Lawrence inks deal on innovative energy reduction plan

Posted on Jul 10, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
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Lawrence University has signed a $5.5 million agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. to upgrade lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment on its Appleton campus to help lower the school’s utility consumption and reduce its carbon footprint.

The agreement is part of a 20-year innovative payment contract with the Milwaukee-based JCI that allows the sustainability-focused work to be done now with no up-front capital costs to Lawrence. The savings in utility costs that will come from the energy efficiency upgrades, along with fewer repair and replacement costs, will pay for the project over the next two decades.

The project includes the installation of LED lighting in 17 buildings on campus; the replacement of chillers that serve the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall and Memorial Chapel; the replacement of inefficient steam traps campus wide; upgrades to mechanical and fume hood systems in Steitz and Youngchild halls; and other targeted heating and air conditioning upgrades also will be completed across campus.

The work will begin this summer and continue through spring.

“The work will reduce Lawrence University’s utility costs and its carbon footprint while improving lighting quality and the comfort and safety of building occupants,” said Aaron Rittenhouse, Midwest program leader for JCI. “The project is expected to reduce the campus’ energy usage by more than 20 percent.”

JCI recently entered into similar contingent payment performance contracts with a handful of other private colleges and universities. The deals put the onus on the company to guarantee that its work will provide the promised savings.

The payment program is an alternative to traditional debt financing — one that gives Lawrence advantages when it comes to managing its long-term debt, said Jenna Stone, Lawrence’s associate vice president of finance. By not taking on additional debt for these infrastructure projects, the university gives itself flexibility for future borrowing.

“Our partnership with JCI has allowed Lawrence to pursue important capital renewal that supports Lawrence’s goal of decreasing our carbon footprint without limiting the University’s capacity to fund other capital projects,” Stone said.