Finding the Funding for Energy Education and Efficiency

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Sustainability Focus Transforms NYC SchoolsPt. 2: Coordination Across City Organizations Drives Sustainability SuccessPt. 3: This Page

Another important example of where DCAS's money is helping Shea make energy-saving progress is in training and staff development. DCAS has agreed to fund training for every single custodian to receive Building Operator Certification (BOC) and for all 35 deputy facility directors to receive the Certified Energy Manager designation. DCAS has also agreed to fund a brand new position for each borough, titled deputy director of optimization. This person's job — the first one has just been hired for Manhattan — is to work with custodial staff, principals, maintenance staff and each school's sustainability coordinator on specific energy-reduction targets.

This training has just gotten underway. Shea started a 10-school O&M pilot project of school buildings in Manhattan. These are the first custodians to get their BOC designation. The results have been good.

"We've noticed the most significant reductions not by capital work that we've invested in, but in training operators," says Shea. "The reason that we had such good results in such a short period of time is that people paid attention and people were focused on the issue. The challenge is to maintain that in the long-term." Based on the success — sometimes as much as a 15 percent reduction in energy use — the plan is to expand the pilot project into Manhattan this fall, and eventually to all the city's schools.

Grants and Curriculum

DSF isn't reliant on DCAS for all energy-related funding, however. A significant priority for DSF is finding grants from third-party organizations to be used for things like retrocommissioning and other energy-focused O&M strategies. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also has provided money for alternative energy strategies, like wind turbines and solar panels.

DSF has partnered with a non-profit organization called Solar One. This partnership not only provides DSF with grant money, but it also is one way DSF is working to incorporate sustainability into the school curriculum.

"Solar One is working with teachers to implement energy conservation curriculum," says Ornektekin. "They pick out classes and actually teach the students and the teacher."

Ornektekin has also been working on a pilot project, starting with STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) in grades 4 to 6, to develop a roster of guidance documents and strategies for teachers to put sustainability on the syllabus. These documents from organizations like EPA show teachers how to teach everything from properties of water to electricity and magnetism. The plan is to expand to grades 7 and 8 next, as well into other subject areas.

In the 10-school Manhattan pilot project where custodians have been BOC-trained, there is significant effort to show students how their school buildings work, making the schools "living laboratories," as Shea says. This includes everything from showing kindergartners the boiler room and explaining what each piece of equipment is to having higher-grade students read meters and explaining where energy comes from and how it's produced. And how important it is to conserve.

"The fact is when you think about the 1.1 million kids with whom we have direct contact, what we teach them they can bring back to the community," says Shea. "We want to leverage that to help the city reach its overall goals."

For example, a recent update to the recycling and waste management statute Local Law 19 now requires every classroom to have a recycling receptacle. Shea says there was some initial pushback against this, because it was assumed that the law meant that every school would have to purchase dozens of $30 plastic bins. A DFS success, says Ornektekin, was working with the city council to make the compromise that there had to be a recycling bin or a "properly labeled or decorated container." This meant teachers could have students make their own containers as art projects, as one high school did, or simply use a cardboard box labeled with magic marker. And so while students were making their own recycling bins, teachers had an opportunity to teach a unit about the importance of recycling in conjunction.

Recycle, Renew

DSF's goal is to have a 50:50 garbage to recycling ratio, based on a bag-count. Ornektekin says DSF has switched to clear bags and put each school's sustainability coordinator on high alert to look for items in the trash that could be recycled.

What Shea has realized through DSF's recycling initiatives specifically, but also his sustainability agenda as a whole, is that turning the tide to green really requires systemwide buy-in, all the way down to the students themselves.

"You can't manage 1,200 buildings and expect success if you don't have support at the grass roots level," says Shea. "In this big system, it's important to engage all the stakeholders."

But, as Ornektekin says, "John is very passionate about green and sustainability." And so it becomes infectious — a sentiment that is itself recycled and renewed hundred times everyday through the entire New York City School system.

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  posted on 9/28/2010   Article Use Policy

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