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Case Study: Breckenridge City Hall

Replacing heating, cooling equipment cuts energy use 30 percent

Aims and objectives. To respond to high heating and cooling costs and an inefficient comfort control system, the City of Breckenridge sought and received funding to help upgrade its heating, air conditioning and cooling (HVAC) system at City Hall. A report by Clean Energy Resource Teams details the energy-saving project.

Implementation. The City replaced an inefficient heating system consisting of a low-efficiency natural gas hot water boiler supplemented by electric baseboard heaters with a mid-efficiency gas boiler and a high-efficiency electric heat pump. For the cooling system the condensing units were upgraded with 17 percent more efficient condensing units. In addition, a much improved HVAC system control system was installed. The project was completed in mid-2011.

Outcomes--energy saved, occupants pleased. Comparing the energy consumption for baseline year 2010, before the upgrades were finalized, to the post-project energy consumption in 2011 and 2012, the overall energy use decreased 12 percent in 2011 and 30 percent in 2012. CO2 emissions were reduced by 31 percent since the baseline period. The city reports that the project has greatly enhanced the air quality and comfort for staff working in the building.

The savings are shown in the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking charts below. These savings represent a current annual savings average of about $8,000 (at current energy prices)—almost exactly the savings the city had predicted in its projections. The building’s B3 Benchmarking ratio now stands at 56 percent, meaning it now uses only a little more than half as much energy as a new building built to current energy codes.

Annual Energy Consumption

Energy Table 1

Figure 1. This Minnesota B3 Benchmarking chart shows that the combined gas and electric energy use decreased 30 percent at City Hall.

Annual C02 emissions

Co2 Emission Table

Figure 2. CO2 emissions were reduced by 31 percent in 2012.

Documenting results. The Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool allows users to view specific types of energy consumption, such as gas or electric, or as shown in figure 1, the combined energy use. Using B3 Benchmarking, Breckenridge tracks energy use for two of its major buildings. The Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool is available for all state, local government, and public school buildings. To add your building to this database, go to the B3 website and click on “Contact Us.”

Funding. The building upgrade was funded by a $100,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Energy. The grant was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal stimulus funding designed to save energy, create jobs, and reduce CO2 emissions. Breckenridge Public Utilities gets its electricity from Missouri River Energy Services, which offers a program called Bright Energy Solutions. Breckenridge received rebates from that program for its efficient heating and cooling units. 

Resources for local government projects. Public institutions seeking energy efficiency improvements are encouraged to consult with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) and their local utilities. DER provides technical support to local government units, state agencies, school districts, and institutions of higher learning that are seeking energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Contact DER to discuss which of its energy efficiency programs can be of help.

Utility representatives can help assess opportunities for efficiency and identify rebates to help finance projects. All utilities in the state are mandated to achieve an annual energy savings of 1.5 percent of annual retail energy sales. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office also provides helpful resources for building retrofits, including “The Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Office Buildings.” For more on energy efficiency, including information on Minnesota’s B3 Benchmarking tool, contact the DER Information Center at