Minnesota West earns energy efficiency award for its Jackson campus
Energy-efficient new powerline tech building helped Minnesota West Community and Technical College earn the Best of B3 Benchmarking in Higher Education award for 2021.
WORTHINGTON — Strategic planning, LED lighting and the replacement of an old building with a new one designed for energy efficiency all helped Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Jackson use 31% less energy than it had in 2019.
It also netted the college the Best of B3 Benchmarking in Higher Education award for 2021.
“In all of our designs… we’re led by a standard that’s called B3 benchmarking,” said Gordon Heitkamp, director of college facilities. “That standard in itself, it moves us in the direction of energy efficiency.”
The Buildings, Benchmarks & Beyond standards, also known as B3, are intended to make buildings more sustainable and energy efficient, and they are required for all state-funded projects in Minnesota.
After a two-story classroom building with about 30,000 square feet of space was demolished, it was replaced by the brand-new powerline technician training facility, complete with full-sized power poles. There, students can practice climbing indoors before they practice in often-volatile Minnesota weather conditions.
The facility, which opened in 2017, was designed with safety in mind, with clay flooring, clearance for large trucks and fans for equipment exhaust, but energy efficiency was also a priority for both the building envelope and its HVAC systems.
“That building is super insulated… with all of the best of the best air-handling units and lighting,” said Heitkamp, noting that the building’s automated systems mean it can be scheduled to be on or off as needed. “When unoccupied, it’s not necessarily using energy.”
Minnesota West has been recognized for its efforts in previous years as well, for improving energy efficiency on its Worthington and Canby campuses. Geothermal heating and cooling systems were installed on two campuses, and lighting is continually being upgraded and retrofitted to use LED lamps.
“We’re constantly updating something,” Heitkamp said. “Energy efficiency is always, always, always what we look at when we do repairs or design new projects ... right down to how we take care of our buildings and grounds.”
Not all of the projects are funded with bonding money from the state of Minnesota. Minnesota West is also planning several HVAC projects that will use Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, said Jodi Landgaard, vice president of finance and facilities. That includes two small projects in Worthington, one in Canby and one in Granite Falls. All will be mindful of energy efficiency.
“We just feel like we’re being good stewards of the money… we’re providing a better atmosphere for the students,” Landgaard said.