Portfolio Manager Helps Schools Set Baseline for Energy, Water Use

By Karen Kroll  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Energy Star Portfolio Manager Helps K-12 Facility Managers Avoid Millions in Energy CostsPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Energy Efficiency in K-12 Buildings Doesn't Require Full Time Employee Pt. 4: Communicating Early Success With Energy Star Can Help Get Energy Efficiency Efforts Off Ground in K-12 Buildings

A district's partnership with the Energy Star program often begins when "a leader comes in, makes a commitment (to the program) and develops a plan, then works the plan," Pitcher says. An initial step is to measure the facilities' current energy use and establish a baseline for energy use as well as water use. "See where you are and where you want to go," Pitcher says.

Portfolio Manager, an interactive, online energy management tool developed by Energy Star, allows facility managers to track and assess energy and water consumption across an entire portfolio of buildings. Based on the assessment, the district earns a score between one and 100; a score of 75 means the facility performs better than 75 percent of similar facilities.

In determining the Energy Star score, each facility's energy use is measured against statistical models that take into account the many variables that can influence energy performance, such as the weather, a facility's hours of operation, and the characteristics of the facility itself, Pitcher says. For instance, the model will consider whether a facility contains a commercial kitchen or a walk-in freezer, both of which affect energy use.

Pitcher says that the age of a building alone hasn't been shown to be a huge factor in energy performance, based on studies conducted by both EPA and other groups. She adds that many of the buildings in the Energy Star program are older buildings.

Like Nash-Rocky Mount, some school districts turn to outside firms to help them track energy use. That's the case at BHM, Hamilton says. "We contract out because we're not big enough to have a person," dedicated to the program. In addition, by working with an outside firm, Hamilton and his colleagues can see how their district compares to others that are using the firm.

Another important step is ensuring that the appropriate level of resources is dedicated to the program, whether that means bringing in outside expertise or hiring qualified employees to oversee the district's energy efficiency initiatives.

The individuals charged with monitoring and reducing energy use need to know where to look for savings, as well as the impact that such tools as energy management systems or load shedding can have on energy use. Moreover, gaining an understanding of most energy measurement and analysis tools involves a bit of a learning curve, says Lamm of Nash-Rocky Mount. "It's more than cutting the lights off and turning the computer off."

When the Chambersburg Area School District in Chambersburg, Penn., began its energy program in 2006, it worked with an outside company to begin measuring energy use, and also brought on Connie Kelley as energy manager. "You can't just expect a secretary to do this. It has to be a dedicated person who knows the buildings," Kelley says. That person should tour the buildings on a regular basis, identify anomalies in operation, and work with facility managers to address them. In fact, Kelley has made the rounds at Chambersburg's schools at all hours of the day and night, checking that systems are running only when they're supposed to.

Similarly, the energy management employees at St. Tammany regularly visit each school to check that the building controls are correctly set. They'll generate a report for each facility visited, which is sent to the principal or site supervisor, letting them know where improvements are needed.

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  posted on 3/14/2013   Article Use Policy

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