By improving the energy efficiency and performance of our schools, we can make them more resilient and reduce costs significantly. Resilient schools help cut waste out of our energy system while providing a more efficient and healthy learning space for our students and teachers, all while supporting local businesses. But in order to make your school building more resilient, you have to understand how it’s currently performing. Benchmarking energy usage is the simple, yet critical, first step toward understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our school buildings. Benchmarking can be as easy as simply typing in your monthly utility bill information into a pre-formatted spreadsheet that adjusts this data based on the weather. By entering utility bills every month, you can build a baseline of performance that will serve as the foundation for possible improvements in the future.
By comparing that baseline performance to the statewide average and top performers for a building your size, you can start to find specific opportunities, both large and small, to cut waste from your energy system. Are you using a lot more electricity than other schools your size? Maybe more efficient light bulbs can help lower your electricity bill. Does it seem like your boiler has to run a lot more to keep the building comfortable for the students and teachers? A boiler replacement might help, or you might need to add insulation or find some gaps where the building isn’t fully sealed. There are countless options and solutions for improving your building’s performance and lowering your utility bills. But until you know how your school is using energy, you’ll never be able to find the most cost effective solutions for your building.
While the initial benefit may be a drop in your utility bill, energy improvements can have a much broader impact. By using local businesses to install window shades or improve your ventilation, you can support workers and their families in your area. By lowering your utility costs, you can help save the school district, and local tax payers, money. By using less energy, you can lower your carbon footprint and provide a real world example for students to learn about construction, conservation, and energy use. Most importantly, making improvements to air quality and lighting has been shown to improve both academic performance and student health.
These benefits don’t just exist in theory. Dozens of Minnesota schools have already begun benchmarking their energy performance in order to find cost-effective solutions to make their buildings more resilient. Those schools provide excellent examples of how the simple step of benchmarking energy usage can lead to significant benefits across the board.