Montana State University wants to get started this summer on a million-dollar plan to save energy on the Bozeman campus, starting with replacing lights in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

An outline of the plan, which would cost up to $9 million, was shared Thursday at a Montana Board of Regents meeting in Helena.

Replacing the old fieldhouse lights is expected to save about 30 percent on energy costs and improve the quality of lighting, said Dan Stevenson, MSU's assistant director of facility services.

The university's plan also calls for replacing lights in the Hapner, Langford and Hedges dorms, and replacing windows and room climate controls in Hapner and Langford.

All the projects would be completed during the summer.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said before the meeting that the university has already committed to making the campus more sustainable and adopting "best practices" for saving energy.

Last June, MSU hired McKinstry Co. of Seattle to conduct an energy audit of 2 million square feet of buildings operated by MSU's auxiliaries department. The audit included the Strand Union Building, Student Fitness Center, Student Health Center, fieldhouse, 10 dorms and more than 80 family housing complexes.

McKinstry is preparing a list of about 100 potential energy-saving projects. From that, MSU will pick a couple dozen of the most practical projects with the fastest payback.

Construction is expected to cost between $6 million and $8 million, take place over the next three to five years and pay back the initial investment over 12 years.

MSU intends to sign an energy-performance contract with McKinstry, making it the general contractor. The contract would have a guaranteed maximum price, and any savings would go back to MSU, while any cost overruns would come out of McKinstry's pocket.

McKinstry would also give MSU an energy-savings guarantee. If the amount of energy saved fell short of the guarantee, the company would have to either fix the problem or compensate MSU for the difference.

University officials wrote that they are "very excited" about the potential to save energy and utilities costs, and urged the regents to support the plan when it comes back to them for a vote in March.

McKinstry has performance contracts with other agencies, from the University of Montana to Washington State University and the Montana Department of Transportation.

At the same time, MSU asked the regents to approve spending $2 million to renovate Hapner and Langford dorms and create a "contemporary, aesthetically pleasing living environment demanded by today's student population." Cabinets, desks, counter tops and furniture will be updated. The project is to be paid for with dorm fees and food service revenues.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

 

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