Friday, July 10, 2020

Gunnison County building achieves massive energy reduction

Looking to get same results on Blackstock building next

By Katherine Nettles

Gunnison County sustainability operations coordinator John Cattles reported a massive (66 percent) reduction in energy use this year in the Health and Human Services building. In 2010-11 the county used an energy performance contract to lower energy use, then in 2017-18 the county renovated the building and changed the mechanical system to ground source heat pumps (geothermal), which made the building all-electric. In the spring of 2020, the building will also receive rooftop solar panels—forecasted to cut in half even the current greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattles said he hopes to see the same success with renovations to the Blackstock government building next year. The goal is to get county buildings certified by a third party, such as Energy Star or LEED. The county is currently working toward Energy Star certification on the Health and Human Services building and the courthouse, and expects to get those finalized within the year.

“Once we’ve gotten to really low energy use, it’s hard to keep cutting. But it’s actually still a challenge to maintain those certifications. They’re pretty strict,” said Cattles.

Cattles said there have been some initial discussions with One Valley Prosperity Project (OVPP) and municipalities to collaborate on greenhouse gas reductions, such as modeling out what an effective energy code would be to meet county goals of 20 percent greenhouse gas reductions.

“That’s good because I think people get confused that our goal is not just for county buildings. This is a county-wide goal,” said county commissioner John Messner.

Cattles emphasized that the only way to achieve those reductions across the entire county is through “real, big changes in the electric sector.”

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