High School Retro-Commissioning Case Study
Aug 02, 2013

Summer is prime time for school districts to implement retro-commissioning projects. Because most schools do not host summer sessions, retro-commissioning work can be conducted with minimal impact on users of the buildings. While it might be a bit late to take advantage of this timeframe in 2013, now would be an optimal time to begin exploring the possibilities for retro-commissioning in the summer of 2014.

For example, the majority of the retro-commissioning of a new high school building in the Silver Falls School District in Oregon took place between June and September. We want to take a closer look at this retro-commissioning case study because it provides a window into both the need for careful testing of new building functionality and the ease with which retro-commissioning can produce significant savings, as well as alleviate potentially dangerous situations, in a relatively short period of time.

Problems with the Pine Street campus were evident from the start. Facilities operators noticed that both gas and electrical systems were operating at significantly higher cost than planned or budgeted. This occurred despite the implementation of numerous energy-efficient technologies in the building process. An energy audit provided further details of the situation, but all this awareness came too late to take advantage of the various contractors’ warranties, and the school district chose to hire a retro-commissioning agent.

This agent found a total of 72 discrepancies in the installation and operation of the heating and cooling systems. Many of these issues were related to incorrect or incomplete installation, including missing and poorly tightened belts, non-functional valves, unplugged system elements, and even incompatible control systems.

A few of these discrepancies had potentially catastrophic consequences, such as the fact that the boiler would not shut off when the heating water circulating pump turned off. Overheating a dry boiler could have led to a dangerous explosion.

These 72 discrepancies were rectified for a total cost of $85,000, which the Pine Street facility will recoup through projected energy savings in only five years. Furthermore, the school district can breathe more easily, knowing that there are no potentially catastrophic systems failures waiting to catch them unawares.