Contra Costa Crisis Center saves lives and energy around the clock

Contra Costa Crisis Center saves lives and energy around the clock

Crisis Center is always on—saving lives and energy around the clock

For the last 54 years, the Contra Costa Crisis Center has served as a beacon of light and support for its local community. The nonprofit operates with the mission to ‘keep people alive and safe, help them through crises, and connect them with culturally relevant resources in the community’. Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, a team of 12 staff supported by nearly 100 volunteers answer nearly 60,000 calls per year to their hotline.

Resources are instrumental for the Crisis Center to serve and save people in crisis facing suicide, grief and lack of family support. To ‘keep the lights on’, the staff identified the need to reduce operating costs and provide a better workplace to continue to comfort a community in need. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) partnered with the Crisis Center and installed an office-wide lighting retrofit updating linear fluorescent light sources to LED technology.

Understanding energy codes to unlock efficiency

Through a board member’s recommendation to conduct a free energy audit with PG&E, the Crisis Center realized that lighting was a key contributor to their energy usage. Walt Middleton, Finance & MIS Manager, was impressed with the process and intrigued by PG&E’s findings.

“We did not know that you could have an energy audit done for your business. Due to increasing utility costs, a board of trustees’ member recommended PG&E’s energy audit. It was a complete surprise to learn that lighting added that much to energy costs.”

- Walt Middleton, Finance & MIS Manager at Contra Costa Crisis Center

The Crisis Center team’s understanding of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards were based on information provided to them during PG&E’s audit and retrofit proposal phase. The design work and permitting was conducted by the project team provided by the East Bay Energy Watch Business Energy Services Team (BEST) program, including adhering to current California Building Energy Efficiency Standards for lighting. For the Walnut Creek offices, the new system reduced the energy used for lighting by at least 50 percent compared to what was previously installed. Utilizing a new compliance option available in the current version of the Energy Standards, the controls exceed today’s code requirements. The nonprofit now benefits from additional energy savings associated with advanced options that go beyond basic area and shut-off controls, including automatic light level adjustments with daylight and customized dimming to match the staff’s needs.

Retrofit results in savings

PG&E evaluated the potential energy savings from installing new lighting technologies in the 7,000 square-foot facility. Based on the initial energy bill after the project, the Crisis Center experienced reduced electricity use compared to previous months using the old lighting system. The benefits of the retrofit include:

  • Reduced lighting load by 7.3 kW
  • Projected annual energy savings of 31,860 kWh
  • Projected annual cost savings of $7,214

Better workplace, brighter future

Any concerns that Middleton had about potential employee pushback to the updates were answered through the ability to adjust by zone and office preferences. Contra Costa Crisis Center’s staff acknowledged the advantages of being able to individualize lights with the networked lighting system and re-commissioned the system two weeks after the installation was completed to optimize each fixture’s performance.

Staff members were pleased with the reduction in flicker and glare due to the new lighting system. Dimming the lighting fixtures to provide the right amount of light created a comfortable and energy-efficient workplace environment.

“The lighting retrofit project is a point of pride for our Crisis Center. It was a really good fit for us and a win all around!”

- Walt Middleton, Finance & MIS Manager at Contra Costa Crisis Center

How to get started

For more information about PG&E's free energy audit services for businesses, contact your PG&E representative or the Business Customer Service Center at 1-800-468-4743. To learn more about California’s energy code, visit PG&E’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards FAQs or