Clark Retirement Community takes
proactive approach to sustainability

July 6, 2012
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Prior to an energy benchmark performed on the 106-year-old Franklin Street building at Clark Retirement Community, Mike Ignatoski, director of capital projects and facilities, knew there was room for improvement when it came to sustainability. “I just didn’t know there was quite so much room,” he said.

The building scored 12 out of 100 on the Energy Star rating scale, a system that rates buildings based on building type and climate zone.

“It was a big eye-opener for us,” said Ignatoski.

Clark began working with Hurst Mechanical on a plan to drastically lower its energy consumption, saving the company a projected $1.2 million over a 15-year period on electricity alone, and all within a five-year return on the investment.

A key element was installing a new McQuay chiller that boasts an oil-free design, reduced maintenance costs and power consumption, and substantial financial incentives from Consumers Energy. This piece of equipment will reduce energy consumption by 20 percent, according to Ignatoski, producing savings of $122,000 annually on energy costs.

The state-of-the-art chiller control system enables staff to manage output from their laptops, preset schedules for the week so the system is only being used as much as necessary, and receive alerts if cooling fan towers go down.

Cheri Holman, an energy reduction manager at Hurst Mechanical, said there is a lot more than just feel-good reasons for companies to get bitten by the sustainability bug.

“Energy is a way to stay competitive in the marketplace right now,” said Holman. “That’s with any company. If they don’t adapt and become more energy-efficient, high utility costs may work those companies out of the market.”

Ignatoski noted that as environmentally conscious generations age, businesses will feel the demand for increased sustainability measures.

“People are interested. This (younger) generation is very much attuned to energy savings, and they want to know where their parents’ dollars are being spent,” said Ignatoski.

Holman said that the stigma of “high efficiency” translating into “high costs” and long ROIs is hard to overcome when working with CFOs, especially at a time when companies are still recovering from the economic crisis.

“Projects with a short-term payback usually come with short-term impacts,” said Holman. “What Hurst does is to couple high ROI items with low ones, being mindful of a client’s ROI tolerance while ensuring they gain the most benefit from the project.”

Holman said that about 75 percent of companies have untapped potential for huge energy savings and would benefit from making the shift toward sustainability on many different levels. “It’s about health, it’s about bottom line, but more than anything, it’s about doing what’s right for the environment.”

The team at Clark will continue to expand sustainability efforts starting with participation in Battle of the Buildings, a national competition in the format of the television show “Biggest Loser.” Hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Clark will enter the senior care facility division, using a starting “energy weight” followed by periodic “weigh-ins” to measure energy savings. As a company, Clark has set a goal of raising the building score to a 40 out of 100 Energy Star rating.

“Starting the process has been a victory in itself,” said Ignatoski.

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