The University of St. Thomas had the highest gas savings of any commercial business in 2015, earning the university, for the second time since 2010, an award by Xcel Energy.

To win the 2015 Xcelence Award from Xcel Energy, St. Thomas replaced failed steam traps, added new fume hoods controls with new ventilation boxes, rebuilt motors, threw in variable speed drives to exhaust fans, improved temperature control in the library, added a dash of LED parking ramp lights and finished with a sprinkling of other maintenance and energy-efficient projects.

The two largest contributors to winning the award were the replacement of 80 steam traps in the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library and the three-year long installation of new fume hoods controls in Owens Science Hall. The library steam traps, many of which were original to the 1958 construction of the building, had broken down from wear and tear and old age. During replacement, inventories were taken of every trap in the building, so future replacement – the next predicted to be five years from now – will be quicker and easier.

The library also received a temperature-control turnaround, with all temperature control from the 1997 addition to the building replaced. A comfortable and reliable 73 degrees is now available to library dwellers.

The money St. Thomas saves with energy-efficiency projects goes right back into the university’s maintenance missions. The 2015-16 fiscal year included temperature control in Brady Hall, Dowling Hall, Ireland Hall and the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, new domestic hot water heaters in John Paul II and St. John Vianney Seminary and will finish off with temperature control in the Child Development Center.

Maintenance and energy-saving projects are a constant at St. Thomas, and 2016 awaits more changes in its future. “We’re continuing to do things all the time,” said mechanical maintenance supervisor David Clysdale. “This year we’re replacing domestic hot water heaters in Morrison Hall and McNeely Hall. I’m trying to do a solar project in McNeely, if I do that, our savings will be really exciting. We’re also doing steam traps in Ireland Hall and Aquinas this summer.”

Every big project, each small replacement and all newly insulated piping add up to big energy savings and a greener hue to our purple campus.

“It’s pretty impressive, what we can get done,” Clysdale said. “It takes time to actually do the applications for Xcel and things like that; it’s extra work, but it’s well worth it.”

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