Solutions Journal: Spring 2011—RMI Guides Ford Dealer in Energy-Frugal Retrofit

We get comments every day from customers about how much nicer the new dealership is—and saving money and saving the environment at the same time is pretty cool,” says Brian Jarrett.

Jarrett is co-owner of Jarrett-Gordon Ford Lincoln, Inc. in Winter Haven, Fla., the first Ford dealership to go through Ford’s Go Green energy efficiency retrofit program.

“I hadn’t previously done anything to cut my energy costs, and I saw it as a good way to do that with some expert help,” Jarrett recalls.

"Sidebar"Soon after an initial meeting with RMI, Jarrett says, RMI sent engineers to conduct various modeling and testing procedures—“the roof structure, the energy consumption, the water, the walls, thermal energy coming into and out of the building.” Several months later, Jarrett received “a very detailed, very aggressive script to follow to become energy- and water-efficient.”

For a 40,000-square-foot commercial facility in the sunny and humid Florida climate, it’s not hard to guess the two biggest areas for energy improvements: cooling and lighting. RMI staff members suggested replacing the roof with a superinsulated roof and a white membrane to reflect the sun’s heat, and replacing all the heating and cooling units with very efficient but smaller ones. The roof was replaced last summer.

Jarrett recalls. “When we put the new roof on, it lowered the temperature inside by 10 degrees.”
The retrofit also addressed thermal comfort in the service bay, which had no heating or cooling. The dealership replaced several relatively ineffective midsized ceiling fans with two high-air-volume but low-velocity fans (16 to 18 feet in diameter), saving more than $1,000 a year.

To address the huge lighting energy use (38 percent of the energy bill) RMI recommended Solatubes—internally reflective daylighting tubes—in every office and hallway, and even in the parts warehouse. (Because the service department doesn’t have a drop ceiling, it used skylights instead.)

“If there are no clouds in the sky, we don’t need any electric lights,” Jarrett says. “Around 10 in the morning, the lighting control panels will shut the lights off, and around 4:30 in the afternoon the control panel will start turning some of them back on again. Through the middle portion of the day, there’s not a single light on in the store.”

According to RMI buildings analyst Mike Bendewald, the goal was to provide electric lighting only where it was needed and to create, as he terms it, “daylight autonomy.”

“We suggested taking down some fixtures, replacing others, reducing the amount of electric light in some areas, and providing accents in certain places,” he says. “We also recommended adding controls like occupancy sensors and daylight sensors.”

Before the retrofit, the dealership had monthly electric bills of just over $5,000; now it pays just over $2,000. And the collaboration between Ford, the dealership, and RMI, says Jarrett, produced a very appealing building for both occupants and customers.

“The light is much more natural,” he says. “When we turn on the electric lights, you get a more yellow color than you get from the actual sunlight that comes through the office Solatubes. So it’s a lot cooler, more natural feeling. And the air conditioning system works much better than our old one, so our environment’s much cooler. We have skylights in the showroom, so the cars are all sunlit. It’s a much different look than we used to have. Even with the lights on, it still felt like you were inside—now it feels like you’re outside.”

RMI is now hoping to collaborate with Ford on a second phase to address the rest of its dealerships.
“It’s been a long project, but it’s been a rewarding one,” says Jarrett, “and now that we’re finished, I think everyone, both employees and customers, is really excited to see this finished product.”