Dark clouds have yielded a silver lining in Monson—one of several towns that suffered serious damage when tornadoes blew through southwestern Massachusetts in June 2011, flattening trees, ruining buildings, and leaving many homeless. Monson town officials are looking to an April 11th Dedication Ceremony and Open House to show off the brand new energy efficient town offices and police headquarters building built in the wake of the storms. DOER Acting Commissioner Dan Burgess will be on hand for the festivities.
Tornadoes severely damaged the facility, which was originally designed as a school and utilized as such from 1925–2000. The community, by special town meeting vote, deemed the building too expensive to repair. The decision to rebuild became an opportunity to construct a new state-of-the-art structure designed to give Monson residents a highly efficient, long lasting municipal building. While still in its first year of operation, the building is projected to save taxpayers significant energy over its usable lifetime.
The $10.4 million construction project was funded by multiple sources: $6.9 million from the town’s insurance carrier, town funds generated from a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, and $200,000 in the form of a Western Mass Rebuild Program grant, administered by DOER. Monson got the most bang for its buck by leveraging grant funds with several utility incentives. New boilers were eligible for a $3,000 rebate from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, while variable refrigerant flow equipment and variable speed drive equipment were respectively eligible for $600 and $7,200 National Grid rebates.
Monson is a designated Green Community and has adopted the stretch energy code, but the Rebuild grant enabled the town to go above and beyond stretch code requirements by funding energy efficiency measures such as highly efficient windows and a building exterior with a multi-layered combination of materials to produce an energy efficient, air tight design. In addition to the window and envelope features, Monson’s town office/police department houses two high efficiency air handling units (AHU). Each AHU contains an energy recovery wheel –also known as a rotary heat exchanger – that captures heat from the exhaust air and uses it to maintain the building temperature without using additional fuel. Complementary to the AHU’s efficiency are the swing thermostats located in each office that allow room occupants to adjust, or “swing,” the temperature plus or minus two degrees from the room’s set point.
With few exceptions, all lighting in the building is controlled by both manual switches and motion detection. Most rooms shut down after eight minutes of inactivity and remain off until activated by movement. The majority of lighting in the building is high efficiency CFL lighting with LED lights sprinkled throughout in some strategic areas.
The mission of the ReBuild Western Massachusetts Program, a partnership between DOER and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, was to help reconstruct Monson and other affected communities using energy efficient technologies. The program provided grants and zero interest loans to these municipalities totaling just under $1 million. In fact, the ReBuild program assisted with 236 homes, apartments and commercial spaces in nine communities over 15 months.
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