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Modernize, Improve, Protect - Dallas County Unlocks Infrastructure Funding

Serving 26 cities and 2.5 million residents, Dallas County is now the ninth largest in the United States. County officials knew they needed to update their aging infrastructure if they hoped to compete on a global level with the likes of China and Mexico for residents, businesses, and tourism. They also needed to address a backlog of deferred maintenance to improve occupant comfort, prepare for growth, become a leader in sustainability — and transform their community.

But inefficient lighting, outdated technology, and unchecked water usage were costing the county more than $1 million a month, making it difficult to achieve its economic goals.

All that changed when Dallas County partnered with Schneider Electric on a multi-phase capital recovery and reinvestment program — one of the largest in the country — that will reduce utility costs 23 percent and generate over $71 million in savings over the course of the contract. Dallas County will use those funds to modernize its infrastructure with energy-efficient equipment, providing an improved environment for employees and visitors, while also minimizing the risk of system failures in critical facilities — all without the need to ask the public for an increase in taxes.

Capital recovery and reinvestment programs are an underused funding mechanism that helps communities like Dallas County tackle their growing list of deferred maintenance by unlocking funding streams from the existing budget. More importantly, these programs bring together financing, technology, and operational efficiency into one comprehensive package. This intricate combination is crucial for counties and municipalities, where different departments often become siloed from one another, making it difficult to enact comprehensive solutions. To address this complexity, Dallas County’s project delivery method examines a municipality’s entire facilities portfolio to deliver a holistic and transformative project, rather than just a one-off fix that misses the larger solution and opportunity. The broad implementation of this program also drives local economic growth and job creation.

“In addition to addressing our infrastructure needs, our partnership with Schneider Electric has resulted in a sustainable plan that supports our commitment to the environment, and will also be a powerful economic driver for the community,“ said Clay Jenkins, County Judge, Dallas County. “We’re also proud to have leveraged local talent by subcontracting to area firms and engaging local craftspeople.”

Now, thanks to the multi-phase partnership with Schneider Electric, Dallas County’s long-term plan ensures public buildings are ready to meet the needs of the community for years to come.

Key outcomes of the project include:

  • Breaking through silos.  54 county buildings were updated, totaling a whopping 6 million square feet across the portfolio. Those buildings were divided into four groups and each building group had its own dedicated maintenance team from the county. Schneider Electric brought all four teams together to collaborate and prioritize the implementation of the multiple phases for optimal efficiency.
  • Maximizing savings. The county is using a multi-phase approach as an important part of its long-term infrastructure management plan. It will reallocate utility cost savings from the improvements to fund the project, creating a “re-investment of capital” model
  • Addressing inefficiencies. The Schneider Electric team tackled long-standing electrical distribution and energy efficiency issues, which in turn improved safety and power reliability across several county buildings. Key components included the installation of new switchgear and electrical panels to ensure continuous power availability. Additionally, the county will replace 150 HVAC systems that utilize a refrigerant currently being phased out as part of the Clean Air Act.
  • Upgrading lighting systems. Schneider Electric retrofitted the interior lighting in buildings with reduced wattage (28 W) bulbs and installed LED lighting in parking garages and exterior wall packs. Occupancy sensors and security features including motion detectors in offices and parking garages also save energy and money. Lights now go off in offices if the sensors don’t detect movement and in parking garages, lights dim when no one is under them: a welcome safety feature as well.
  • Optimizing building comfort and efficiency. Replacing some building automation systems (BASs), chillers, and boilers that had reached their end-of-service life greatly improved interior comfort and operational efficiency of buildings. Further upgrades to mechanical and electrical systems included replacing obsolete air handling units (AHUs) and modifying others with variable fan drives (VFDs) to optimize energy performance.
  • Improving water conservation. Water conservation controls and fixtures (e.g., low-flow sinks, showers, urinals, commodes) enabled county buildings to optimize water resources. At the county jail, controllers were installed to limit the number of flushes in order to prevent abuse of the equipment.

Thanks to these upgrades — all made possible through an energy savings performance contract — Dallas County officials are confident they’re ready to compete in a global environment with facilities that are future-proofed for growth.