Houston County’s long-in-development Energy Savings Company project is officially underway.

The county commission approved a contract with Trane U.S. Inc. on Thursday that will allow Trane to begin work on several county buildings in an effort to make them more energy efficient.

While the county will pay Trane about $5.1 million, the contract stipulates that if the county fails to reach the energy savings promised by Trane for a given year of the 20-year contract, Trane will pay the difference.

“In the existing state of the buildings, because of the age of the infrastructure and equipment and the way it’s operating, there are means by which we can operate the building differently or use different equipment to use less energy,” said Ross Atherton, general manager of Gulf South Trane. “We recognize we can, by implementing this project, give Houston County roughly $200,000 a year in energy savings.”

Atherton said Trane has done similar work for “thousands” of municipalities around the country.

The biggest aspect of the project will see major overhauls for the administrative building, including installation of a new HVAC system.

“This is the first real HVAC change that we’ve done,” Chairman Mark Culver said. “This building is extremely inefficient.”

Other buildings that will see renovations include the Houston County Jail, the courthouse and Community Corrections.

Trane’s contract stipulates that work must be completed within 390 days.

However, because of the changes, county employees will have to be moved out of the administrative building for about four months beginning in January.

Culver said the commission still hasn’t settled on where exactly to move the employees, but a decision is close.

“I kind of relate it to when we go out and pave a dirt road,” Culver said. “There’s a lot of inconvenience while it’s being paved. While we’re improving the building there will be some inconvenience, but once we get through it’ll be better for everybody.”

Culver said local contractors will be doing the physical work on the buildings.

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