DENVER RESCUE MISSION, LAWRENCE STREET SHELTER
By David Olson, PE, General Chairman of the 2013 Denver Annual Meeting
Outside, the snow has started to fall. It’s the kind that has big fluffy flakes, spiraling down to the ground. Good for snowmen and playful snowballs thrown from neighborhood forts. It gets dark early these days. For now though, it’s peaceful and quiet. Looking up at the newly lighted streetlights is hypnotizing. Thousands or millions of pure, cold snowflakes race to the ground, all unique. By morning, the city will be bathed, clean and white, new and fresh – reborn. The temperature drops. The wind suddenly gusts. The temperature outside is plunging rapidly. Now is the time to find a sheltered spot for solace and relief. Denver’s homeless population has a reason to smile tonight thanks to the recently completed ASHRAE sustainable footprint project at the Denver Rescue Mission. Tomorrow morning grateful men will leave the mission for the day’s work, well rested, clean and fed.
Denver, Colorado has a very moderate climate. Sure, there are occasional newsworthy storms – some that generate national interest. Like much of the United States, the people of Denver have also struggled with economic turmoil in recent years, causing some to lose jobs and then homes. The combined result of the inviting mild weather and effects of the national economic setback is a growing homeless population in Denver. When the weather is harsh, demand for the limited number of available beds at the various Denver area homeless shelters noticeably increases. Even when extra beds and cots are assembled in the nooks and crannies of the operating shelters, it is difficult to accommodate all the unfortunate individuals seeking a warm bed, shower and meal. The compassionate staff at the Denver Rescue Mission always works hard to find places for all in need each night, cold and stormy or warm and clear.
The Denver Rescue Mission is one of the homeless shelters available to the expanding population of indigent people in the Denver metro area. This three-story facility, located in northeast downtown includes bunk beds for 200 guests on its upper floor. On stormy nights, another 116 cots are temporarily set up in the meeting hall on the second level. The lower level houses a commercial kitchen and laundry, the boiler room and the dining hall. Admittance is limited to sober individuals, on a first come – first serve basis. Upon arrival and admittance, a guest must shower prior to getting his bed sheets or a hot meal. During the day, meals are served to men, women and families. However, overnight guests are limited to men only. The Mission has other facilities available for families and women.
In conjunction with the 2008 Annual ASHRAE meeting in Salt Lake City, the ASHRAE Utah Chapter completed the first sustainable footprint project for the Salt Lake City YWCA. Since 2008, host chapters for ASHRAE Summer meetings have been encouraged to develop a Sustainability Demonstration Project to correspond with their meeting. The ASHRAE Board of Directors voted in Salt Lake City to provide seed money to future host chapters to help offset the cost of a local sustainability project. The spirit behind the effort is to offset the environmental impact of an ASHRAE meeting on the host community in a meaningful and memorable way, leaving a lasting legacy.
In early 2010 the Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Sustainable Engineering Committee (SEC) accepted the challenge of developing a sustainability project for the June 2013 conference of ASHRAE members in Denver. This committee was up to the task, and spiritedly commenced on identifying a suitable recipient for this endeavor.
The SEC was hungry for an opportunity to support an organization that would truly benefit from a building upgrade featuring energy efficient technology with an underlying sustainable viewpoint. After considering several deserving establishments, the Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter was identified as the benefactor.
The Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter is more than a place where individual men can sleep and eat. The shelter can accommodate up to 316 men on cold winter nights. The facility includes in-house clinics where guests can receive daily medical, dental and eye care services. The Denver Rescue Mission promotes participation in its New Life Program. Partakers benefit from training and counseling, with the goal of encouraging full individual return to self-reliance with new life skills and employment.
When SEC members first visited the shelter, they found mechanical and plumbing systems that were functioning, but in great need of rehabilitation. Most notable were the deficiencies in the ventilation systems, domestic hot water system and the antiquated steam heating distribution system. The building is old and poorly insulated with leaky single pane glass. The SEC team had identified a facility that had needs far and away greater than they could reasonably accomplish with their dedicated team of volunteers. The SEC would need to look beyond the ASHRAE seed money and solicit additional support for this project from other ASHRAE chapters and members, as well as throughout the local and regional construction community.
The SEC team started out by performing an informal evaluation of the steam heating system. An aged Dunham vapor return steam distribution system was discovered. There was a relatively new atmospheric steam boiler connected to a deteriorated steam piping network. On the day of the initial steam system survey, some of the steam radiators were cold despite the snow and frigid temperatures outside. The vapor return system was not functioning as initially designed and installed. It seemed to us that there was a large discrepancy between the size of the boiler plant and the heating devices found throughout the facility. Eleven steam radiators and two short sections of finned tube radiation heated the entire 23,000 square foot building. Steam traps were defective and the piping system had numerous leaks. The installed boiler and piping system had the capacity to support two to three times this quantity of radiators. The domestic water heaters were functioning fully, but were woefully undersized for the required service water heating load.
The Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Sustainable Engineering Committee met monthly throughout the project duration. Volunteers from numerous engineering firms, HVAC contracting organizations and equipment suppliers participated and donated labor and equipment. Two local engineering firms did a great deal of heavy lifting on the project. MKK Consulting Engineers, Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colorado did an energy model to rank ECM’s and then performed all design, specifications and construction drawings for the upgrade. Eaton Energy Solutions (formerly EMC Engineering, Inc.) of Lakewood, Colorado performed all construction management and generally led the team. Significant contributions for fundraising, publicity, energy auditing and cost estimating were provided by other dedicated Denver area firms. The team realized early in the process that this was going to be a large project, relying upon significant donations of time, equipment and talent from those involved. Methods to assure recognition of those involved were frequently considered by the team.
The group brainstormed the results of the various field surveys and performed cost/benefit analysis for the needs identified at the mission. Following the mechanical upgrades every dollar saved in operational costs would result in additional meals and services that the mission is able to provide for their homeless clientele. The results of this study directed the list of ECM improvements below:
Interior and exterior lighting upgrade with occupancy sensors for automatic operation
Domestic hot water heating system upgrade, featuring a roof mounted solar thermal system and high efficient gas fired water heaters, storage tanks and pumps
21 SEER office area air cooled condensing units and fan coil units
Steam trap replacement, steam piping and radiator refurbishment
Roof mounted air/air heat recovery air handling unit with evaporative cooling and natural gas heating for dormitory floor ventilation and toilet exhaust
DDC temperature controls and electric system upgrade
Our Sustainable Engineering Committee was ready to estimate costs and solicit donations of equipment and labor from local contractors and vendors. Energy Outreach Colorado accepted a key role in helping our project obtain adequate financing. The local power company, Xcel Energy and the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships made significant financial contributions to the project. Chapter members and local companies donated most of the equipment necessary for the new systems. Condensing units, water heaters, pumps, DDC controls and the heat recovery ventilator were donated to this cause by generous companies. Financial contributions were also sought and received from other ASHRAE chapters within Region 9 to supplement the seed money provided by ASHRAE Society.
Construction occurred during the winter months of 2012-2013. The goal was to have the project complete in time for the ASHRAE Annual Conference in June. Construction activities were coordinated between the Lawrence Street Shelter staff and the contractors. It was essential that the Denver Rescue Mission remain open and functioning during the entire construction period. The Mission was able to continue uninterrupted in serving its clients three hot meals a day, as well as providing food boxes, baby diapers, furniture, clothing, household goods, and referrals to other agencies to the roughly 2,000 individuals each month.
The 2013 Sustainable Demonstration Project was celebrated on February 6, 2013 with a press conference attended by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and ASHRAE President Tom Watson. The event included presentations by Hancock and Watson, as well as words of gratitude from Josh Geppelt, the Lawrence Street Center Program Director and Brad Meuli, President and CEO of Denver Rescue Mission. Engineer of Record Ken Urbanek of MKK Consulting Engineers described the project to those present. Short tours were conducted within accessible areas of the mission. Mr. Meuli provided the following statement:
“We are excited about the project ASHRAE has undertaken for Denver Rescue Mission. The Lawrence Street Shelter serves homeless and poor men, women and children on a daily basis through meals, shelter, food boxes, hygiene products, and medical care. It’s a 24 hour a day operation with commercial laundry and kitchen operations. The targeted annual savings to Denver Rescue Mission is estimated at $19,000. Those savings will provide an additional 10,000 meals to those in need.
It’s truly amazing to see this organization come together with expertise in each of their fields to make these greatly needed updates to our building. We simply cannot help as many people as we do without the generosity of our community.”
Many smiles were worn that day. There was truly a spirit of accomplishment and gratitude.
Construction was completed in late spring 2013. One of our primary goals for this project was to reduce operating expenses for the mission. Group 14 of Denver is currently providing measurement and verification services to validate the anticipated energy savings for the Denver Rescue Mission. Those results will be available soon on the Rocky Mountain ASHRAE website, www.ashraedenver2013.org.
Tangible positive results are being experienced by the users of the Lawrence Street Shelter. No longer are patrons of the Denver Rescue Mission forced to take cold showers before getting their bed sheets. They now experience a gentle warm shower, with hot water primarily produced by the plentiful sunshine available with our Colorado climate. Water is being conserved by the new low flow shower heads. On snowy or cloudy days, domestic hot water production is uninterrupted as a result of
the high efficiency domestic water heaters installed during our project. The organization is enjoying significant operating cost savings that translate into additional services for those they serve. The basement, medical clinics and office areas are heated and cooled by new high efficient fan coils units. The steam heating system now functions and heats much of the building, with DDC control operating the major equipment. The interior spaces of the building are well lit, with energy efficient florescent lighting fixtures.
Finally, the previously oppressing stuffiness has been eliminated in the upper floor dormitory. The dorm room is now well ventilated 24 hours a day with 100% outside air preheated by energy exchange from the continuously operating toilet and shower room exhaust.
The Rocky Mountain Sustainable Engineering Committee served as the hinge point to bring ASHRAE members together and conduct a community service project with the underlying goal of offsetting the environmental impact of the 2013 Annual ASHRAE meeting.
Many cooperating companies and individuals worked together and displayed their generosity in a most meaningful way. This project was tremendously successful. The project demonstrated the vision exhibited by the ASHRAE Members Council and Board of Directors when deliberating the start of this annual effort. This effort displays the best of ASHRAE technology and community spirit.
Today, as participating men enter the building, they walk past the memorial plaque presented by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of ASHRAE to the Mission to commemorate the completion of their collaborative project in 2013. Those that read the plaque will notice the ASHRAE logo and the following inscription:
The Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter patrons are grateful to the ASHRAE Sustainability Demonstration Project for making their lives better. The Denver Rescue Mission celebrates its triumph’s creating a warm and supportive place for individuals to weather difficult times and become employed and self-reliant once more. The Rocky Mountain Chapter was pleased to have made the difference, and to have offset the environmental footprint of our summer meeting in Denver during June of 2013.
The snow is starting to accumulate outside – but there’s no need to worry tonight. The warm shower will be cleansing and relaxing for each visitor. There are great benefits for being one of the lucky ones to be participating in the New Life Program at the Denver Rescue Mission. The dedicated volunteers and staff at this facility are working to make a difference in the lives of the grateful patrons of their establishment. The nutritious meal and good night’s rest is the fuel many will need to emerge tomorrow and continue their quest for self-sufficiency and betterment. The Denver Rescue Mission is a remarkable place doing great things. Thanks to those who have donated to this project and in doing so made the Denver Rescue Mission an even better place to advance.
The snow will be beautiful in the morning. Many footprints are leading to the inviting doorway of the Lawrence Street Shelter.
David Olson is the President and Owner of Integrated Mechanical Systems, Inc. in Niwot, Colorado. He has long been active within the grassroots committees of ASHRAE and the Rocky Mountain Chapter. He is a past Chapter President, Regional Vice Chair and was Director and Regional Chair of Region 9 from 2005 through 2008. David is an active member of the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Engineering Committee. He may be reached at email@example.com.