Boarding School Minimizing Energy Use, Optimizing System Performance

Oct. 1, 2009
Utilizing building-automation, energy-efficiency systems

Founded in 1891, The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., consists of 50 buildings over 810 acres. In addition to more than 30 residential buildings for faculty, the campus includes 12 dormitories, academic facilities, and an athletic center with two ice arenas and an Olympic-size swimming pool. While the large campus is a major selling point for the school, it can present challenges for the team charged with ensuring the facilities are comfortable and running at optimal efficiency.

“We have a range of buildings to maintain, from modern to historic,” Charlie Geyer, project and energy manager, said. “And our technology ran the gamut as well. This presented multiple challenges for the maintenance staff, who had several different systems to learn, operate, and maintain.”

In 2007, The Hotchkiss School integrated the various building systems across the campus with Honeywell Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI). The facility-management platform allowed the school to link all of its systems without having to upgrade technology in the older buildings.

HVAC, access control, and critical-point monitoring are tied together through EBI. Operators can view, access, and manage any facility system in real time from any workstation. This increases efficiency, reduces operating costs, and improves performance continuity. For example, the discharge temperature for the converter in the boiler plant increased to dangerous levels because of a warm spell during winter. This caused the heat pump to turn off and water to stagnate. The safety pressure-release valve blew off, and glycol spilled into the room. Maintenance technicians were notified immediately by EBI alarms, even though they were not in the plant. The technicians used the system to write an emergency program to restart the pumps and prevent the situation from reoccurring, regardless of weather conditions.

More than 15 of the school's buildings, including all of the dormitories, academic buildings, and the athletic center, run on EBI.


With more than 500 acres of woods, two lakes, wetlands, fields, brooks, and ponds on campus, the outdoors often is a teaching tool. It is imperative that the facilities on campus align with the school's environmental focus and commitment.

“Saving energy and minimizing our impact on the environment have always been high priorities for Hotchkiss,” Geyer said. “Not only is the school interested in the related cost savings, but also ecology is a significant part of the curriculum. The students are actively engaged in conservation, and oftentimes they are the driving force behind green initiatives.”

Every year, Hotchkiss participates with 30 to 40 other boarding schools nationwide in the Green Cup Challenge, organized by the Green Schools Alliance. Students work with their school's maintenance and facility team to measure and reduce campus electricity use and related greenhouse-gas emissions.

“The first year Hotchkiss participated in the Green Cup Challenge, we came in last because of inefficient heating in one of our dorms,” Geyer said. “Now, after all of our energy-efficiency improvements, I'm confident that Hotchkiss will be competitive.”

The installation of Honeywell Energy Manager, an advanced energy-information application that integrates seamlessly with EBI and other building applications, is one of the school's more significant additions. The software-based tool allows Hotchkiss to view and control energy use in facilities across campus and provides an improved process for monitoring, validating, and optimizing energy consumption.

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Energy Manager automatically controls equipment on/off times in several buildings. Also, it allows facility managers to analyze data, including weather reports, market conditions, and systems demand, to create a comprehensive picture of energy use.

Energy Manager helps the school avoid additional expenses associated with peak energy use, initiating load-shedding strategies during high-demand periods. This includes modifying temperature set points and cycling chillers on and off.

“Using this tool, we're able to not only see energy use in real time, but also we can automatically keep energy loads in line with the parameters we establish,” Geyer said. “Based on daily conditions, Energy Manager also provides recommended actions to decrease consumption even further.”

Because Energy Manager is tied into EBI, members of the maintenance and facility staff can view the metering and sensor data the software collects from the same workstation from which they control HVAC, security, and life-safety functions. This helps Hotchkiss boost efficiency and reduce operating costs.

While ensuring that its existing buildings are energy-efficient, Hotchkiss requires all new construction to be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Since that initiative was put in place, Hotchkiss has built three facilities — two dormitories and a music-and-arts building — that have been awarded a Gold or Silver LEED rating. The buildings include features such as radiant heat, individual-room temperature controls, daylight-dimming capabilities in common rooms, and a state-of-the-art airflow system, which integrate with the EBI platform for optimal control.

“With the facility improvements, educational initiatives, and eco-focused groups on campus, it is nearly impossible for someone to visit Hotchkiss and not discover our dedication to environmental stewardship,” Geyer said. “It truly is a commitment that brings the entire Hotchkiss community — students, faculty, and staff — together.”


In his eight years at Hotchkiss, Geyer has seen just how important preventive maintenance and service are to the school's building systems.

“Preventative maintenance not only protects our investment, but also decreases the amount of time our staff spends reacting to interruptions that could have been eliminated by something as small as changing a filter at the right time,” Geyer said. “It is the single best way to keep our facilities running efficiently.”

Through an annual service agreement, Honeywell provides the school with three service technicians who team with members of the Hotchkiss maintenance staff to perform planned maintenance and address mechanical issues. For example, through an initiative called Building Optimizing Services (BOS), Honeywell is helping the school reduce energy use through complex building scheduling and equipment retrofits. BOS focuses on increasing facility reliability and uptime, reducing operational costs, increasing efficiency, and enhancing asset life cycles. The BOS program is expected to save Hotchkiss an additional 10 percent in energy costs.

One improvement under way is the monitoring of carbon-dioxide levels in campus facilities. Through detailed scheduling, the school is able to bring fresh air into the facility based on occupancy levels. When the facility is full, ventilation systems run at maximum capacity; when it is empty, the systems scale back, delivering significant savings.

Investing roughly $900,000 in energy-efficiency projects over the last three years, Hotchkiss has benefited from an energy-cost avoidance of nearly $1.4 million, for a return on investment (ROI) of 153 percent.

Hotchkiss recently participated in a five-year benchmarking study of energy use per square foot of its campus, discovering that while campus size increased by 30 percent, energy use decreased, an important finding in light of rising utility bills and students' desire to win the Green Cup Challenge.

The school is exploring other conservation measures, including renewable technology. The Honeywell Renewable Energy Scorecard, a selection tool that pinpoints the renewable-energy technology with the greatest environmental and economic benefits, is helping guide Hotchkiss through the decision-making process. According to the Scorecard, biomass-thermal, biomass-generation, and wind-driven technologies will have the greatest ROI for the school, with paybacks ranging from under six years to just over 10 years.

“Things have changed significantly over the years,” Geyer said. “With the building-automation and energy-efficiency systems available to us, it's hard to not want to take advantage of that innovative technology, especially when the students are so involved as well.”

Information and photograph courtesy of Honeywell
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