The 5 Challenges of In-House Energy Management for School Facilities
The development of an energy management program can help school districts realize savings through energy efficiency and extension of assets’ life expectancy. Across the country, school districts brave challenges relating to weather, budgeting, and politics. School districts that choose to implement a program for in-house energy management for school facilities face additional challenges. K-12 School districts need to understand the top five challenges of maintaining an in-house program.
1. Lackluster Talent to Leverage the Latest Technology for In-House Energy Management for School Facilities
The rise of cloud-based computing and software-as-a-service transformed how organizations approach energy management. The days of installing motion sensors and timers for effective energy management are ending. With the amount of technology available for use in energy management in school facilities, archaic forms of automation are impractical. School districts must have devoted facilities teams to learn about these new technologies and apply them.
This makes up one factor that contributes to the poor realization of cost savings after implementing energy management initiatives. According to Fiona Burlig of Forbes, schools meet 24 percent of projected savings on average. Schools that understand where to deploy the latest technology, such as in the HVAC system, can push savings' realization closer to the expected value.
2. Safety and Security Take Priority over Energy Efficiency
The role of safety and security is of top priority for school districts. The threat of black swan events, such as weather-related emergencies, active shooter incidents, earthquakes, and wildfires, among other issues, is increasing. School districts have taken steps to enhance the safety and security of facilities to guarantee the safety and security of student. The facilities management department plays a vital role in implementing the measures and technologies necessary to enhance safety, but it comes at a cost to energy efficiency upgrades.
Overcoming this challenge requires understanding how new systems and technology can work together to both provide better safety and security without sacrificing energy efficiency. School facilities managers can tap into additional resources, such as state-and federal-sponsored funding for energy efficiency, while still taking advantage of safety and security upgrades.
3. Data, By Itself, Lacks Value
An argument exists for the need to collect as much data as possible about the facility. This is a common theme among energy management in school districts, but data without proper analysis and application is useless. Facility managers and school districts operating in-house programs will need to learn what to do with data, and more importantly, they must understand how it relates to the history of the measured asset.
Schools need to know how to apply data, and since the cost of hiring a data scientist is extensive, schools can circumvent the problem with an embedded on-site energy specialist. The energy specialist helps school facilities managers understand data and how to improve its quality and application.
4. Building Occupant Behaviors Are Difficult to Change
A primary issue with any energy management program revolves around the behaviors of building occupants. Students may not understand how their actions affect energy use. This problem may be more severe in students of younger age, such as elementary school children. However, younger children have a fantastic capacity to learn. School facilities managers should implement programs to begin working with children in elementary school to encourage positive energy-use behaviors.
Education facilities managers should work to create a culture of acceptance throughout the entire district. This will include encouraging energy-efficient behaviors among staff and engaging with students. For example, creating an energy-efficiency fair to host throughout the district can encourage energy conservation.
5. Financing for In-House Energy Management for School Facilities Is Often Unavailable
U.S. schools face a significant crisis regarding funding, reports The PEW Charitable Trusts. The annual deficit for school funding is approximately $38 billion. School districts stretch their budgets to the breaking point, so diverting financial resources to implement a program for in-house energy management for school facilities may not be possible. Performing an in-house energy management program includes the costs of training facilities management team members, installing new equipment and systems, and recurring fees for subscription-based services.
While the costs of an energy management program for school facilities can sound like a negative, they possess a unique characteristic. Energy-efficiency improvements in a school, which include the development of energy management for school facilities' program, may be eligible for funding under energy-efficiency policies, such as California’s Prop 39.