When I think about the educational experience my children are getting each day, I think about the things I can do to contribute. For instance, the lunch I packed for them—did I include fruit because it’s healthy and will give them energy? Did I remember to remind them (oh, what we do for our kids!) to bring their gym sneakers so that they can participate that day? Did their homework make it into their backpacks? Have I gotten to know their teachers enough—how is that relationship dynamic with my children? But….never have I really thought about the things I can’t control—things that I would expect the school district to worry about for me. For instance, the temperature in their classrooms. Or, the lighting levels overhead. It’s likely most of us don’t think about these things. If you’re like me (and most mothers), you’ve probably never considered them when sending your children off to school each morning—or considered how these things can influence their daily activities.
However, with the growing focus on a greener world, I am learning that so much more contributes to the educational experience. Contributions that can significantly help—or hinder—a child’s education. This is because these contributions have a direct effect on a student’s comfort, which has a direct effect on how productive a student is and how much he retains on any given day.
So, what is this mystery contributor? It’s energy management. Sounds simple enough, right? If we just adjust the thermostat a few degrees, the classroom will be more comfortable. If we get new light bulbs then our children will have better luminescents to do their work under. If we do these things then…POOF…our children will be more comfortable and ultimately smarter. Unfortunately, not. Our children may be more comfortable for the day but we need solutions that last throughout their entire educational journey. I’ll let you in on a little secret…energy management is not as simple as a quick temperature adjustment. It’s much more than that and when implemented properly, will deliver an abundance of benefits. For most schools, energy is an extraordinary cost—and implementing a solution to reduce that cost is just not within a school’s tight budget. Most schools simply have not been able to afford it. That is, until now…
This is pretty intriguing…
- K-12 schools spend more than $8 billion annually on energy.
- Green schools can save more than $12/f2 in energy costs.
And, this is pretty amazing…
- Research shows that the health and productivity of students and staff are directly related to building design and operation.
- Green schools have reduced absenteeism by 15% and increased student test scores by 5%.
So, how does a school district tackle these opportunities, while staying on budget and not interrupting class schedules? Although some school systems may be able to afford a full upgrade—for most schools an incremental approach is more in line with annual budget realities:
- Stage 1: Install integrated room controllers in key areas, one wing, or one building for proof of concept and ROI
- Stage 2: Expand to rest of school or district
- Stage 3: Add networking and building management
Stage 2 could be done in a few months or a few years, depending on school size and budgets. If years, a school system might want to add BMS as soon as the first building has been upgraded, to better plan future actions. This kind of staged approach allows a school system to use incremental ROI to help pay for each new stage. And, the really cool part about stage 1 is that a wireless integrated room controller can be installed in an existing facility in about 15 or 20 minutes by a single electrician. This means that even for hundreds of rooms, the installation cost is relatively minor.
Consulting an energy and building control expert is a sensible first step in diving deeper into these options. And why not today? These solutions are more affordable and more achievable today than every before. With all of this new information, I am puzzled as to why more school boards aren’t advocating for this – and for the students that spend 6+ hours/day, 5 days a week inside these educational walls. This approach not only fit into a school’s budgetary requirements, but also enhances the learning environment for our students – our children.
Take a peek at this brand new brochure from Schneider Electric. It’s a quick and easy read—but informative as it explains more about the solutions available for K-12 schools. I was impressed and inspired enough that I passed it over to a friend (who just so happens to be the head of the school committee in my district). What better gift can we give to our youth—our future—than the gift of a truly optimized educational experience? I know I want this for my children.
What are schools in your district doing to improve energy management and the overall learning experience? Let me know, I’m interested and seeking some best practices!