With the publicity for movies like “An Inconvenient Truth,” and the growing popularity of initiatives like the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system for environmentally friendly facilities, one might begin to believe that schools and universities have fully embraced the green movement and all education institutions are committed to managing energy more effectively to conserve power and save money.
But many environmental advocates say education institutions can do a much better job of conserving resources and using energy more efficiently. Schools that strive to use only the power they need and find cheaper or cleaner ways of acquiring that power can see the benefits in smaller utility bills and in a more healthful environment.
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Before administrators and facility managers can be convinced that better energy management is beneficial, they have to grasp what energy efficiency entails. The Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa wondered why school districts in the state were slow to adopt energy-efficient techniques even though the evidence showed that schools could cut energy costs by 5 to 15 percent with low- or no-cost changes in operations or maintenance practices.
The Center commissioned a study and found that administrators at school districts in Iowa generally lacked knowledge about energy-efficiency issues. The study surveyed superintendents, principals and school board members.
Fewer than 30 percent of those surveyed regularly read articles about energy efficiency, and only 16 percent had attended a workshop or a presentation about energy efficiency.
“Overall, little is known about energy-efficiency processes even though there was some indication of general understanding,” the survey found.
The study also found that energy audits are common in Iowa school districts — about half of those surveyed said their districts had one done. However, of those districts that had an audit completed, more than 60 percent said their districts followed through with only a few or none of the recommendations in the audit.
Other findings support the conclusion that school district officials have not learned all they can about managing energy efficiently. Fewer than 5 percent of those surveyed said that their school system had a written energy-efficiency policy for building construction or renovation. For those who had such policies, “the most common difficulties with implementation of these policies was monitoring usage and maintaining consistent compliance,” the survey noted.
Asked about specific state and local programs available to help schools with energy-efficiency initiatives, most of those surveyed were not very familiar with any of them.