Columbia upgrades lighting in energy saving competition

Friday, August 10, 2012 | 2:46 p.m. CDT; updated 2:05 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — Columbia's downtown — The District — was recently approved to join the Better Building Challenge, a national initiative to promote energy savings by organizations.

Launched in 2011 through the U.S. Department of Energy, the goal of the program is to reduce each participating organization's energy consumption by 20 percent.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of The Special Business District, said the first step for the district is to get a baseline reading of how efficient buildings currently are and plan from there.

“If you can’t measure how successful you are, it’s really no use,” Gartner said.

How exactly the district will go about saving energy has not been decided, Gartner said, but more efficient lighting is likely to be part of the mix.

Lighting changes are already under way downtown. LED light fixtures are being installed in the two parking garages at Eighth and Cherry streets and Eighth and Walnut streets, said sustainability manager Barbara Buffaloe.

The new fixtures will use less energy and have lower maintenance costs. Combined, the new lights will save approximately $25,000 annually, Buffaloe said. 

The lighting project will be Columbia's "showcase project" — the centerpiece of the Better Buildings Challenge, which the city joined in June.

The project is 90 percent complete, said Frank Cunningham, commercial services supervisor for Columbia Water and Light. 

LED lights were chosen because of their energy efficiency.  The new lights will lower the combined wattage used in the two garages from 65,000 watts to 13,600 watts, Cunningham said.

A whiter, more natural color of light will replace the yellow glow created by the garage's old lights, he said. Light will reach more corners of the garages and will be more evenly distributed. 

Other projects in Columbia's energy-saving portfolio include:

  • Lighting upgrades, as well as heating and cooling improvements, at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services

  • Lighting improvements at the Material Recovery Facility (the city's recycling center), which will make it easier for employees to sort through materials
  • Insulation and weather sealing improvements at several Columbia Fire Department stations.

The funding for the improvements Columbia has already made came from a 2010 federal stimulus grant.  That same stimulus funded the creation of Columbia’s sustainability office. The three-year grant ends this year, so the sustainability office will be funded through the money the city has saved through energy use improvements. 

Because the baseline for the challenge began in 2009, Columbia has already made great strides in its energy conservation that will go towards the 20 percent goal, Buffaloe said. She is optimistic that Columbia will reach the goal within the next couple of years, and said any commercial business is welcome to join the challenge.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed

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Derrick Fogle August 10, 2012 | 9:11 p.m.

This is great news! I'm very happy to see my city invest in energy efficiency and conservation.

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