It would cost in excess of $22 million to install central air-conditioning at all of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 elementary and middle schools, and that was more than the board’s Finance Committee was willing to bear.
At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the committee heard a report from the district’s consulting architect, John Castellana, on the results of a study the district promised its teachers during contract negotiations last year.
Four of the district’s schools—Kingsley, Lincoln, Bessie Rhodes, and Park –already have central air, and several of the other schools have air-conditioned common areas, such as auditoriums and lunchrooms.
Additionally, about half of the remaining classrooms have window units that can be controlled by the teachers as needed on hot days.
On a 70-degree day, the committee was told, while a school with central air would be in full air-conditioning mode, some teachers with window units typically elect to keep their units off and open the remaining windows for fresh outside air.
Castellana said that large self-contained windowless areas such as auditoriums, could be cooled with rooftop units while individual classrooms could be equipped with window units.
He noted at the outset of his report that the consultants had looked into installing geothermal heating and cooling, which involves digging deep below the earth’s surface to tap the consistent temperatures there which would result in a great savings in energy costs.
However, he said, the consultants concluded that the initial costs would be so great that with today’s relatively low costs for natural gas and electricity, it would take 20 years to reach payback. This compares with four to 10 years for geothermal in new facilities.
"It did not make sense," Castellana said, "to look at geothermal for providing air-conditioning at your existing buildings."
The cost of installing central air, the consultants estimated, would be $22,536,852, which would include construction costs, design contingency at 5 percent, and construction contingency at 15 percent.
The estimate includes all associated work for ceiling replacements and the like that would accommodate new chilled water piping and associated items, Castellana said.
The committee asked the architect to come back to them with updated figures for work, including window units for classrooms, that would be considerably less than $22 million.