Letter: City Council should lead by example with city hall complex | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: City Council should lead by example with city hall complex

Regarding the Steamboat city hall complex energy decision, one of the high priority tactics of the Steamboat/Routt County Climate Action Plan is to “lead by example.” The recent Steamboat City Council decision regarding the city hall complex sets a bad precedent.

As a registered professional engineer specializing in building energy modeling, I was surprised to learn that city staff recommended proceeding with natural gas rooftop units for the complex. Climate action goals aside, a complete commitment to natural gas for buildings that will be in service for 50-plus years is not likely the least cost option. Gas prices have been rising at approximately 8% per year in recent years. Gas price escalation is only likely to increase as global markets adjust to the European energy crisis caused by the Ukraine conflict and increasing electric utility industry use of gas only adds to the long-term pressure on natural gas prices.

Straightforward energy modeling of the city hall complex taking advantage of available Inflation Reduction Act incentives suggests that the 50-year total cost of ownership of the more energy efficient “geothermal heat pump” option could be lower than the “natural gas only” option by several million dollars. Given the expected long life of these buildings (and the current opportunity offered by IRA clean energy incentives), it seems prudent in the design process to revisit the energy results with up-to-date cost data and a focus on the total life cycle cost of ownership and the adopted goals of the city and county’s climate action plan.

Norm Weaver

Steamboat Springs

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