Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

STUNNING: Pt 2, Double, Double Toil and Trouble; $13mil to make boilers chill & bubble?

Elmbrook, Elmbrook 2008 Referendum, High Schools

I could have titled this STUNNING: Pt 2, Putting $26 mil for HVAC/mechanicals into perspective, but that would not have been as much fun. You may wish to read part 1 first.

I only recently realized that the dollar amount devoted to HVAC/mechanical upgrades for Elmbrook's $62.2 million referendum is an even greater percentage than the 25% ($15.8 mil) for the new athletic facilities. HVAC/mech. amounts to 41% of total dollars.

Again, these are my observations and conclusions based on the facts available that I have read in the paper, from an email from CG Schmidt, from district documents, from board members and from sources in HVAC related fields.

This is the way I see these HVAC/mechanical upgrades.

1st: The dollar amounts. In part one I concluded that $43/sq. ft. was the cost for replacing the HVAC/mechanicals for the existing gym space.Square footage of existing gym related space at both high schools is 120,000sq.ft. 

$5.2 million divided by 120,000sq ft = $43/sq.ft. for HVAC/mech. upgrade costs. This is a little lower because the pool areas are not to be air conditioned. Board member Glen Allgaier confirmed Monday that the gyms would be air conditioned though.

2nd: According to Glen, if the referendum does not pass, the dollar amount to do the "overall HVAC system replacement as proposed" is $26 million. Tom Gehl did not mention the total dollar amount, but did indicate that the amount was too large to "take out of the operational budget."

$26 million is such a large number it is difficult to fathom how that translates into the school space. How do you decide if it is worth it? How much is that in relationship to each classroom? How about to the gyms?

One way to look at it is the per square foot cost. This is often how construction is measured to give the buyer, in this case the school district and us, something to grasp at in terms of cost/ area. Glen confirmed this is how it is allocated at this point, "Given the absence of detailed architectural plans which will only be developed if the referendum passes, these estimates are all done on a 'per square foot' basis."

The district Facility "needs", rationale states both high schools have a total of 512,000 square feet.

If we take the $26 million designated for HVAC/mechanical upgrades/replacements, we can calculate the price / square foot. $26mil divided by 512,000 sq. ft. = $50.78/sq.ft.

That $50.78/sq.ft. figure covers new plumbing, electrical, sprinklers, and new HVAC. How much for just the new heating, ventilating, air conditioning system?

Glen did not have that information available. (My fault for asking too late.) But I did see in the HSST minutes from Aug. 1, 2007, pp 3, that members were given a figure of $24/sq.ft. from contractors.

One of my sources, who has been in the HVAC business for 40 years with several major companies said of Elmbrook's changeover from steam to new hot water/air conditioning, that no private industry or school would do it because it would be too expensive.

So let's see how expensive it would be. For a small sized classroom, 750 sq.ft. X $24.00 = $18,000. For a large sized classroom 1,250 average sq.ft. X $24.00 = $30,000. For an existing gym, 12,000 X $21.00 (half $43) = $252,000.

Are we sure we want to do this?

That seems to be a lot of money. No wonder private industry and private schools would not make a change of this scope. My HVAC source told me that Milwaukee Lutheran is about the same age. They never needed to do anything like this.

I have a hard time believing that the entire system needs replacing. The oldest parts of the school are 55 years old, but the youngest additions are 30.

But if you are looking at adding air conditioning from the start, then that maybe drove the complete system replacement question. For air conditioning with a hot water system (I am not sure you can do it with steam), the cold supply lines are usually insulated because otherwise they sweat inside the walls. (That suggests to me that walls need to be opened and that gets expensive too.)

They are talking of all new Univents, new 4 pipe system, cooling equipment, new boilers ( 7 - 8 high efficiency but shorter life span), and I am sure there is more.

The HVAC study article stated that the HSST, (emphasis added)

...budgeted for full replacement of heating pipes. However, without in-depth analysis (testing), full understanding of the conditions of the pipes cannot be known, Bill Armstrong, an engineer who served on the eProgress team, said at a Jan. 8 board meeting. "Newer pipes aren't always better pipes," said Armstrong, emphasizing that a brand new four-pipe system, as proposed in the current plan, might not be necessary.

They are budgeting for a new 4 pipe system. That sounds expensive. The report has come out. I wonder, if the results of that condition report showed all the pipes to be rotten, why haven't we heard about it? Glen Allgaier emailed this morning that, "the results of the HVAC study were presented and discussed at length at the last Board meeting, including the conclusion that the pipes at BEHS are in good shape and have no need to be replaced."

Few of the items in this referendum are spec'd out. There are just general dollar allocations assigned to certain areas. That is why when we asked on the tour if the windows would open, thus reducing the "want" for air conditioning, the answer was, we don't know that yet, nothing is specified at this time.

If the voters approve the referendum, then wherever the district can reduce costs results in the district having extra funds to work with for something else. 

If the referendum fails, next year East was looking at installing new burners anyway. (Not uncommon and they would be more efficient.) Those old steam boilers can chug on for a long time and if tweaked well, are not all that inefficient--especially considering the pay back.

Yes, the small, modular type high efficiency ones are more energy efficient, but at what price? (Think of a  Prius.) But they also have a much shorter lifespan--some around 15 years. Think disposable.

Efficiency is great, but pay back also needs to be part of the equation. 

In fairness, I do not know how much just making the burner improvements to the present boilers would run. Shawn the facility manager at Central said they were putting in one of those high efficient modular type boilers for heating pool water and domestic water during warm months. They will do it this summer if the referendum fails we were told. (Should have done that years ago instead of running the huge boiler all year.)

But Pilgrim Park (built in 1958) is making some boiler improvements this summer, I believe, with part of that $3.5 million dollar budget surplus we ended up with last fall. It cannot be that expensive. 

The HVAC article also indicated, "As part of the study, the contracted engineering firm will apply for grants through Focus on Energy..."  These grants allow for lighting projects that change out inefficient fluorescent lighting to efficient fluorescent. Focus on Energy grants were available off and on during the past 9 years. We should have done those too.

Is the change to air conditioning worth the money?

HVAC replacement, 20% (you decide how much is really necessary) + Athletics, 25% (fact). = 45% of $62.2mil


Brookfield Academy's $12.5 mil high school, we can too

Correction: C G SCHMIDT Cost summary of Referendum

counter hit xanga



Elmbrook School District Referendum Links:

Frequently Asked Questions  Not to be missed!

HSST Meeting Minutes 

Cost Breakdowns of Type of Work (cost per square footage)

Architect's Conceptual High School Floorplans--East and Central

Facility "Needs" comparison of failed 2007 and present 2008 referendums

Tax Calculator  

Former 2007 Referendum Facilities Facts Sheets (Still a good read)


Links: Brookfield7, Betterbrookfield Vicki Mckenna 

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