Jul 11, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Village officials have made a command decision in recent days to apply for a major state grant that would allow them to go beyond the environmentally friendly plans currently in the works for renovation of the new village hall and instead make the building a net-zero energy usage facility.
The building, in essence, would not only save taxpayer money through energy efficiency, it would nullify energy costs by having the building produce as much energy as it uses.
The decision to apply for the grant is the latest in a series of “green” ideas and decisions the steering committee for the new village hall has been working during the past few months.
“The more I learn about sustainable energy the more energized I get about wanting to do it right here,” said Trustee Jim Lanning, who also serves on the steering committee. “We’re working as hard as we can to achieve [the grant], but we may not; it’s not a guarantee at this point.”
The competitive grant is not a fixed dollar amount, but rather is awarded as a percentage of the total project cost based on the success of technologies and energy efficiencies utilized in the plans. It is given through the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, and would allow the village to pursue certain green technologies for the building that are too expensive to be otherwise included.
The two major components of the committee’s plans for the grant money are to build a solar panel array on the roof and to construct a geothermal heating system underground.
“This is a very good thing for the village,” said Bob Lotkowictz, director of village municipal operations. “If we can win the grant we will be able to demonstrate that the operations of this building will be net zero — what energy is used will be replaced by all the technology there, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of village operations. It will also demonstrate to the community that these things can be done locally — which is an outreach component of the grant — to show the public that these technologies are viable and are what people should be aiming for when they develop.”
The solar energy aspect would consist of panel sections covering most or all of the 7,500 square feet of roof space. The village is looking at either a 25- or 50-kilowatt system, either of which would, on a sunny day, produce enough energy to power the entire 4,000 square-foot village hall facility all day, Lotkowictz said. A typical home can be run all day on a 10 kilowatt generator, he said.
Any excess power produced by the solar panels would be put back into village grid, which translates into an immediate savings for village taxpayers. Instead of village having to buy supplemental power that power be utilized immediately.
The panels would not only save taxpayer money by offsetting energy costs, it could also be used as an educational tool to showcase the benefits of solar technology to the community, according to Lanning. A flat-screen monitor in the village hall lobby would show the amount of energy being generated and consumed in the building, which would allow residents, and even school children on field trips, to see exactly how the solar panels contribute to the energy of the facility.
The geothermal heating system would be constructed underground beneath what is currently the public parking lot. The system would be a confluence of water pipes that would use the natural temperature of the ground and ground water to maintain building temperature. Underground water typically stays at about 55 degrees, which, when harnessed and circulated through the use of heat pumps, help keep a building cool in summer and warm in winter.
“We have to do extensive site development on the parking lot and the demolition of the current police station in the back anyway to establish a new parking lot and green space. So while we have that under construction we have a prime opportunity to put in this geothermal system,” Lanning said.
The grant application is due July 16, so the application team, spearheaded by Lotkowictz, project architect Connie Brace and planner Brian Pincelli of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, are working diligently to complete and submit it on time.
Even without the grant and the solar and geothermal technologies, though, the new village hall facility will be as energy-efficient as possible, agreed both Lanning and Lotkowictz. Already in the renovation plans are increased insulation in the roof, LED (high energy efficiency) lighting for the building interior, “daylight harvesting” through the strategic placement of windows to utilize more natural light, creation of doorway vestibules to eliminate heat loss and other interior layout designs to promote energy efficiency, said project architect Connie Brace.
“We’re designing the building for energy efficiency. If we get the grant we’ll update that and achieve the net-zero status of the facility,” Lotkowictz said. “We’re not going to do these things unless we get the grant. The goal of the project is to stay within the sale price of the village offices, that’s the mayor’s mandate.”
Village officials also have decided to parlay their green building initiatives and apply for LEED certification for the new village hall.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized mark of excellence that provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions, according to the U.S. Green Building Council website. The USGBC is the non-profit organization that developed the LEED rating system in 2000.
LEED measures sustainability, water and energy efficiency, waste reduction, indoor environmental quality, design innovation and the promotion of education and awareness in building, home or community design. LEED certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.
“The cheap energy we have in the village does not alleviate our social responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint,” Lanning said. “We always need to be mindful of where we’re headed.”
This conversion to energy efficiency in the village is not just at the new village hall but coming to the village streets as well. At the village board’s most recent meeting on June 28, trustees approved the expenditure of $1,800 to purchase six 52-watt LED streetlights from Ephesus Technologies, Inc., of Syracuse, to be set up on Genesee Street and Orchard Road in the Parkside subdivision.
The lamps, which are designed to conserve energy, last longer and have a more downward-focused lighting, are being set up for demonstration and public consideration to see if village residents approve of ultimately replacing all 60 downtown 150-watt streetlights with LED technology. LED streetlights are currently in use in neighboring villages such as Auburn and Baldwinsville.
The LED lights would offer the village “tremendous” energy and cost savings along with improved lighting, and would pay for themselves in less than four years, Lanning said.
The six demonstration streetlights are expected to be in place by the end of July, Lotkowicz said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.