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Virginia: 146 Fairfax County Schools Energy Star-Certified

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Connection

By: Tim Peterson

In the last year and a half, Fairfax County Public Schools have been able to reduce the energy consumption in their buildings by 15 percent. That cut down resulted in savings of $4.5 million, according to a release Sept. 25 by the school system.

February 2014 marked the beginning of a partnership between Fairfax County Public Schools and Cenergistic, an energy conservation program firm. Cenergistic analysts set out to evaluate county campuses and reduce operating costs by increasing efficiency.

According to Dr. Randy Hoff, chief executive officer of Cenergistic, the school system spends approximately $34 million annually on utilities while operating its more than 200 campuses.

“It’s a significant expense,” Hoff said at the board’s regular meeting on Sept. 24. He said the job is to “ensure we’re eliminating waste and maintaining comfort in the buildings as well.”

Hoff came before the board to announce not only the energy and money-saving accomplishments of the cooperative analysis, but that with 146 ENERGY STAR-certified schools, Fairfax County had taken the lead as the most efficient district in the United States.

Los Angeles Unified School District was the previous leader with 142 schools ENERGY STAR-certified.

“This is important to be first on,” Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza said, “because it demonstrates to our community how serious we are about taking care of the precious taxpayer dollars that we’re stewards of.

“Every dollar we save,” Garza added, “can be directed back to classrooms, teacher salary increases, is important to our school system.”

Michael Zatz, with the ENERGY STAR program and the Environmental Protection Agency, said that on average, schools with the STAR certification generate about 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than non-certified schools. He, as well as several board members, commented on the way this energy-conserving program can both impact climate change and provide educational opportunities for students on being better stewards of the environment.

“The buildings in which we work, play and learn have a tremendous role to play in addressing this challenge,” said Zatz.

Zatz and Hoff explained that 30 percent of energy used in school buildings is wasted, and the main power draw for utilities is heating and cooling.

So working with existing infrastructure, the Cenergistic analysts have been evaluating the schools’ ventilation rates, occupancy times, humidity, transition to unoccupied buildings and circulation pumps. Hoff used the examples of snow days, summer vacation and after-school as opportunities for uses of the school to be consolidated in a way that requires less heating or cooling energy.

Hoff’s next goal is reaching a 25 percent reduction in consumption, while continuing to ensure students and teachers are comfortable and in a hospitable learning environment.

“We have a lot of runway ahead of us to improve even more,” Hoff said.

http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2015/oct/01/146-fairfax-county-schools-energy-star-certified/

 



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