Industry experts discuss trends, costs, return on investment, and more educational infrastructure in the U.S. is aging.
In 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed a sample of school districts and estimated the average age of the nation’s primary school buildings was 55 years old. Within these aging buildings lie outdated HVAC systems that consume massive amounts of energy, leaving school districts to deal with costly energy bills. With HVAC systems being among the largest consumers of energy inside school buildings, it comes as no surprise that energy efficiency is one of the top drivers for the replacement market in institutional settings.
There has been a dramatic shift toward efficiency across the country, noted Kevin Miskewicz, director of commercial marketing at Mitsubishi Electric US Inc. Cooling & Heating Division. “Nationwide, schools are being asked to meet increasingly stringent energy codes,” he said. “Highly efficient HVAC systems, like VRF [variable refrigerant flow], have become an obvious choice. These systems also help schools earn points toward green certifications, which many schools have a great interest in pursuing, especially in the Northwest. Regions that previously did not require cooling systems, such as the Northeast, are now requesting cooling due to an extended or shifted operational year and hotter temperatures. A K-12 school in New York, for example, might previously have had window air conditioning units or no air conditioning at all.
“Now, many regions have longer school years,” he said. “Many school buildings that previously were unoccupied during the summer are used for summer camps, academic programs, or community meetings. As a result, building conditioning is needed year-round. Hotter temperatures exacerbate the situation, making cooling a necessity in regions that previously were able to get by without it. “Schools in regions that now require cooling are opting to go beyond window air conditioning units. The same requirements of their heating systems — efficient operation, easy maintenance, and reliable performance — apply. Mitsubishi Electric’s VRF systems are a smart fit since they can offer both cooling and heating from one system, which reduces the number of systems required within a building.”