Another crappy building

The Grunter headlines this week make big news of the recent developments in the Parks and Rec department’s quest to construct a new 3,000 sq ft storage facility behind the ice arena at Abenake.  The Selectmen were advised at their last meeting that upon opening the “bids” for the job, it was determined that the approved amount of $200,000 will fall short.  Big surprise.

In the course of the discussion it was determined that this building will be heated.  That’s right in my wheelhouse, so I acquired the drawings and bid specs from the town website, and did a standard building heat loss.  The results indicate that it will cost about $5,000/year to heat this new building to 50 degrees all winter.

So I fired off an email to the Director, the Town Manager, and the Selectmen.  I told them that the heat loss model showed that blowing the budget on a dropped ceiling would do little to improve the heating load, and that there are other, simpler and less expensive ways to improve what is really a cheap crappy building.  The expression penny wise and pound foolish comes to mind.

But the real kicker is that, just 200 feet away on the roof of the ice arena, we are throwing away four to five times as much heat as this building will need.  That steam you see coming out of the cooling tower in the middle of January represents an enormous amount of wasted heat.  There is effectively an unlimited supply of 80 degree water available there.

Three years ago, as a member of the Town Energy Committee, I proposed and secured a block grant to develop the engineering to effectively harness that waste heat to heat the ice-arena lobby and any nearby auxiliary buildings that might need it.  After the grant was awarded, the town told me to beat-it while the Town Planner, our local energy expert, wasted the money.

Boosters of Pop Whalen hockey ought to be outraged by this development, because if the town had not squandered that grant money and actually developed the capability to export that waste heat, the Enterprise Account could be credited with the value of that heat from the Parks and Rec budget, thus reducing the operating expense of the rink year after year.  An actual win-win.  Instead we can look forward to huge propane bills, the most expensive fuel available, for decades.

Near as I can tell, there is very little detail in the specifications used to solicit the “bids”.  My prediction is that as meat is put on the bones, the town is either going to have to concede to lower quality, an incomplete job, or a supplemental appropriation to get the job done.  The town is required to provide the construction plans anyway, but has not done so yet.  Why not produce them prior to the bidding to avoid misunderstandings and disputes.  You can’t hold a contractor to anything that wasn’t specified at the time of bidding.

When it comes to buildings, the only thing this town knows how to do is squander money.

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3 Responses to Another crappy building

  1. Paul Green says:

    Please feel free to contact me. I would like to become involved.

  2. Tom Bickford says:

    Bob,
    How do you suggest we avoid “crappy” buildings in the future. Given municipal budget and other procedures as constraints, is there a procedure you’d recommend following to provide goo building?

  3. wolfeblog says:

    1) Low cost and energy efficiency are not mutually exclusive. With this building, there are capital improvements that could be made that would reduce the overall total cost of ownership over the life of a ten year bond.

    2) Make energy efficiency a priority.

    3) Hold the Town Manager accountable for systematically undercutting and thwarting the effectiveness of citizens who have tried in vain to improve the actual building inventory as well as the town’s procedures to address energy matters.

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