In recent years, a stronger concept of caring for God's creation and a sharper realization that human life and health depend on clean air, water, pure food, and a hospitable climate have highlighted the importance of efficient worship facilities and sustainable practices.
Energy efficiency (please read this to include water, too) is one of those universally accepted "best practices" that is never really completed. The rapid, relentless development of new, more efficient technology, equipment, and materials makes it almost impossible to remain even "well read" on the topic forget keeping your building "state of the art."
The ever-growing options for saving money, increasing productivity, and maximizing comfort are a great boon to better financial, facility, and natural resources stewardship. A successful facility manager and/or business administrator will have a clear strategy to achieve optimal savings. Flexibility, patience, and creativity are great assets along the way, too. No-cost tools, training, and tech support from ENERGY STAR can also help.
SAVINGS & RESOURCES
The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and ENERGY STAR guidance for new construction are powerful tools, but on "opening Sunday" there will be even more efficient products on the market (possibly at a lower cost) than you could incorporate during construction, but the ever-improving efficiency marketplace helps as your new facility ages. It also helps the "not-so-new" and historic facilities of today. The best any of us can do is to make a practical commitment to thoughtful and continual improvement that is cost-effective and affordable.
ENERGY STAR and its partners have learned that savings of 10, 15, and 25 percent can be achieved by leveraging "no-cost" savings into "low-cost" savings, depending on baseline efficiency. The savings from "low-cost" actions can be leveraged into larger projects for larger savings. Check out the "Sure Energy Savers" in the ENERGY STAR Action Workbook for Congregations at energystar.gov/congregations to be sure you haven't missed any easy savings.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary ENERGY STAR program has worked with thousands of partners for more than more than 20 years to distill a practical "strategic energy management" approach to achieve savings of 30 percent or more from national average facility baselines. ENERGY STAR certified facilities typically use 35 percent less energy and emit similarly fewer greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the fuel used by their utility.
ENERGY STAR PORTFOLIO MANAGER
If the ENERGY STAR "Guidelines for Energy Management" sound a bit like "Business Management 101," it is for good reason. Like any worthwhile endeavor, it all starts with commitment. "Continuous improvement" must be the standard in the fast-moving field of facility management. The congregation should adopt a simple energy policy that states a mission, goals and objectives that are measurable, so you know when you are succeeding.
The commitment to continuous improvement must be followed by the assessment of current performance. The no-cost ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool helps you set a baseline even going back in time to document any savings you've already achieved.
"Benchmarking" facility performance for long-term tracking requires entering your utility billing data, square footage, hours of operation, key equipment, and zip code to generate the 1100 ENERGY STAR score, comparing yours to average U.S. worship facility energy performance.
Why your zip code? First, Portfolio Manager uses the church zip code to "normalize" your baseline period energy use and weather against 30 years of historic local weather data. This factors out increasingly frequent weather variations, which can confuse your return-on-investment calculations. Second, Portfolio Manager uses your utility's emissions data to calculate the pollution for which your facility is responsible, and how much you are preventing.
Portfolio Manager supports easily "sharing" as much or little data as you like within your staff, congregation, and denomination much like social media. Standard and customized reports are easily generated for your decision-makers and congregation. Furthermore, you may also pursue EPA public recognition, which can inspire and educate others across the faith community. You can learn about Portfolio Manager, free training and technical support provided at energystar.gov/benchmark.
ACTION & COMMUNICATIONS PLANS
Assessing baseline performance comes after the setting of goals. These include the scope of improvements, estimated costs, and savings goals. Next, an Action Plan or "roadmap" is needed for outlining technical steps and targets as well as for determining which management roles, personnel, and financial resources will be adopted by decision-makers.
Along with the Action Plan should be a plan for communicating progress with key stakeholders in the congregation. The communications plan can help build awareness, motivation, and support. Evaluating progress along the way helps keep the project(s) on track with continual review and any needed adjustments.
To download the ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management, please visit energystar.gov/energymanagement.
JERRY LAWSON is the national manager for ENERGY STAR for Congregations (energystar.gov/congregations), a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.