Space is final frontier for savings

The County Government Center campus in Stillwater is one of 15 county-owned buildings where the Building Services Division of Washington County Public Works has implemented cost-saving measures such as daytime cleaning and energy efficiency measures. (Gazette file photo)

The County Government Center campus in Stillwater is one of 15 county-owned buildings where the Building Services Division of Washington County Public Works has implemented cost-saving measures such as daytime cleaning and energy efficiency measures. (Gazette file photo)

County seeks low-cost, no-cost savings in buildings

As Washington County’s population grows, so does the amount of space county government needs to keep up with residents’ service demands.

The county has increased its space 40 percent since 2005, maintaining about 1 million square feet of space in 15 county-owned buildings. And like any property owner, the Building Services division of the Public Works Department constantly seeks ways to save money on cleaning, maintenance and energy.

“Building Services is a large operation. It’s on par with Public Works,” said WCPW Director Don Theisen.

Theisen and Building Services Manager Greg Wood explained how the county is operating buildings more efficiently and cut costs at a presentation Tuesday to the Board of Commissioners.

“Right now, we’re focusing on low-cost and no-cost alternatives,” Wood said.
Seeking those alternatives is important since Wood’s department maintains the Stillwater Government Center and Courthouse, Law Enforcement Center, six libraries, service centers in Forest Lake, Woodbury and Cottage Grove and WCPW buildings in Stillwater Township and two in Woodbury.

Wood said some changes Building Services implemented include a new policy on temperature settings in buildings and buying standardized office furniture for all buildings for $10,000 instead of spending $80,000 on furniture specific for each department.

Maintenance is another area where Wood said the county is becoming more efficient through Building Services iServices computerized work-order system. The iServices program manages and prioritizes work orders to maintenance staff can order the right parts, use the right tools and equipment and follow proper safety procedures for each project, he said.

“There is one way to submit work orders,” he said. “We can track and measure results and plan our work in advance.”

The county also participates in the state’s PBEEEP energy saving program, Wood said. Data shows PBEEEP has reduced the county’s energy costs $150,000, he added.

Another way the county is trying to save energy is going to daytime cleaning and eliminating the need to keep lights and heat on in the evening, Wood said.

The county is also doing an energy audit with a goal of reducing energy consumption at least 10 percent, he added.

Wood said Building Services plans updates on the county’s energy plan, construction and space standards and building security.

Future capital improvements include a central heating and cooling plant, lighting retrofit project and roof replacements, Wood said. One of the county’s future goals is having an Energy Star Rating for all buildings and reducing solid waste generated in buildings, he added.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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