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August 09, 2016

Non-profit member benefits from new alliance

interfaith and mechanical lock up

Mechanical Optimizers has joined the village of agencies helping to end homelessness in greater Cincinnati.Mechanical Optimizers is a nonprofit contractor association formed by Jeff Wilmink, a director at member company, Century Mechanical Solutions of Northside.

The nonprofit alliance of eight area building contractors that helps Cincinnati nonprofits assess, budget and fund long-term mechanical needs, has completed a $200,000 project to update the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system for the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati (IHNGC) of Walnut Hills.

The new, energy-efficient system should save IHNGC about 35 percent over its old-system HVAC costs each year.

The four-month project was funded by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. /U.S. Bank Foundation, PNC Bank and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

"Mechanical Optimizers is committed to giving back because there is a huge need to help social service and nonprofit organizations," said Jeff Wilmink, Mechanical Optimizer co-founder. "Typically nonprofits do not have the expertise on their staff to look at a long-term mechanical plan. Mechanical Optimizers focuses on putting together a long-term mechanical plan and then helps fund and execute that plan."

The INHGC, which serves homeless families in greater Cincinnati, needed a complete HVAC system upgrade for its 12,000-square foot, nearly 60-year-old building. The Day Center had its original HVAC system, which was continually on the brink of breaking down, said MerryBeth McKee, IHNGC director of operations.

"In some rooms, the system functioned poorly, or not at all,” she said. “We spent a little over $81,000 to stay on top of maintenance and repairs over the last five years. Maintenance was a short-term solution that would have continued to be costly and potentially disruptive to services."

McKee said replacement of the HVAC system alleviates the need for continual repairs, will save on monthly utility costs, prevent the possibility of an agency shut-down, and improve the environmental friendliness of the agency.

"We are thrilled to have this project completed," she said. "Mechanical Optimizers not only provided the most cost-effective and flexible estimate for the job, it also has experience and expertise in working around the unique needs of non-profit organizations."

The existing HVAC system at IHNGC had only one chiller and one boiler. "This type of system is not very comfort- or energy-friendly during the spring and fall because you might need heat in the morning and cooling in the afternoon, which was not an option," said Wilmink. "Due to the complexity of the building structure, the new HVAC system is a combination of a conventional heating and air split systems, variant refrigerant flow heat pumps and rooftop package units."

"Our primary goal was comfort, with a focus on zoning and energy savings. Because several of the rooms in the facility are not used all day, we can now set the units to an unoccupied status, resulting in substantial energy savings."

IHNGC has a unique business model that involves providing professional case management services for homeless families during the day and partnering with 25 host and 80 support religious congregations throughout the city which house families overnight for a week at time, two to four times per year.

Congregations take turns converting unused spaces such as Sunday school classrooms or community rooms into temporary, private bedrooms for the families. The average stay in the program is 29 days and more than 90 percent of families served move on to stable housing.

Wilmink formed Mechanical Optimizers in 2014 with Tom Lienhart, president and owner of Century Mechanical Solutions of Northside, after noticing that nonprofit organizations did not often have the staff or expertise to maintain buildings properly over time. Wilmink became frustrated that if an organization did not have a strategic plan to make necessary repairs, it often didn’t have money budgeted to make them.

"We felt bad seeing that many nonprofits wasted money doing Band-Aid repairs when they needed strategies and time to raise funds for mechanical projects that would keep their buildings operating comfortably and efficiently for years to come," he said.

Wilmink described the Mechanical Optimizer process: When a nonprofit contacts Mechanical Optimizers, a team of contractors walks through the building to assess it. Then the team generates a report identifying areas of concern: heating; air conditioning; refrigeration and controls; electric and lighting; fire protection; plumbing; mechanical insulation; asbestos, lead and mold abatement; and air and water filtration.

There’s no obligation to use the contractors’ services, he said, but estimated prices are discounted and reflect a “maximum not to exceed” pricing agreement.

"If the total cost of the work comes in less than the estimate, that amount is given back to the nonprofit," said Wilmink. "Our collaboration allows for combined purchasing power for labor, materials and rentals, ultimately saving organizations money on duplicative items. Because we work collaboratively, there are no subcontractor markups."

"Jeff Wilmink has been an invaluable resource to IHNGC as we figured out the best course of action for our failing HVAC system," said McKee. "He brought us the contractors who could do the job the most cost-effectively and even after the job was underway, he remained available to us for questions and to talk through any issues that arose. He’s been a lifesaver by bringing transparency and understanding to the incredibly intimidating process of overhauling our HVAC system."

Over the last year, Mechanical Optimizers has assessed mechanical projects for St. Joseph Orphanage in Cincinnati; Easter Seals Tristate; Dynamic Catholic Institute; Glenmary Home Missioners; Cincinnati Early Learning Centers; Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, Ky.; Blessed Sacrament School in Fort Mitchell, Ky.; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and several other non-profits.

“They all have unique mechanical challenges and need financial help financially to make their plans come to fruition,” said Wilmink.

Primary project contractor for the IHNGC project was Century Mechanical Solutions. The design and project management was spearheaded by Ken Weller, vice president of Century Mechanical Solutions. The electric system was designed and directed by Joe Schamer of Seco Electric and demolition of the existing system along, with asbestos removal, was handled by Jamie Davis of Environmental Demolition Group.

To donate to a nonprofit’s renovation project, or call 859.341-3040.

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