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Birmingham Investing $61.3 Million in Energy Upgrades for City Buildings, Green Job Creation


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Birmingham is investing $61.3 million in energy upgrades in 125 city buildings, which will save the city $100 million in energy and operational costs over the next two decades and create local jobs.The city contracted with Trane -- a manufacturer of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and building management systems and controls -- to coordinate and complete the project over the next two years.

Trane is subcontracting with 25 local companies, of which 15 are minority-owned, to complete the work. This, in turn, will create local jobs, said Monte Edwards, executive vice president of SRS, a regional Trane supplier. The actual number of jobs that will be created is unclear. According to Trane, the city of Birmingham is funding the energy saving upgrades through a performance contract that allows city administrators to use future energy and operational savings to finance the energy conservation measures.

The improvements, which include upgrading lighting, HVAC systems, water, plug load management and transformers and roof replacements, are expected to generate a more than 30 percent reduction in annual energy and operational costs over the next 20 years.

According to Trane, the city will see $3.2 million in savings the first year. The city buildings to be updated include nearly every city building, 18 libraries, four police precincts, 25 fire stations and 20 community centers. City Councilor Valerie Abbott said she has been saying for nearly 15 years that the city needs to work to maintain the buildings that it already owns.

We've never been able to do it because we didn't have the money," she said, adding that the project is starting now due to the leadership of Mayor William Bell and others.

Abbott said the city needs to continue to move forward and institute more green programs, such as a citywide recycling program.

"I can't tell you how excited I am about this program. It is like an answer to a prayer," she added.

Mark Schnetzka, energy services contracting manager for Trane, said 30 percent of the $61.3 million project will be executed by minority-owned businesses.

Trane is partnering with Lawson State Community College and will offer paid apprenticeships to about 15 students. The company is also collaborating with Birmingham City Schools and offering internships to science and engineering students at Carver High School, he said.

Schnetzka said the partnership will give students the chance to see what "green jobs" are in a real-life setting.

Anthony Nixon, president of Nixon's Electric based in Homewood, said the project is "major" for his company. He expects to hire more workers over the next two years to complete Nixon Electric's portion of the project.

Nixon said he expected 40 to 50 employees to work on the project over the next two years. He said he is glad to partner with Trane, who will offering training on new technologies and safety measures. 

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