All too often you hear about environmental disasters and unavoidable changes in the climate due to man’s impact on the planet. How about some good news for a change? Major corporations, professional sports teams and a few of the businesses in Peoria are doing their part to enact green initiatives and gain efficiencies by implementing sustainable efforts to improve the operational systems within their facilities.

Sustainable efforts can prove to be beneficial through cost of energy savings and tax advantages, in addition to improving customer relations. So who do you turn to if you want to start taking advantage of these opportunities? You won’t have to go too far.

One company, Johnson Controls, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a branch office in East Peoria, looks to create a more comfortable, safe and sustainable world through the implementation of sustainable efforts. Leading by example, Johnson Controls was recognized as Newsweek’s 14th greenest company and for having the largest campus to ever receive LEED platinum certification.

Efficiencies of Automation
For customers in both the public and private sectors, Johnson Controls can bring efficiencies to a professional level, just as they did for Miller Park, the baseball stadium and home of the Milwaukee Brewers. The success of the project at Miller Park is proof that benefits can be seen in buildings of all types. In this case, a plan was implemented in which overall energy costs were reduced during the regular season, while at the same time attendance increased. The most impressive part? This was all achieved during a period in which natural gas prices were at an all-time high.

A major component of this success can be attributed to the use of Johnson Controls’ Metasys building management system, which offers increased efficiencies through building automation. The Metasys system has the ability to maximize the efficiency of HVAC systems by adjusting outputs during peak and off-peak usage times. Another capability is the reduction of energy use requirements for lighting within a building by incorporating motion-activated controls and utilizing more efficient lighting sources, such as LED and compact florescent light bulbs. Other features of the system include the ability to improve air quality by monitoring carbon monoxide levels and the reduction of water usage levels.

Large capital expenditures to replace or repair damage to building mechanical systems can be avoided by the ability to monitor operational systems. This tool monitors building mechanical equipment, comparing trends that would allow for a proactive approach to maintenance, reducing the risk of damage to these costly systems.

Smart buildings and green technology are not just a trend anymore. From my limited experience with LEED-certified projects and energy-efficient initiatives in local projects, it usually increases costs, and can be prohibitive to moving a project forward. To get past this obstacle and find out how improving the efficiency of a building becomes reality, I caught up with a local Peoria resident, James “Jake” Fleshman, solutions project manager for Johnson Controls.

Energy Savings and More
“A Johnson Controls performance contract creates energy savings to the client that exceed the cost of the project over the Illinois maximum 20-year financing term,” explains Fleshman. “If the property owner does not have free capital to start the project, financing through local and national banks can be utilized. In most cases, Johnson Controls will guarantee a certain amount of energy savings in excess of the total cost of the project, including financing costs. In some instances, Johnson Controls has bonded the savings to help procure financing for projects.”

As we continued our discussion, it was obvious that Fleshman was passionate about these services, so I thought it would be beneficial if he discussed some local projects. “Johnson Controls has assisted Peoria County through a multi-phased project, currently in the second phase,” he explained. “The first phase consisted of an energy efficiency equipment upgrade at the county courthouse, health department and jail. The county is currently finalizing its Metasys building management system, which allows them to observe and manipulate building operations through a single user portal. The energy-efficient equipment in place; lighting retro-fit, including bulbs and ballasts; and building management control integration are the backbone of the energy savings system put in place to achieve the county’s long-term sustainable plan.”

There are opportunities for many different types of clients. The Danville Housing Authority, for example, has engaged Johnson Controls in an investment-grade energy audit to identify inefficient operations and potential energy savings, which will result in a higher quality of living and utility cost reductions for tenants. The total cost of the project, with the potential for greater savings, is to be realized over the planned payback period. These savings will be guaranteed by Johnson Controls.

One local school district hopes to obtain utility rebate incentives this year by implementing sustainable initiatives within three school buildings. This project is focused on replacing boilers with smaller and more efficient units, removing and replacing rooftop HVAC units, and installing a sustainable roofing material. Lighting efficiencies were realized by replacing T-12 with T-8 ballasts and implementing LED and compact fluorescent lighting throughout the buildings.

All of these projects utilized local union labor, creating multiple jobs at a time when jobs are badly needed.

As the population grows and energy demands continue to rise, it is great to see that we have local resources to implement whatever level of sustainable efforts are necessary for our businesses and personal lives. Whether you are following in the county’s footsteps, taking full advantage of the resources of a company like Johnson Controls, or doing something as simple as using more efficient lighting in your home, the important part is that we are aware that all of our choices, big and small, will affect the world we leave to future generations. iBi