Achieving Energy Efficiency at the Fitton Center

Jim Messner

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts, through its theater, galleries, community space, and art classes for both kids and adults, is a centerpiece of the Hamilton, Ohio community.

Recently, the Fitton Center underwent a significant expansion of its black box theater.  In addition, approximately 20% of the project’s $3 million budget was dedicated to improving energy efficiency throughout the facility.

The energy improvements arose out of what we call a “triage–level” energy audit. In order to identify potential energy conservation measures, a pair of SHP engineers spent a few hours familiarizing themselves with the facility, reviewing building operations, talking to maintenance staff and assessing equipment age and condition. In one afternoon, our engineers identified 13 potential energy improvements, ranging from lighting enhancements to boiler upgrades.

Working with the client, we whittled down the list based on payback, operations and maintenance and energy conservation. The resulting improvements included:

  • Replacement of two, 80% efficient sectional boilers that had reached the end of their useful lives, with 99% percent efficient condensing-style boilers.
  • Hot water pumps were also changed from constant speed to variable speed so that the delivery of the hot water can be reduced, depending on building load.
  • Overhauled track lighting in the gallery spaces.  This included replacement of the halogen lamps with LED lamps for an anticipated energy savings of 75%.
  • Swapped out-of-date, incandescent stage and house lighting for more energy efficient LED stage and house lighting.  Since the color changing LED fixtures last 25 times longer between lamp changes and do not require color gel changes during use, the performance space is ultimately much safer for stage hands, in addition to being more energy efficient.
  • Upgraded older, inefficient lighting, which included the replacement of compact fluorescent down lights with LED down lights in corridors.
  • Added occupancy sensors and improved lighting controls throughout the building to save approximately 15% on lighting costs.
  • Improved the HVAC system in the theater with a displacement ventilation system, which supplies air at the audience’s feet through the risers of the theater, funnels the air toward the stage and returns to the air handler high in the space.  This system allows for a quieter, more comfortable environment and more efficient system.

Not all energy conservation measures are a fit for every building owner.  When we discuss potential improvements with clients, we seek to understand the true desired result, whether in terms of energy savings, operational costs or building use. In this way, we are able to develop the right solution for specific needs.

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