Worship facility managers typically count energy efficiency as a key metric for creation care, or environmental stewardship. Not only does reducing energy waste prevent unnecessary pollution that harms human health, saving energy protects the natural systems that support all life on earth. Saved energy translates directly to saved money, strengthening the financial health of the church and the means for its ministries and missions.
“Waste not” being a familiar directive to the faithful that, when applied to wise use of energy, preserves nonrenewable petroleum, natural gas and coal resources for today’s children and for generations unborn.
But even as responsible stewards of creation, aware of the serious and calculable consequences of wasteful behavior, why not have a little fun with energy efficiency through friendly competition? This is the premise of the 2012 National Building Competition, sponsored for the third year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Why does the EPA care so much about energy efficiency? Commercial buildings account for 18% of national energy use and nearly 18% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These buildings’ energy consumption costs of more than $100 billion annually, but 30% of this energy is wasted—with no benefit for the cost. Yet, the wasted energy causes the same pollution as if it were used productively. Buildings that use free Energy Star tools and information to earn Energy Star facility certification typically use 35% less energy and cause 35% less pollution, as well as costing about $0.50 less per square foot to operate than average buildings. That’s $30 billion that could be more productively used for America’s needs, of which worship facilities could reclaim nearly $1 billion for their priorities.
In 2011, churches joined the National Building Competition for the first time. While none of the five congregations was the top national competitor, each earned considerable dollar savings and prevented calculable pollution. Each church learned better how to “practice what is preached” regarding the stewardship of creation.
For 2012, the rules of competition are simpler than ever and actually favor newcomers to serious energy efficiency. In short, facilities that reduce energy use/costs the most during calendar 2012 from their calendar 2011 baseline will be the winners. Competitors join the contest by “benchmarking” and tracking energy performance with Energy Star’s free online “Portfolio Manager” tool found at www.energystar.gov/benchmark
This free, powerful software has become the national standard used by some 300,000 commercial facilities, including more than 1,500 congregations. Portfolio Manager can track multiple energy and water meters, customize meter names and key information, monitor energy and water costs, view percent improvements in weather-normalized source energy, share building data inside or outside an organization if you choose, and track operating characteristics tailored to each space use category within your building. Commercial energy efficiency product and service providers appreciate Portfolio Manager because it provides independent savings verification for their clients’ projects.
To join in or just watch the National Building Competition, visit www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings
Questions? Write to EPAcongregations@EnergyAndSecurity.com