Benchmarking? What’s Benchmarking?

ESLogo.2By George Giese

You know, I never gave much thought to it when I was younger. Classrooms to be heated and cooled (if you’re lucky and have A/C); hallways and gymnasiums to light and kitchens and cafeterias to power and maintain. When you think about it, schools use a lot of energy!

There are thousands of schools across the country and each one needs to be powered. Given the environmental and economic challenges facing schools today, sound energy management is a critical component of operations. But where do you start?

As an intern, I’ve had the opportunity to assist schools in benchmarking their buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Benchmarking is a process that allows you to compare the energy usage of your school with other similar buildings across the country. Portfolio Manager accounts for variables such as school size (square footage), local weather, the presence of on-site cooking facilities, and other physical characteristics that influence energy use.

It’s a fairly simple process – you plug in 12 consecutive months of energy data along with some information about the school itself, and the system computes a 1-100 efficiency score. As improvements are made Portfolio Manager tracks your progress over time. Even better, schools that rate 75 or higher are eligible for the ENERGY STAR Label which can be proudly displayed.

Working with schools across six states, I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff. One high school has hallway lights that are programmed to match class schedules. One minute before the bell rings, the lights kick on as students start moving to their next class. One minute before the next period begins, the lights slowly dim to conserve energy. I could have used that friendly reminder…it would have saved me quite a few mad-dashes down the hall.

Think this sounds cool?  Encourage a parent or teacher to learn about: energy star programs for schools

In the meantime there are actions you can take to help your school be more energy efficient.  This winter, ask your teacher to open the window blinds in your classroom.  The heat from the sun’s rays can keep your classroom warm.  Also, turn off lights in classrooms that are not being used.  These simple actions will help your school to be more energy efficient!

About the author: George Giese is an intern for the Air and Radiation Division working on Climate Change. He is currently finishing his Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.