Energy Efficiency Saves Cities Money

​Energy efficient upgrades are now complete at Paquin Tower, a Columbia Housing Authority property that currently houses almost 200 elderly and disabled residents. CHA’s $3.6 million project took three years and Paquin will soon showcase the improvements.

The project is a great example of how cities can save money on utilities by going green.

I spoke with Greg Willingham, the modernization coordinator and systems specialist for CHA. He said upgrades were funded through federal stimulus money and a Capital Fund Recovery Competition grant.

​“With the CFRC grant that we got and the energy performance contracting that we did, it allows us to take a lot of capital improvements off our books to invest some more of that money into the other properties,” Willingham said.

​Previously, the building was heated with a boiler system built in 1995. The old heaters in each unit were not adjustable and residents often resorted to opening their windows in the winter.

“You used to see steam coming off the building in the winter time, exhaust fans pushing out lost energy. You don’t see that anymore. You don’t see windows open,” Willingham said. “The energy is staying in the building and you’re not wasting energy.”

Now, a geothermal heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC), along with new temperature controlled heating and cooling units, allow residents to live more comfortably.

“I like the upgrade. We’re allowed to use our air-conditioner all year round which is nice,” Michelle Adams, a Paquin Tower resident, said. “I have allergies so I never open my windows. So, I would have a tough time living here if this new system was not in place.”

​Willingham said this new heating and cooling system has already reduced utility costs for the building. From July 2010 to June 2011 the total utility cost for Paquin was $264,930. The following year, after the new heating and cooling system took affect, costs went down to $166,141. That equals a savings of nearly $98,000.

​“It’s tax money. With these amounts of water savings, it’s less tax payer money going in, and less money going out,” Willingham said.

​CHA will hold an open house at Paquin Tower to showcase the energy efficient upgrades from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 10.

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