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April 16, 2014

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Henderson keeps sustainability a top priority

It’s a great feeling when any organization works to create an initiative, only to find that so many pieces it are already in place and being executed. That’s the feeling that Paul Andricopulos, a planner in Henderson’s Community Development Department, had when tasked with helping to create a citywide sustainability action plan in 2007.

“What we did, basically, was sit down and ask, ‘Where are we at?’ (with sustainability initiatives),” Andricopulos said. “We realized we had been doing quite a bit already.”

Since 2002, with the adoption of an energy management plan, the city of Henderson’s properties have been slowly greening themselves by implementing simple, low-cost, energy-efficiency changes.

In 2006, the greening of city facilities truly began with the hiring of sustainability consultant Ameresco to do an audit of Henderson’s downtown justice facility.

Impressed by the findings and potential savings, the city then moved on a $2.7 million bond initiative that would be paid back with actual dollars saved from lowering energy costs at the facility, as a result of implementing the changes Ameresco suggested. In addition, the consultant personally guarantees the approximately $250,000 in annual energy savings it estimates.

Between October 2006 and May 2007, the city made swift changes to the building, such as the addition of water treatment for its chiller system; digital controls for air conditioning systems; a power management system for its information technology; motion sensors for lights in all rooms, including bathrooms; and many other changes. Also included in the $2.7 million initiative was changing old traffic-light bulbs to LED lights, an energy savings of about 90 percent.

The next step

Henderson is furthering its sustainability efforts with an $18 million effort that will cover the same types of upgrades to the rest of its buildings, which include fire and police stations, recreation centers and facility management buildings, said Kathy Ogle, construction project manager with Henderson’s Public Works department. The effort, which will commence in April, will be financed through a loan from the Bank of America, and, like the justice facility site, be paid back with energy-savings dollars.

In addition, the city will replace existing high-pressure sodium streetlights throughout the city, with the exception of those in gated communities, with new induction technology, a 60 percent energy savings that brings clearer, whiter light to Henderson neighborhoods.

“What people are really going to see is the streetlight changes,” Ogle said. “Police and law enforcement really like those as well, because it makes it easier to identify colors of a vehicle or clothing.”

LEED buildings

Also on the horizon are several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design projects. Currently under construction, the aquatics and senior centers at the 160-acre Heritage Park, located at the corner of Racetrack Road and Burkholder Boulevard, will be pursuing LEED certification. In addition, the new North Community police station near Sunset Road and Boulder Highway, as well as the city’s new fleet maintenance facility at the corner of Sunset Road and Moser Street, also will file for LEED certification.

Reaching out to residents

Beyond its own buildings, the city of Henderson is trying to reach out to its residents to encourage energy efficiency. Henderson’s Neighborhood Services department has a program to provide assistance to lower-income homeowners to weatherize their homes.

“We realized early on that you gain more efficiency by improving the home itself, before you put up solar panels or do something really expensive,” said Andricopulos.

But respective to solar, the city is currently studying a Berkeley, Calif., program where the city is paying for up-front costs on residential solar installations and recouping the costs through tax assessments on the home. Henderson also is considering adopting a program to offer low-interest loans to homeowners for energy efficiency upgrades.

Back to the plan

As far as the city’s sustainability action plan, Andricopulos and several team members have met with city leaders to hone in on several guiding principles for future sustainability initiatives. He added the final document will be based loosely on the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords, with 21 action items spanning seven sustainability topics, which include water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, urban design, transportation, urban nature and pollution prevention. The plan should be presented to the Henderson city council in April, he added.

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