Unity College arts center gets greener

Grant helps upgrade energy efficiency at Unity College Center for the Performing Arts

Unity College has brought the latest technology to one of its oldest buildings by completing an energy retrofit at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts.

The project replaced incandescent light bulbs with efficient LED lamps; replaced hot water heating coils with an air source heat pump hot water heater; applied air sealing and insulation in the attic and spray foam insulation in the basement; and replaced air conditioning units and oil heat with air source heat pumps. The heat pumps are programmable, leading to additional savings through smart scheduling.

Among the energy-saving project benefits, college officials expect to:

  • use 5,935 fewer gallons of heating oil per year;
  • save 6,300 kilowatt-hours of electricity use per year;
  • save $14,776 in costs per year; and
  • provide quieter, more comfortable spaces in which to work, perform, and meet.

“The ultimate goal was to improve the building’s structure, to not only have less of an environmental impact, but also to increase the cost-efficiency of operations, ideally saving more finances to provide more services to the community,” Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury said. “We’re proud to be able to demonstrate how to modernize an older building for 21st-century uses. It’s an example of solving legacy efficiency issues using partnerships, creative thinking, local contractors, and state-of-the-art technology.”

Created in 2000 with the remodeling of a 1900 two-story farmhouse and attached barn, the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts (UCCPA) is a vibrant cultural center that offers an eclectic mix of music, films, art, lectures, and more.

The building includes a 200-seat theater, a full-service banquet hall, the Leonard R. Craig Gallery for fine arts, and administrative offices, and has hosted world-renowned musicians, award winning speakers, and memorable community gatherings, as well as up-and-coming and renowned visual artists.

College officials said it became apparent after its opening in 2000 that high utility costs would require energy improvements. In keeping with the mission of Unity College, officials sought environmentally responsible, cost-effective measures that would reduce fossil fuel use while maintaining an important community resource.

The total project cost was $107,373, with $39,520 from the Grants to Green Maine program and $12,850 in combined rebates from Efficiency Maine and the heat pump manufacturer. The remainder of the funds came from operating funds and the Unity College’s revolving Green Fund.

An energy audit was a required first step in the project. The audit identified multiple energy conservation measures and associated energy and cost savings. Unity College then requested funding from Grants to Green Maine, and committed to matching at least 100 percent of the grant funds.

Toppan Consulting Services, of Vassalboro, Maine, performed the energy audit. LCS Mechanical Inc., of Waldo, Maine, installed the heat pump water heater. Unity College partnered with Central Maine Heat Pumps, of Benton, Maine, on installation of the heat pumps and Advanced Spray Foam, of Benton, performed the air sealing and insulation throughout the building.

“Unity College is proud to have implemented a grant-supported deep energy retrofit that both improves the usability of a community asset and reduces our greenhouse gas emissions,” Unity College Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer deHart said. “This project achieves social, economic, and environmental goals in keeping with the college’s core mission and values.

“Our partnership with local contractors and Efficiency Maine were fruitful and made the project management significantly easier,” deHart said.

Grants to Green Maine is a Maine Community Foundation program that provides environmentally focused knowledge and funding to strengthen nonprofits located in historic buildings in downtowns in Maine.

Grants to Green Maine is a partnership between The Maine Development Foundation’s Maine Downtown Center, The Maine Community Foundation, and Efficiency Maine, and is funded by Kendeda Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Monday, January 11, 2016