Energy-saving upgrades begin on city buildings

Construction began July 15 on energy-efficiency upgrades at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. The aquatic center project is the biggest of 47 the city of Bellingham is undertaking at 22 of its facilities to reduce energy consumption and save the city money.

“Completing these projects will save money and save energy, and is a major step forward in meeting our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations,” Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike said in a city press release. “We are replacing equipment that is at or beyond its useful life, which also helps us avoid costly emergency repairs.”

The city intends to finish improvements at the aquatic center in two weeks, while the pool is closed for annual maintenance, said Ryan Nelson, the city’s resource conservation management specialist.

Work at the aquatic center, City Hall and the downtown Bellingham Public Library will be among the most visible of the projects, which include upgrades of all sizes, including improvements to heating and cooling systems and lighting. When all the projects are complete, the city estimates it will reduce energy use at 22 facilities by more than 20 percent.

None of the projects should disrupt regular city business, Nelson said, and some work will be done at night or during already scheduled closures to avoid interruption.

“We are trying to minimize any potential impact to not only the community, but also city staff,” Nelson said.

New policies and employee-to-employee education aimed at behavioral changes should also contribute to energy savings, according to the city’s release. As partners in the Community Energy Challenge, city officials also hope this effort will encourage other agencies, businesses and individuals to take similar actions to save energy and reduce emissions.

The total project cost is expected to be $6.15 million, funded by federally-subsidized Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, which the Bellingham City Council approved in March 2011. Funds for bond repayment will come from a combination of utility savings and funds budgeted for capital replacement, city finance director John Carter said in the release.

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