Kilowatt Krackdown- Washington Elementary Article
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Benchmarking Can Save Schools Money!

By Sue Pierce, Director of Facility Planning and Energy
Washington Elementary School District 

The Washington Elementary School District did not realize that a simple action such as energy benchmarking would transform the culture within the District and create a movement that would save the District millions of dollars over time! This is their story and comes to you with encouragement that you too can make this happen! BOMA of Greater Phoenix has launched a benchmarking campaign called “Kilowatt Krackdown” that the School District participated in, and Manzanita Elementary won an award for the most energy-efficient school amongst the participants. You too can participate in this program and start reducing your electric energy usage now!


The Washington Elementary School District (WESD) implemented a grassroots facility planning effort in fall, 2007. Five planning councils comprised of District staff, parents and community leaders came together to talk about the concept of “high performance schools” from a facility perspective. The councils wanted more information about the current state of the District’s buildings. As facility staff compiled data for the councils to review, the Director of Facility Planning used the United States Department of Energy’s benchmarking software program to enter 24 months of energy usage data for every school facility and the District Administration Building. This statistical model used information entered to give each building a rating. The rating indicated how energy efficient the building was in comparison to other similar school facilities and adjusted the ratings for our climate. This rating became the energy benchmark for each building and was used by WESD to allocate scarce facility resources to do building improvements such as lighting retrofits that would in turn save the District money each month in the form of energy savings.
However, the value of a benchmark or starting point is that it provides a standard from which future performance can be measured. Research indicates that a school can save a minimum of 10% in energy usage simply by changing the way staff, students, parents and community use the building. For example, raising the level of consciousness regarding energy consumption and encouraging building inhabitants to turn off lights, use natural light, close doors when heating or cooling, turn off computers and put the building in an “unoccupied mode” evenings, week-ends and holidays can create enormous savings. With this information in hand, the superintendent introduced an energy policy, energy goals and a comprehensive energy conservation planning process to the governing board. The goals proposed were to conserve 10% in electric, natural gas, water and solid waste consumption (recycling efforts) District-wide over the course of the next year. The governing board was supportive of the effort. Achievement of these goals could save the District $610,000 or more in fiscal year 2009. 


The Washington Elementary School District began implementation. An energy policy was adopted by the Governing Board on September 25, 2008. Each school in the District created an energy plan and energy committee for their campus. The concept proposed by the superintendent was to empower each school to make the changes they felt appropriate in order to achieve a minimum of 10% in energy savings. District facility staff supported each principal and committee by providing information and education on energy usage and conservation. Students became involved in various ways throughout the District. “Energy Violation Tickets” were printed and provided to students so that they could write energy tickets when they saw a light left on or a door left open. In addition, usage data was provided to buildings monthly so that they knew how their building was performing. In fact, results were made public so that all schools could see how their peers were performing.  Good natured competition found campuses competing with each other to see who could save the most energy! Momentum began to build as positive energy saving results started to develop. The energy year has now ended and most of the data is in. The District is excited at the outstanding results created!
Electricity.The greatest opportunity to save energy dollars was in the area of electricity. The electric energy goal was to reduce electric usage by 10% or 4,500,000 kWh which should produce dollar savings of $451,500. The actual results for the District were a savings of 6,604,291 kWh and a cost savings of $743,384.88. 28 of the 33 campuses participating in the energy program achieved or exceeded the 10% electric savings goal. Details of savings each month are outlined below.
                  Usage Savings by Month
Aug/Sept Electric Savings                  646,881 kWh
Sept/Oct Electric Savings                  274,945 kWh
Oct/Nov Electric Savings                   184,717 kWh
Nov/Dec Electric Savings                  485,699 kWh
Dec/Jan Electric Savings                   424,977 kWh
Jan/Feb Electric Savings                    458,149 kWh
Feb/Mar Electric Savings                   469,100 kWh
Mar/Apr Electric Savings                    587,793 kWh
Apr/May Electric Savings                   308,063 kWh
May/Jun Electric Savings                   457,182 kWh
Jun/Jul Electric Savings                  1,418,684 kWh
Jul/Aug Electric Savings                     888,101 kWh
Total Savings                                 6,604,291 kWh
            Goal: 4,500,000 kWh
End of the Year Results: 147% of Goal
Natural Gas. The District set a goal of reducing natural gas usage by 10% which if achieved would be 8,607 therms and $14,288.   At the end of August, 2009, WESD had saved 8,661 therms which equated to $18,339.83.
Solid Waste. Implementation of a District-wide recycling program during the 2008-2009 school year allowed the District to reduce the contract with its solid waste provider from $250,000 to $125,000 for a savings of $125,000. The 10% goal was to save $25,000.
Water. The District goal was to save 22,633 kGal in water which was a 10% reduction. This reduction would save the District $89,174. At this time, the final water results are not calculated. During the process of reviewing water bills from the provider, some billing questions arose and are currently under discussion with the appropriate parties.


In spring, 2008, 33 campuses participating in the WESD energy program were benchmarked using EnergyStar portfolio manager. Energy usage data, costs and key facility information were entered into the EnergyStar statistical model for K-12 schools. Each campus was analyzed and received a rating on a scale of 1 to 100 with the energy efficient buildings scoring 75 or above. At that time, our overall District rating for the 33 campuses was 46. After the first year of our energy program, we have increased our rating to 62. This significant rating increase qualifies the Washington Elementary School District for an EnergyStar Leader award. The Leader award goes to organizations with multiple facilities that improve their overall rating by 10 or more points. No school district in Arizona has achieved this recognition to date.
As we move into a new school year, we are establishing new goals and writing a long-term energy plan that will guide us into the future as we work together as a school community to continue to conserve energy, save dollars and contribute to the environment. 

Energy conservation is important to school districts. At a time when much of the economic news for school districts is bad, the success of the WESD energy conservation program has been a source of pride for everyone involved. For more information on the Washington Elementary School District program, contact Sue Pierce, Director of Facility Planning and Energy, (602) 347-2847. For more information about BOMA Greater Phoenix and the Kilowatt Krackdown program, call Dave Munn, (480) 539-7439.

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