Sustainability Hacks: Energy Conservation in School Districts... Making the Case With Metrics
By Jack Bullock
Chief Engineer, PE, CEM, BESA
With schools under greater pressure to cut costs and enhance educational experiences, finding time and resources to manage energy use can seem overwhelming. However, the application of advanced technologies, including machine learning and predictive analytics, enhance energy conservation in school districts by empowering superintendents, Facility Managers, and other faculty, as well as students. Unfortunately, schools may have previously tried and failed to realize savings through an energy management program, but it is possible to make a better case through metrics and data-driven insights.
The Problem: Energy Conservation in School Districts Is Seen as a Cost Center
Implementing an energy management program incurs software, personnel and monitoring costs. These costs serve as a counterpoint for districts interested in sustainability, and with budgets already stretched, finding resources to implement energy conservation in school districts can seem impossible. Simultaneously, the average age for U.S. school buildings is 40 years old, but renovation, proper maintenance, and energy management extend the functional life of schools, says the National Center for Education Statistics. For instance, 60 percent of Fort Worth ISD schools were built before 1960; antiquated buildings and assets were not designed with today’s energy-efficiency standards.
Data-Driven Decisions and Using Metrics Empower Energy Conservation in School Districts
Extending the functional use of schools, and therefore, the budget is a useful metric, but metrics’ power extends much further. Tracking metrics gives Facilities Managers the ability to determine asset and building condition, total cost of ownership, and insight into unnecessary energy use. Using metrics, Facilities Managers can optimize maintenance schedules, refine runtime and system settings, and help staff and students understand how their actions contribute to energy conservation.
Ways Metrics Translate Into District Benefits
Metrics in energy management are quantifiable measures of performance and successes in energy management. In other words, using metrics contributes to benefits across a district, including:
Daily monitoring and walkthroughs guarantee continuing review of energy use index (EUI). Daily inspection of facilities and behaviors of occupants helps explain anomalies in the EUI, which is a measure of the total energy use, its influential factors, and savings ratio.
Recurring, automated progress reports to district leadership increase collaboration. Automating reports and communication with school board members and the superintendent will increase collaboration and support for an energy management program.
Tracking utility use and spending through data analysis identify opportunities for improvement. Tracking utility use and spending with analytics help catch billing errors, as well as establish a baseline. This is the standard for measuring energy savings—resources that can be reinvested in the classroom.
Recognition of problems before contributing to cascading asset failure.
Eliminating unnecessary energy use. Vacancy energy use is waste, and identifying this waste through metrics can help everyone ensure systems are shut down properly after hours.
Monthly team review of data enables continuous improvement. Analysis of data shows cost avoidance and enhances collaboration, as well as planning for future upgrades and scenarios.
Tracking EUI is crucial to eligibility for ENERGY STAR Certification. FWISD has 116 buildings eligible for ENERGY STAR Certification following an energy management overhaul through Cenergistic. Across the Red River, Dr. Keith E. Ballard, Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, noted: "teachers, staff, and Energy Education Specialists have worked together to enhance the district's energy use behaviors and achieve ENERGY STAR Certification." Savings in Tulsa amounted to more than $4.2 million since implementation.
Let Metrics Enhance Energy Conservation in Your School District Today
Metrics are the best way to get and retain support for energy conservation in school districts, and their data-driven nature means fewer disputes over whether to continue an energy management program. School leads should leverage metrics to get the most return on investment for energy management and drive energy cost avoidance throughout their campuses. Visit Cenergistic online to find out more about how leveraging GreenX and Ceres-powered platforms could benefit your district.