Money-saving renovations coming to Lake County Government Center
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent February 23, 2013 4:00PM
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:44AM
CROWN POINT — Work is set to begin in March on the third phase of energy efficiency improvements that began in 2006 at the Lake County Government Center and other county buildings.
New elevators and stairwells will replace the aging and repair-plagued escalators in the three-story building and will be the most noticeable of the changes that will not only improve the appearance and safety of the building but will reduce energy costs.
Jeff Metcalf, regional director Ameresco Inc., the energy services company awarded the work, said the $10.6 million Phase III is expected to save $1.7 million a year in operational costs.
“When (officials) look at these jobs from the county perspective they are trying to make them budget neutral,” Metcalf said.
Phase I work cost approximately $18.5 million and created an operational savings of about $2.2 million a year while Phase II cost $11.8 million and created $3 million a year operational savings.
“It’s been very successful,” he said, adding the measured savings on the first two phases has exceeded projected savings by more than $35,000 a year. Replacement of the escalators that operate 8 hours a day, five days a week is expected to generate $200,000 in energy savings a year alone.
Work has been done throughout the county’s properties including the government center, in the courts in Crown Point, Hammond and Gary, at the Paramour and Westwind buildings and at the Lake County Jail and juvenile detention facility.
Tuck-pointing, insulation, window replacement and installation of occupancy light sensors help reduce the county’s energy demands. Additional work on heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems including the boilers adds to the energy savings as well.
Water conservation efforts have been initiated in all buildings including low flow faucets and toilets and work on the cooling towers.
“In 2010 along we saved 6.3 million gallons of water,” Metcalf said, adding as water prices rise the savings become more significant. The water projects also helped county officials identify a leak in the system in 2011 that otherwise may have gone undetected until serious problems surfaced. The discovery saved millions of gallons of water from being wasted, he said.
Lake County is the first county in Northwest Indiana to contract with Ameresco, which does work with 15 counties in Indiana, Metcalf said. All three phases of the projects were bid separately and Ameresco was the successful bidder each time.
“The issue is they all have aging buildings and budgets have been very tough. It’s hard to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of buildings,” Metcalf said. As maintenance and improvements are deferred, the need for such work only increases. The work is paid for by bonds, which are then repaid over a 10-year period with the money saved in operational costs.
Larry Blanchard, consultant to the commissioners, said the majority of the work being done inside the government center, including the replacement of the escalators, will take about three months to complete.
“There will be signage. We are trying to have as little impact as far as the offices and public are concerned as possible,” Blanchard said.
All offices will remain open during the work and signage will direct visitors to stairwells and service elevators on the north and south side of the interior hallways of the building. Each department that conducts meetings in the Commissioners’ chambers on the third floor will determine whether to relocate those meetings to the cafeteria or auditorium while the escalators are closed.