Data Is Lifeblood Of Colorado School District's Energy Efficiency Program
Like any construction project, the rubber really meets the road when the gap is bridged between design and operations. For that reason, Reeve and his colleagues place a premium on measurement and verification. Data is the lifeblood of the district's energy management and sustainability plans.
A charter member of President Obama's Better Buildings Challenge — the district has pledged to save 20 percent on energy over its 2005 baseline — PSD also sets individual year-over-year goals for each school facility. While Reeve tracks and records several metrics, including the standard KBtu/sq. ft./yr., tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and cost of electricity and natural gas per square foot, Energy Star Portfolio Manager is the gold standard. "I'll endorse Energy Star as the most effective tool for measuring performance," says Reeve.
The district has an average Energy Star rating of 88 for its 31 elementary schools — all but three of them meet the 75 required for an Energy Star label. (The average score for nine middle schools is 72, and for five high schools, the average score is 84.) One of those is Red Feather Elementary, which currently has a score of 45, but is slated for a major remodel as part of the bond issue this summer. "Red Feather is a huge opportunity," says Reeve. "We're adding a building automation system and revamping the HVAC, and I expect it'll go up at least 20 to 30 points when we're finished."
Of course, data are worthless if they exist in a vacuum, or are simply buried on a hard drive, so Reeve sends a monthly energy report out to each school. Reeve says he often thinks about a saying he read once: "Buildings don't use energy, people do." And that philosophy informs much of how he tailors his strategy for everything from how and how often he disseminates energy data to the way he talks with teachers and principals about methods to be efficient. It's all part of the decades-long effort to prove the theory that to maintain a focus on energy efficiency, the whole culture of the organization must be focused on energy efficiency — not just the facilities folks and energy managers. And this culture shift has been nothing short of dramatic.
A Culture of Efficiency
"We've made an amazing transformation at the school district since the early 1990s," says Spearnak. "All this sustainability effort has moved from facilities and operations into the schools themselves. It's become how we work."
Colorado State's Cross, who has been working closely with the district to study its culture, how it's changed, and why the culture and behavior of students and teachers is so critical to energy efficiency success, explains succinctly why a cultural shift, as opposed to a top-down approach, works: "Teachers are stressed. But if energy is part of standard practice, they won't see it as extra work."
One thing the district has learned, says Reeve, is that finding out what motivates staff and students to be energy efficient is really the most important thing. "There are different triggers for different folks," he says. "Is it environment? Is it economics? Is it social? What we found is that by placing energy efficiency in context, it was not just about telling people to turn off their lights anymore."