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photo of Westfield HS heating system that saves money in pasteboard and provides a learning opportunity

External heating system saves money in pasteboard and provides a learning opportunity

“The most important thing a city does is educate its children,” Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapik reminded us with a quote from one of his predecessors in the Westfield Mayor’s office, Rick Sullivan, now Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).

At Westfield Vocational-Technical High School (WVTHS), the city’s commitment to its younger generation is visible − literally. After nearly four years of dedicated work and an almost 40 percent savings in natural gas in FY 2013, the hallways of the historic home of WVTHS now shine with a new, more efficient heating system that’s unobstructed to the eye. The gains came through the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s Green Repair Program and an Energy Management Services (EMS) project assisted by EEA’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER).

The massive $9 million project has sentimental value for Mayor Knapik, who attended high school in the building back when it housed Westfield High. At a ribbon-cutting event in June, the mayor, who also chairs the Westfield School Committee, spoke with nostalgia of turning the beacon, the highest point in Westfield, “back on with efficient LED lighting.”

photo - State Treasurer Steve Grossman joined DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia to cut the ribbon, declaring the project complete.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman joined DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia to cut the ribbon, declaring the project complete.

The building also sports a new boiler system, a new roof, and new windows. Classrooms now have automatic carbon monoxide detectors that regulate the flow of fresh air depending on need, improving not only the energy efficiency of the building, but also the health of its occupants. The auditorium, a center of culture that benefits the whole city, is now refreshingly air-conditioned. It was in this auditorium that State Treasurer Steve Grossman cut the ceremonial ribbon, the finale to a festive celebration of the completion of the project. The event ended with a tour of the new energy-saving features.

The local effort of Westfield allowed the town to tap various resources to optimize benefits. An energy management services project reviewed by DOER and carried out by Siemens was implemented separate from, but in harmony with, a Massachusetts School Building Authority project − an approach that yielded great rewards for the city. Westfield has $40,000 in guaranteed annual energy cost savings as a result of the energy efficiency upgrades supplied by Siemens with the promise that, should the savings go unrealized, the company will pay the difference. These guaranteed savings will help repay the $4.7 million in bonds Westfield has issued to finance the EMS work. MSBA’s Green Repair Program invested $5.3 million.

If your community is interested in undertaking a project like Westfield’s, DOER has many resources to help you reach that goal. Like Westfield, you may have the potential to develop a successful EMS project (also known as an energy savings performance contract), depending on the energy efficiency opportunities within your facilities. For more information on Energy Management Services, and many more resources, visit www.mass.gov/energy/greencommunities.

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Jessi provided DOER with another pair of eyes and ears in Western Massachusetts this summer, hoping to spread the word about successful energy projects as inspiration and guidance for communities with sustainability aspirations. She is a rising senior at Smith College, where she studies English Language and Literature, with a minor in Computer Science. Jessi plans to use the communications skills from her English degree to make “green” initiatives transparent and accessible to wider audiences. She has a particular interest in alternative transportation, as an avid cyclist and bike commuter. She is loyal to New England, born and raised a Mainer, and loves hiking and Ultimate Frisbee. She also loves nothing more than social media, and will go down tweeting.

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