Energy Savings in Horry County Schools

By Paul Gable

The Horry County Schools Board of Education will hold a special meeting Monday night to vote on the awarding of contracts to build five new schools.

Board members voted October 12, 2015 to direct staff to enter into negotiations with First Floor Energy Positive, the top rated of three finalist teams considered for the projects, to finalize contracts for the five school buildings.

The vote approving the contracts was expected to come at the board’s regularly scheduled October 26, 2015 meeting.

However, according to sources familiar with the process, the negotiations hit a bureaucratic bump with staff and attorneys for Horry County Schools insisting the second and third place rated teams, Thompson Turner Construction and M.B. Kahn Construction respectively, had to be included in the final negotiation process.

The results of those negotiations, including recommendations for award of the contracts, are scheduled to be reported to the board at the specially called meeting.

Awarding of the contracts has been delayed for approximately one year as the Horry County Schools Board of Education sought to include an energy positive concept (green power) into the construction.

The results of the original Requests for Proposals were set aside last fall and a new RFP, to include energy positive construction, was issued earlier this year. The three finalist construction teams were chosen from this second RFP.

It is unclear, at this point, why negotiations with First Floor Energy Positive were suspended until the second and third place teams were again heard from.

According to our research, First Floor Energy Positive is the only one of the three finalist teams to have successfully built energy positive schools to date. In fact, it was the Sandy Grove Middle School in North Carolina, built by First Floor Energy Positive, which became the first Net Positive school built in the nation.

According to studies completed on Sandy Grove, the school generated 42% more energy, in its first year of operation, than it consumed. The excess energy is sold back to the local power company.

Sandy Grove Middle School won over a dozen awards for engineering and construction including Best School in the US by Engineering News and Record.

The success of First Floor Energy Positive with Sandy Grove led to contracts with another North Carolina school district for two schools. These schools were delivered on time (both built in 12 ½ months) with no change orders. Contingency funds for the two projects were returned to the school district.

The ‘no change orders’ is important because it is with change orders that construction projects, especially public ones, increase in cost from the original budgeted price.

According to sources familiar with the process, First Floor Energy Positive was the only one of the three finalist teams to meet all the requirements of the Horry County Schools RFP, with one exception – cost.

However, according to those same sources, none of the finalist teams proposed projects within the initial budgeted amount of Horry County Schools.

A final decision on contract awards and beginning of construction is needed quickly because the five schools are scheduled to be completed with initial construction by May 1, 2017 so they will be ready for occupancy in August 2017.

Several sources say one of the teams, not First Floor, has admitted it might not be able to meet the completion date.

What seems to have been a clear process on October 12th was muddied by bureaucracy and, possibly, other influences.

We will see what the special meeting of November 2nd brings.

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