How can you make your school more energy efficiency and contribute to healthier students and a better budget? Learn some tips in this blog post.
With so many variables and stakeholders in the education world, particularly where budget is concerned, it can be nearly impossible to capture one of those elusive win-win-win outcomes. This can seem especially true where energy efficiency is concerned.
Energy efficiency is largely a budget outlier for many schools. It’s not an essential day-to-day focus when there’s a list of musts keeping everyone busy and often stretched thin. There’s more to this energy efficiency thing, though, if you zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
When you’re part of a school or district that’s in fire-fighting mode or confused about where to focus efforts, energy efficiency seems nice, and that’s it. But, energy really deserves a higher spot on your priority list. A shift in focus toward key areas can lead to big returns, for your students and faculty, the environment and your budget.
The Link Between Energy Efficiency and Absenteeism
Let’s unwrap this golden ticket. How can you reduce absenteeism rates and your carbon footprint while actually gaining budget dollars? It’s really a matter of looking left when you’ve been looking right. While many think of energy efficiency as a means of cutting utility costs and the external bonus of being environmentally conscious, having an efficiency-minded program does far more.
When you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiological needs are the first priority, with all other needs suffering until the basics are met. Physiological needs largely refer to one’s safety and health, and there’s a substantial amount of studies that show how energy efficiency supports these needs, improving the thermal comfort of students and faculty and decreasing their sick days.
What’s the value there? Often, US school districts consider average daily attendance of the preceding school year when deciding how much money that district will receive from the state. Increasing attendance rates by even one percent can have a significant impact on school funding. So while taking steps to be more energy efficient is an investment, it’s one that comes with an attractive return. When reinvested into more energy programs, that expanded budget continues to serve both the school and those it within it.
Where Should You Start?
To start boosting your energy efficiency, you should focus on these key areas first: heating and cooling, lighting and ventilation. These are the areas which not only cut utility costs and spread your budget further, but also keep students comfortable and in the classroom.
- Heating and Cooling: More efficient HVAC systems and windows go a long way to reduce costs and promote a healthier, more comfortable environment. Maintaining existing systems is also important to ensure they’re doing their job. Changes like switching to programmable thermostats can save schools as much as 15% on HVAC costs in the long run, and systems like this regulate classroom temperatures to help students stay alert but content.
- Lighting: Natural lighting is obviously the way to go if your school’s design allows for it. The brain and body respond optimally to natural lighting, helping both students and teachers feel a stronger sense of well-being. It also improves their performance. If you can’t go the natural route, consider LED bulbs. Most varieties of these are created to mimic daylight, and their usage has been shown to improve cognition and test scores.
- Ventilation: This key area is the biggest culprit of all three when it comes to absenteeism. Poor ventilation can lead to growth of unseen bacteria and mold, which is particularly hard on students and faculty members with allergies and asthma conditions and can make even the healthiest students sick. When low indoor air quality results in absences, it not only affects people but the school budget as well. Absenteeism costs roughly $30 a student per day, and the average cost per substitute teacher is $100 a day.
Just Paying the Bills
That’s how many schools feel, like they’re just paying the bills without a more conscious plan. A solid program focused on energy efficiency and associated preventive maintenance, however, is what’s needed to not just be spending but be spending wisely.
Done well, an energy-efficient plan can:
- Decrease illness-related absences among students and faculty
- Increase state funding while lowering present and future energy costs
- Promote better academic performance
- Provide a rational explanation of spending to taxpayers and stakeholders
- Help your school or district be a leader in making environmentally conscious decisions
While getting started requires investment, the return is evident. Reframing the way you think about energy efficiency and the role it plays in your school is a very doable win-win-win.
To learn more about energy-conscious decision making in schools, check out SchoolDude’s Tips for Back to School Energy Savings webinar or see how the Gresham-Barlow school district put their energy management plan in place.