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A Tale of Two Schools

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 by Brian C. Wagner

I recently arrived at work to find two Energy Star Awards sitting on my desk.  School A received an 88 out of 100 and School B received a 94. These are incredible scores. Incredible given that 50 is the national average for K-12 schools.

On the surface, these results appear to be similar. Both received outstanding Energy Star ratings and both are Ohio schools with comparable buildings. However, that’s where the similarities end, given that how they got there couldn’t have been more different. 

This is a story of two very different paths to achieve a similar outcome.  One was much costlier and time consuming than the other.  It’s also a cautionary tale of how our industry is failing us.

We’ll keep the names of the districts confidential. Who they are is not as important in comparison to what they did to get the results. This case study offers an important lesson for anyone contemplating building or upgrading their building.

District A and District B both needed new buildings. While CCG provided an approach to District A, they were advised to follow the traditional construction process and were told they would still get a comfortable and energy efficient building.

Fast forward 10 years. District A was finding that their energy costs and comfort levels were out of control. They called CCG back to discuss what we originally had advised them to do 10 years earlier. We ended up retrofitting their systems and now they have their energy consumption under control and dramatically improved their comfort. Unfortunately, the retrofit cost District A a lot more money than if they had followed our counsel from the beginning.

Over that 10-year period, District A also paid approximately $1.3 million more in energy costs, and more in maintenance costs due to increased operating hours, which then resulted in shortened equipment life. 

Additionally, they incurred lower comfort levels for their students, teachers, and staff. You can’t put a price tag on that. It’s well documented how having the right level of temperature, humidity, and other factors directly impacts productivity levels and possibly in this example, student performance.

District B – and I guess you know where this is going by now, implemented the right systems and controls from the start and the school opened with the comfort and savings as expected.  

I wish I could say this is an anomaly. It’s not. This happens every day in all types and sizes of buildings. During planning and construction, the focus tends to be on the aesthetics and design of the building, while energy and comfort factors get pushed aside. However, concerns about comfort are the first thing they are going to have to deal with when the building opens.

This short-sighted view is what is hurting our industry.  It’s not always easy to do things the right way the first time, but at CCG, it’s what we strive for every day.

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