A series of high-performance building upgrades were recently made to the Willoughby-Eastlake school district in Willoughby, Ohio, thanks to Gardiner Trane, Leff Electric and GE Lighting.

Officials say the suburban Cleveland school district faced years of aging infrastructure, high energy costs and outdated, inefficient lighting in 12 facilities that were constructed between 1921 and 1974.

The primary focus of the administration was to renovate an existing facility, the Kennedy building, vacant for 24 years, to serve special-needs students and offer early childhood and community college programs. The administration also focused on retrofitting a local high school, tech center, three middle schools and six elementary schools.

Before selecting energy conservation measures, Gardiner Trane worked with school administrators to conduct an investment-grade audit. Based on the audit’s results, district leaders implemented a complete renovation of the 75,000-square-foot Kennedy building, which included replacing all electric boilers and upgrading all the lighting throughout the 12 facilities.

“Lighting improved so significantly throughout the district that we actually learned that one of our gymnasiums had a pine floor and white walls, both of which previously appeared yellow due to the amber hue that the previous poor lighting shed on everything in that gym,” said Steve Thompson, superintendent for the Willoughby-Eastlake district where the school sits. “Lighting throughout the district now promotes learning rather than hindering it. Lighting creates an environment that is crisply clear, yet warm and inviting — ideal for learning.”

Improvements also included updating HVAC systems to ensure a consistently comfortable environment throughout district buildings. An intelligent control system was also installed, enabling district leaders to remotely monitor and track energy performance and to also adjust and correct any comfort space issues.

 HVAC retrofits included implementing new boilers in two buildings and rooftop air conditioning in two facilities. 

“Inconsistent heating and cooling used to mean that students would attend one class in a T-shirt and wear a jacket to the next class because it was so cold,” Thompson said. “Students and teachers now remain consistently comfortable and morale has markedly improving as a result.”

The project is expected to save the district nearly $663,000 in energy costs, officials said.