What is in this article?:
- Tracking Costs
- Capital investments
Energy-efficiency tips for school facilities — directing money back into educating students.
DeKalb (Ill.) Community Unit School District uses its new Cortland Elementary School, Cortland, Ill., as a conservation teaching tool for students.
Here is an idea … let's spend money on educating children instead of on unnecessary energy costs. Even though there's been a slight reprieve in energy costs, the reality is that the cost of non-renewable energy is increasing, and state education budgets are shrinking.
Recent history tells us that per-pupil funding struggles to keep up with federal and state mandates and learning needs. With the public's expectation that schools do more with less and master the art of pinching pennies, frugal business acumen is the "flavor of the day" in education.
An energy audit
One way to keep energy and operations costs from overshadowing education budgets is to develop a 10-year energy audit plan to eliminate waste. First, facility managers should know the existing energy-use costs for each of their buildings. Gather utility bills for all buildings and have an architect or engineer prepare a "dashboard" that shows dollars per square foot of building area for each utility. From this data, an architect or engineer can assess the energy efficiency in each building.
Conducting an energy audit and calculating effective cost paybacks, which consist of architectural, mechanical and electrical components, is a surefire way to identify "low-hanging fruit," or relatively easy improvements that can be paid for through energy savings. Shorter paybacks result in immediate energy savings; projects with longer payback periods may require phasing or sequencing for completion. The energy audit leads to a long-term energy-efficiency plan that helps institutions determine cost-saving energy improvements.
Reducing energy consumption by changing users' behavior can be accomplished through training and awareness. Carrying out operational strategies and enforcing them consistently encourages faculty, students and other user groups to reduce energy consumption in schools.
Geographic location has a role in what energy-saving steps to take, but there are basic universal recommendations. Capital investments and behavioral changes can lower energy costs dramatically. Schools should initiate awareness programs to inform and educate those using facilities about consuming less energy. Users include building maintenance supervisors, custodians, school administrators, faculty, students and community groups.
Some tips that teach behavioral change to user groups:
- Operate energy-management systems effectively.
- Provide optimal settings for HVAC equipment.
- Train to address changes and faculty turnover.
- Inspect fan rooms, boiler rooms and chiller rooms periodically.
- Clean air-handling-unit coils.
- Adopt consistent scheduling for servicing equipment.
Administration, faculty, students and community groups:
- Use the building as a teaching tool.
- Turn off lights during non-occupancy.
- Keep vestibule doors closed.
- Use energy-efficient appliances and equipment.
- Be conscious about water conservation.