story by Kim Souza
The Jones Center is an energy cow eating up almost $570,000 in annual utility costs. The lights alone burn through $30,000 per month. But that’s about to change with help from the Walton Family Foundation as the center undergoes an energy makeover expected to shave $150,000 in annual utility costs.
Mike Gilbert, chief operating officer for the Jones Center, said working with Walmart and the Walton Family Foundations on this project has proved invaluable because Walmart understands the importance of efficient and sustainable operations.
“Our energy conservation measures are key to our sustainability as utilities are 50% of our operating budget,” Gilbert said.
Using a $3 million grant for the Walton Family Foundation initiated in November 2012, the Jones Center is in the midst of converting from a steam boiler system to a hot water boiler system for heating the 220,000 square foot building. Gilbert said steam is very expensive to produce and the center runs two large boilers which requires around the clock maintenance personnel. The conversion will trim an estimated 2,500 hours in personnel costs and include substantial utility savings as well.
He said the center is also implementing new building controls, which will allow them to more narrowly isolate lighting and utility costs according to use.
“It’s like each room has its own air conditioner, we have a chill plant that circulates the cold water throughout the building. There are air handling units scattered throughout the building that generate and circulate cold air the duct system. Each room has a temperature sensor that re-tempers the air to that individual room. When the lights come on the system kicks in gear, so we are not heating and cooling areas that an in not use,” Gilbert said.
He said they are finalizing the building control design now and expect bids on power capacitors by Friday (Jan. 31) with a contract awarded the first week of February.
Gilbert said steam boiler conversion will take place over the summer so that the energy savings will be seen in the fall of this year.
“The long term effects of these savings will mean more services to the local community. For example, being able to offer $4 per-square-foot rent at the Center for NonProfits, or helping to keep our corporate lease and growing membership rates low and competitive in this market place,” said CEO Ed Clifford.
Gilbert said when the Center for NonProfits in Rogers was acquired by the Jones Trust in 2008, it was Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation who provided $2.5 million of the $3.56 million spent toward an energy makeover. The city of Rogers also provided $200,000 for energy conservation measures at the former St. Mary’s Hospital site.
Gilbert said the energy updates at the Center for Nonprofits were completed in 2009 and the building operates at the lowest cost per square foot of all the buildings in the Jones Trust, approximately 17% more efficient than the others.
In July 2013, Gilbert said they implemented energy improvements and building controls at the JTL Shops facility and the health education building of approximately $500,000, with an anticipated savings of $46,000 per year.
“Our work at the Center for Nonprofits was accomplished with Clear Energy of Fayetteville. Clear Energy was referred to us by Wal-Mart as they have done a great deal of energy work with Wal-Mart over the years,” Gilbert said.
Kevin Thornton, senior communications officer for the Walton Family Foundation, said the Jones Center leadership brought them a solid plan to improve operational efficiencies to ensure longevity and the foundation felt compelled to help, as did the Endeavor Foundation and others.
“Our foundation mission is to help enhance the quality of life in the community. The Jones Center is an asset with a critical connection in this community,” Thornton said.