Efficiency and economy are priorities in Army facilities

By: David Ibata

When The Salvation Army in Atlanta, Georgia, began working with a local nonprofit about 4½ years ago on a pilot project to reduce electrical, natural gas and water usage at a Boys & Girls Club, “I was very skeptical about the investment and the results,” said Chris M. Durand.

“Graphics say one thing, but real dollars on our Salvation Army operating statements are another,” said Durand, director of management services of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area Command.

With the assistance of the Southface Energy Institute – which also helped Atlanta’s zoo, Fernbank Museum of Art and Woodruff Arts Center save tens of thousands of dollars a year on their energy costs – all lights at the Fuqua Boys & Girls Club were converted from fluorescent to LEDs, heating and cooling controls were automated and water-saving appliances replaced conventional fixtures.

The utility line on the club’s annual operating statement was $60,000 before the renovation. Afterwards, it was $25,000.

“At that point, I – along with the staff at area command – basically cleared our desks off and started working on energy-saving projects,” Durand said. “With five energy projects now complete, we expect to save approximately $300,000 in utility costs annually, and we expect that savings to grow as we expand into more facilities.

“The best news is, these are operating dollars to be better allocated to help so many people in dire need, from youth to seniors, with Salvation Army services.”

The Salvation Army will share what it learned in Atlanta and elsewhere with property managers from across the Southern Territory at a “Pure Energy” facilities planning conference Sept. 10-13 at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

“One of our case studies is Atlanta, and we’re partnering with Southface and with Penn State, which has a facilities management group, to come to our conference and work on things you can do to save costs,” said Katie Baxter, design and materials resource specialist for The Salvation Army.

It wasn’t always this easy to be green.

“Early in the whole green initiative, materials that were considered green or sustainable were really overpriced on the market,” said Robert Taylor, territorial property secretary. “Now, since everybody’s going that way, the market has provided materials and finishes that are more moderately priced.”

The Atlanta Command has retrofitted its three Boys & Girls clubs and the William Booth Towers senior home and recently held an open house to celebrate the completion of its latest project – the Red Shield Harbor Light Corps/Social Services building and 320-bed homeless shelter at 469 Marietta St. NW. To date, the command has gotten more than $500,000 in grants to leverage about $1 million in capital improvements.

At the Red Shield event, the Army thanked Grants to Green, a partnership of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Kendeda Fund and Southface. Grants to Green awarded $181,493 for solar, lighting, plumbing and heating and cooling controls. The Green Communities Fund produced $18,300 in rebates, for various efficiency upgrades that increased the capacity of the solar project, and Georgia Power gave a $14,130 rebate on a LED lighting installation.

The building is projected to save at least $63,000 a year on its utility bills. The predicted payback period is 2.3 years.

The biggest saving is water cost: $4,000 a month, or $48,000 a year, thanks to high-performing plumbing fixtures, water fountains with filtered water bottle filling stations, and Internet-connected usage monitors so leaks can be detected immediately.

When the sun shines, rooftop solar panels produce 28 kW of electricity – 5 percent of the building’s energy needs. LED fixtures with individual sensors turn on the lights in a given area only when they detect activity. A variable-speed kitchen exhaust system helps, too.

“In the past, we’d start cooking about 4:30 a.m., and the exhaust fan would run wide open basically all day until 6 or 7 p.m.,” Durand said. “Now with this electronic ‘Intellihood,’ the fan comes on at about 10 to 20 percent at 4:30. Fan speed increases only when sensors detect heat or smoke, so we’re exhausting air based on need.”

“Thanks to one of our Metro Atlanta Advisory Board members, Bob Kesterton, and an associate of his, Bruce Longino of Mingledorff’s, another innovation was the installation of a GPS Global Plasma System. This air ionization system saves energy through reduced electrical motor usage of ‘make-up’ air drawn in from outside. It also improves indoor air quality by eliminating bacteria, viruses and other undesirable substances.”

Sergeant Janeane Schmidt, director of Red Shield services in Atlanta, said, “It’s common sense to know that LED lights will save you money. But we have modules that ionize the air and monitor the water, and water fountains where people can refill their bottles, saving on trash. … Even the homeless have an opportunity be part of the conservation effort.”

Beyond Atlanta, the Center of Hope in Oklahoma City installed a geo-thermal system – drilling down 250 feet to take advantage of the ground’s constant temperature to cool and heat the building. And the North and South Carolina Division is looking at photovoltaic panels for Camp Walter Johnson.

Taylor said, “Everything we do is based on stewardship, and when we’re tasked with being efficient with the money people donate to us, it’s incumbent on us to make the most of every dollar.”