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GCE Services Help Protect Schools During Recent Freeze

By Green Coast on 31 Jan 2018

First Line School’s Samuel J. Charter School
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First Line School’s Samuel J. Charter School

With the hot months overwhelmingly outnumbering the cold months, New Orleans often isn’t prepared for cold weather. The recent cold snap proved that with numerous equipment failures and other issues that caused problems for many schools across the metro area.

Joe Ryan, Director of Energy Services for GCE Services, says that with careful system monitoring most of these costly problems could have been avoided.

“The City requested people stay off the roads for a couple of days, but we were able to remotely monitor our client’s schools to make sure the systems were protected from the freeze,” Ryan says.

Chilled water systems are especially vulnerable during cold weather. When it’s cold outside, there’s no need to pump the water through the building, but that stagnant water can freeze and burst pipes and coils if it gets cold enough. Through system monitoring, GCE operators were able to turn the pumps on and keep water circulating to prevent any freezing.

Another potential issue is outside airflow. When a school is open and filled with students, the system requires outside airflow to manage carbon monoxide levels and odors. But when it’s cold that outside air has to be heated, which can be costly and unnecessary if the building is empty.

Saving money and expertise are the two main factors for why FirstLine Schools hired GCE Services. FirstLine’s Director of Operations Rebekah Cain says large-scale HVAC systems necessitate an engineer. Ryan shut down the outside airflow to the FirstLine schools during the cold snap, and then made sure the buildings were warm when students returned.

“They’re great,” Cain says of GCE Services. “We can’t afford an engineer full time, so basically we’re sharing an engineer across five schools and that means we can put more money into the classrooms.”

Ryan adds that with careful oversight, schools should be able to easily weather a freeze.

“If you had no busted pipes, utility bills stayed low and your school was warm when the kids came back, then I’d say you did pretty well,” Ryan says.

Categories: Building Green

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