Feb. 1, Dane County, the City of Madison and Slipstream, a climate change nonprofit, received a grant from the Department of Energy to replace old infrastructure in the City-County Building, according to a press release. The renovations will go towards improving the building’s energy efficiency.

City Sustainability Program Coordinator Stacie Reece said the nearly $1 million DOE grant made it possible for the renovation in the City-County Building to go forward. Without the grant, it would have been expensive to retrofit the old pieces of infrastructure in the building, Reece said.

“Being that these are emerging, technologically-savvy solutions for energy in our buildings, generally speaking, these have a little bit of a price premium to them,” Reece said.

With the help of the DOE grant, Dane County and the City of Madison have a chance to purchase and carry out new technology which could save energy, Reece said. Due to COVID-19, in particular, the government budget is really tight, and the grant is a great opportunity to make improvements in energy saving.

Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change Director Kathy Kuntz said Dane County and the City of Madison, whose facilities share the building, together decided solutions in the project, with Slipstream providing technical support.

“This is a true collaboration. I mean, the way things work at the City-County Building is the county is accountable for the overall HVAC,” Kuntz said, “but the city does retrofits of the suites that they live in — they do lighting retrofits and things.”

Slipstream, which focused on the technical support, codeveloped proposals, which included plans for triple-pane windows and new lighting systems.

By replacing single- or double-pane windows with triple-pane windows, the heat in the building is less likely to escape from the inside during winter or come in from the outside in the summer. Slipstream’s Principal Engineer Scott Schuetter said the enhanced control of heat reduces the work of heating and cooling systems in the building, which reduces the overall usage of electricity and natural gas.

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Besides installing energy-saving windows, Schuetter said the cost-effective LED lighting system could save energy by using motion sensors which detect if people are in the room and photosensors which detect the total amount of daylight coming in from the window.

“And those controls have additional savings on top of the LEDs,” Schuetter said. “And so the overall savings that we project will be around 70% of the lighting energy in the retrofit spaces.”

The project could last for two years, Schuetter said. Madison, Dane County and Slipstream will spend one year designing and providing the best solution. Then, monitor equipment would be installed in the building to collect basic data about how the current system works throughout the year. Based on the data, the final retrofit will be implemented.

“I believe it’s spring into summer of next year — 2022 is when the retrofit will occur,” Schuetter said.

Installation is not the final step. Slipstream will constantly monitor the new system and record its performance on cold and hot days, Schuetter said. The analysis of the data will help people realize the energy impact of the system.

According to the 100% Renewable Madison Report, Madison plans on using 100% renewable energy and getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Kuntz said there were several changes made in the past, for instance, changing the heating and cooling system to reduce energy and increase energy efficiency, but the new improvements will get them closer to the net-zero carbon goal.

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“The extra savings will reduce the emissions of the other building systems and therefore mitigate a portion of the impact of climate change for future generations,” Schuetter said.

Schuetter said he hopes the retrofit in the City-County Building could provide a standard for other buildings when their systems are at the end of their life.

The DOE grant is only a small start. The energy-saving technology will not only be limited to the City-County Building. In the future, there will be more widely available technologies to help businesses save energy and allow residents to reduce emissions and energy use in their homes, Kuntz said.

Reece said the ideal result is not only to reduce emissions but also to improve the comfortability in the building. In the future, the city is also looking to incorporate similar renovations in other buildings. If it is possible, the experience could be shared with UW campus.

“Being able to expand beyond just one building and looking not only at city buildings, but other buildings throughout the grid, where we can implement technologies that have that flexibility in grid interaction,” Reece said.