” said Dowell.

“The program has two main sources for funding: energy savings, a major component, and operational cost reductions,” Dowell continued. “It was costing the college $210,000 annually in demand maintenance just to keep the existing systems running, and a lot of this expense was being done on emergency calls.

After the financial analysis was completed, the Total Comfort Solutions’ team came in and did most of the onsite analysis for every building, including inventorying equipment, and analyzing each building’s operating condition.

“Craig’s techs [Craig Dunlavy, general manager at Total Comfort Solutions] and Linc engineers looked into how to change the current equipments’ operating profile,” explained Dowell. “Craig’s techs did onsite operation analysis, then Linc took all utility information, did modeling, and modeled it against a future cost with our improvements. This was used to justify the project. Of specific concern within its physical plant was a more than 50-year old steam plant and central distribution piping that had become unreliable.

Dowell pointed out that the steam boilers were expensive to maintain, some parts couldn’t be obtained anymore and the distribution piping was in bad shape. There was no way the steam distribution system could be reused so they decided to switch to a distributed hot water system.

Upgrades and retro-commissioning

“The majority of the campus (11 of the campus buildings) ran off of the steam plant,” explained Dunlavy. “They had a wish list item for the project, that each room would have individual control versus a central steam plant where there was no control. A wish was the ability to provide individual room control for the environment, so if they lost a unit it meant only one room might be without heating and air, not the entire dorm.”

According to Dowell, a number of buildings had various options for heating systems.

“In Asbury (Freshman Residence Hall) we looked at reusing the hot water piping, but there was a concern that it was 40 years old, so we were concerned about what would happen if the piping went bad,” said Dowell. “So there was a lot of co-authoring and at least two design options were given for every building. This allowed the college to make an informed decision on what was most appropriate for their students and faculty.

In Asbury it was decided to install Islandaire PTAC units for individual room heating and cooling control, LG ductless mini-splits and chilled water fan coil units for the common areas, and relocate a chiller to serve the fan coil units as well as to serve a dedicated air handler that provides the fresh air to the common areas. It was also decided to retro-commission some of the systems in the buildings instead of replacing them, so they operate to their fullest potential. For domestic hot water, two Lochinvar Armor hot water boilers for domestic hot water and a large storage tank for hot water were installed.

“In one instance we were going to put in a new chiller, but we found out that the college had a separate project in which they were replacing an old chiller because it just wasn’t big enough,” said Dowell. “So we did an analysis on the chiller that was being removed and determined it would fit the needs of another building, so we decided to relocate it and refurbish it in order to save capital costs for the college. When we are talking about tweaking, we did a lot of that to try to bring down the construction cost, and leave behind a very solid project that will generate savings for a 15 year return.”

In Mirse and Wesley halls, Linc installed two Harsco/Patterson-Kelley boilers for heating coupled with Duration heat exchangers to heat domestic hot water, along with Patterson Pumps. The control system was also re-calibrated and web-based open protocol controls were installed. The building secondary loop pumps for the hot water system are by Taco. In Hudson Hall, two Rinnai tankless water heaters and three hot water storage tanks, low-flow toilets and a Siemens web-based open protocol control system was installed for building automation

Under a separate project with Argand Energy Solutions LLC the college received a federal grant for a Solar Commercial Hot Water System for Mirse and Wesley halls. The two halls have a joint mechanical room that they share, and Total Comfort Solutions installed the boiler and hot water system. The solar system is made up of 34 Heliodyne solar panels with a 500-gal. solar storage tank. There is also a three panel system on the athletic hall, along with two 120-gal. solar storage tanks.

“It was an exciting project and I’m glad to see it all come together,” said Erik Lensch, president of Argand Energy Solutions LLC. “It’s a good size system for a solar system. Determining the best way to tie it into the existing boiler, trying to come up with the best solution was a bit of a challenge. We added a 500-gal. solar storage tank into the existing system and space with a big piece of equipment for a small room.”

A challenging timeline

“The Asbury project was the key to the success of the project,” said Dowell. “It was the most critical item for the college, beyond the financing, and from a technical perspective it was most challenging. We had a June 9 award and we had to have all work in the dorm completed by Aug. 10. The total value of the work in the building was in excess of a million dollars and it needed to be complete in two months. Our teams worked 24/7 to get the work done.”

According to Dowell, it was teaming and coordinating with Linc personnel and the field operations team that enabled the project’s deadline to be met.

“I had, at any one time, seven to nine field personnel at the college meeting the time line of the retro-commissioning alone,” explained Dowell. “Once the project was undertaken it was our responsibility to begin from a retro-commissioning standpoint to do all the 11 buildings in this short time frame. It was a very intense coordinated effort.

“On the Linc side we had two people who made the schedule occur in a timely fashion,” said Dowell. “Brian Ciepierski, project supervisor for Linc Service, and Rick Goetz, Linc Network’s director of installation services. I don’t think Brian left that jobsite in two months. He was the only on-site project manager we had and he dealt with all those guys. Those two guys with Craig’s team made this happen from a delivery perspective. They drove the customer satisfaction issue.”

When asked what was instrumental in meeting the project’s deadline, Goetz told CONTRACTOR that all of the subcontractors knew and understood what the end goal was and everyone had the mentality of “one team, one fight” in mind to accomplish the job at hand.

“We all knew what the goal was and by working together, we made it happen,” explained Goetz. “Since it was a design/build project, and if we ran into an issue, the college personnel made themselves available to help work through any issues. We had weekly construction meetings with the college as well as with all subs. If we needed quick resolution to an issue, we simply went over to the administration building and worked through the issue without having to go through multiple channels to get an answer. The project was done without any change orders and I think that helped make for a great project for the customer.”

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