MBS lights the way in saving electricity

Thursday, February 24, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:32 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

MBS Textbook Exchange is brightening its warehouse while lightening its energy consumption. Construction crews are installing new light fixtures throughout the building that will save the book supplier an estimated $60,000 per year in electricity costs.

Mark Pulliam, vice president of operations for MBS, said the new lights improve the working conditions at the company, which is one of Boone County’s largest private employers with more than 1,000 workers.

For Norman Oehrle, a “picker,” or employee that selects books from the shelf to fill orders, the new lights make his job easier. Whether he grabs “Zen and the Way of the Sword: Arming the Samurai Psyche” or the parenting guide “Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful,” the titles filling the shelves are illuminated by 4-foot-long fluorescent bulbs that are 40 percent more efficient than the bulbs they replaced.

City officials hope the project will become part of a trend to conserve energy.

With 59 rows of bookshelves on three levels, MBS requires vast quantities of light so its employees can perform the most essential part of their task: moving books. Although replacing the 2,298 light fixtures cost MBS $155,000, the lights will pay for themselves in roughly two years due to their improved energy efficiency.

“We thought we had pretty good lighting, but we can really see the difference now,” Pulliam said. He initiated the project by calling Columbia Water and Light to get a free energy audit.

Jay Hasheider, energy services supervisor for Columbia Water and Light, said the city only does about a dozen audits for commercial industries per year, but the agency is trying to increase that number through outreach and education.

For a project as large as MBS, which operates its 300,000 square-foot warehouse around the clock, the city brought in Ray Blakely, owner of Blakely & Associates Consulting Engineers, to assist with the audit.

Hasheider and Blakely reviewed MBS’s bills, evaluated its energy demands and toured the facility. They determined that lighting was MBS’s best shot to save energy.

The new lights employ electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ones. Electronic ballasts work more efficiently and don’t lose energy through heat loss. They work in tandem with the lamp to produce more lumens per watt, to burn brighter and to require less energy.

“We have seen a shortening of evolutionary trends in lighting,” Hasheider said. He compared the speed of improvements in lighting to the computer industry and said businesses should try to upgrade at least every five years.

“Certainly less energy used here in Columbia means less coal to be burnt at our power plant,” Pulliam said. “That’s an advantage for everybody that lives here in our neck of the woods.”

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