If a $2 billion funding windfall were to fall into the laps of the nation's school administrators, there would be a lot of relieved and re-energized people trying to decide which deferred projects to tackle first.

The truth is that such a windfall is there for the taking every year, according to the federal government. It estimates that if school districts improved the energy efficiency of their facilities and operations, $2 billion of the $8 billion spent each year on energy costs in U.S. elementary and secondary schools could be saved.

A guide from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools," can help administrators put a plan into place to manage energy consumption in their facilities more carefully.

"Along with achieving significant energy cost savings, investing in energy efficiency can produce environmental, economic, and educational benefits," the guide says.

It spells out seven steps for establishing an energy management plan:

  • Make commitment. Administrators should identify a team of personnel to lead the energy policy development process, and commit to upholding the policy. "Committing to a formalized energy policy facilitates accurate and useful tracking of the impacts of energy efficiency programs," the guide says.

  • Assess performance. Look at how energy is used in school buildings and identify ways to improve energy efficiency. A measuring tool such as the EPA's Portfolio Manager can assess baseline energy performance in buildings.

  • Set goals. Information collected during energy performance assessments and technical audits can help administrators determine potential energy savings. Such goals "help maintain momentum for energy management activities, guide daily decisionmaking, and track and measure progress," the guide says.

  • Create action plan. Schools should establish energy performance targets for each building, identify the technical measures that can help a building meet the target, and identify resources needed to put the plan into effect. "Establishing energy performance targets for each building allows school districts to clearly articulate to building occupants and other key personnel the expected results of energy efficiency investments in each facility," the guide says.

  • Carry out action plan. To ensure that the plan is carried out effectively, officials should strive to win the support and cooperation of individuals at different levels within the school district and individual schools. They also should establish a tracking system that monitors and measures energy use.

  • Evaluate progress. Measure the results of the energy-saving steps taken, and see if schools have met their goals. If goals are not achieved, administrators will need to decide if the goals should be revised; if the goals are achieved, administrators should decide whether higher goals should be set.

  • Recognize achievements.Acknowledging energy-saving achievements is one way for school districts to sustain momentum and support for energy-efficiency efforts. Districts can establish their own recognition programs for individual schools or employees, or they can pursue outside recognition.

When planning energy-efficiency upgrades, the guide says, school administrators should pay close attention to how the upgrades affect indoor air quality; thermal, visual and acoustic comfort; and safety and security.

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at mkennedy@asumag.com.

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