Modifying old habits takes time to get used to and might not be immediately noticeable, but thanks to the efforts from District 211 faculty, staff, and students, tiny changes have amounted to something huge. Since 2004, there has been close to $8 million in savings for electricity, heating, and cooling costs district-wide.
That savings has helped the District earn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Certification for William Fremd and Conant High Schools for a second consecutive year. Buildings that are the most energy-efficient and are nationally ranked within the top 25 percent in the country are given this recognition. It’s based on the EPA’s point system, which is determined by data submitted through software called EnergyCAP Professional.
“Both Conant and Fremd High Schools have been rated over 75 points,” said Reece Thome, District 211’s energy manager. “When we received the first awards, there were only 13,000 buildings in the United States with the title, and the significance of that it made me think, ‘Holy cow, there are probably 13,000 buildings or more in Cook County alone.’ From a national perspective, it’s pretty impressive.”
Thome said everything is tracked in the software and sent to the EPA for evaluation. From there, a certified engineer reviews the data, and comes to the building to take readings of light levels and air quality.
Part of the evaluation process is to ensure buildings are in proper working order, meaning they are not overly dark to save money on electricity, and ventilation systems are on to keep air fresh.
Even though the District has grown over the years, Thome said it’s using 22 percent less electricity and 18 percent less natural gas since 2004 when it entered a partnership with Energy Education, Inc., which helps implement comprehensive organizational behavior-driven energy conservation programs. From January 2011 to December 2011 alone, the District saved roughly $1.4 million.
Thome said other schools in the District are close to getting Energy Star Certification, and he continues to monitor lighting, heating, cooling, humidity control, mechanical and appliance systems, landscape watering practices, and utility cost tracking, analysis, and projection. However, he said the District’s success in energy conservation comes from people and their willingness to change their habits.
“Our accomplishments would not have happened without the cooperation of everyone,” Thome said. “All staff have embraced the notion of doing their part to reduce use. Our greatest returns come from the diligence and care of the professionals that work in our maintenance departments. They have been right on top of all aspects related to energy conservation.”