5 Tips to Build a Sustainability Management System for School Districts
By Dr. Randy Hoff
In today's world, it is easy for the school Facility Manager to grow overwhelmed by the conversation of effective energy management. While there are numerous options to reduce energy consumption costs, the best way to drive savings to their fullest potential lies in the development of a sustainability management system for school districts. Primarily, the sustainability management system refers to the compendium of all activities, implementation, improvement, and subsequent steps that form the energy and facility management strategy. Of course, there are challenges to building a sustainability management system for school districts, and school officials need to understand what to expect.
Implementing a Sustainability Management System Can Be a Tough Sell
The sustainability management system is much more than a system that will control and manage energy and maintenance needs. It requires a commitment to work with students, educators, administrative staff, custodial staff, contracted service providers, and community members to build a culture of sustainability. In a sense, the creation of this culture is about embracing green initiatives, ranging from recycling to energy conservation. A well-developed sustainability management system for school districts can help schools realize savings potential beyond their walls. For example, school officials that implement these community-wide programs can work with local utility providers to tap into discounted rates and much more.
A Robust Sustainability Management System for School Districts Offers Significant School and Community Benefits
The sustainability management system extends the principles of sustainability to all operations and reaffirms the commitment to conserve energy, explains the Better Buildings Initiative. Schools that focus a full-tilt effort toward sustainability can save millions within years, contributing to an estimated $6.7 trillion in savings by 2025. Introduction of smart systems will reduce the stress of in-house team members, encourage preventive maintenance and facility management practices, and even add additional value beyond their costs. Better facilities attract more students, which may include the funding of private donors, so actual facility management spend in the sustainability-conscious school could be pushed into an area of revenue creation. As a result, extra revenue can be used to increase teacher benefits and wages, offer new programs of study and pay for new buildings or additional upgrades.
How to Build a Sustainability Management System Without the Stress
The school Facility Manager should follow these tips to build a successful sustainability management system:
Define the system functions and its key goals, as demonstrated by the Boulder Valley School District. The features of a sustainability management system differ from a standard energy management program; they should encourage green practices, zero-waste among students and promote the use of energy wisely. The goals should be designed for the school's benefit, as well as the benefit of the community they serve.
Develop awareness and curricula to enhance sustainable practices. Part of the battle in developing this type of program rests on education. The facility management team should work to develop curricula to educate students, educators and community members about the importance of green initiatives and how everyone can come together for more significant benefits.
Engage with students, staff and community leaders. Beyond the initial education, a sustainability system depends on recurrent training and leading-by-example. The Facility Manager, school officials, school board members, and educators should engage with one another. This may include the creation of events to focus on sustainability or even community clean-up days to further improve.
Enact changes to activities. Another factor to consider in creating a sustainability program is based on the use of smart technologies to increase energy efficiency and savings in school assets.
Prioritize upgrades by ROI. Since the average school is 40-years-old, it will need multiple updates to its assets to achieve sustainable savings and impact. Paired with the deficit budget of schools, this will require the prioritization of maintenance needs, using big data, the IoT and analytics to ensure assets with the highest potential for ROI are addressed first.