District 88 schools report increased energy efficiency

NEW ULM – Energy efficiency upgrades are paying off at District 88 Schools, reports Facilities Director Scott Hogen.

Jefferson Elementary School has an Energy Star score of 92, which means it is operating more efficiently than 92 percent of similar buildings nationwide, reports Hogen. Washington school’s corresponding rating is 96, and the New Ulm High School score is 89, according to Hogen.

The Energy Star program, which awards efficiency ratings to public and commercial buildings, is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

It is a free, voluntary program that gives building managers a tool to understand how their buildings’ energy consumption measures up against similar buildings nationwide. The Energy Star score allows everyone to quickly understand how a building is performing. A score of 50 represents median energy performance, while a score of 75 or better indicates a building is a top performer and may be eligible for Energy Star certification.

Based on actual, measured data, the Energy Star score assesses how a building is performing as a whole: its assets, its operations and how the people inside it use it. It takes into account factors such as hours of operation and user density, for example.

The Energy Star score for K-12 schools applies to buildings or campuses used as a school for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The objective of the Energy Star score is to provide a fair assessment of the energy performance of a property relative to its peers, taking into account the climate, weather and business activities at the property.

Hogen has been specifically and concertedly tracking energy usage in District 88 buildings since 2007, the year of completion of a multi-million dollar heating and ventilation project. The project was necessitated by the discovery of mold in the District 88 buildings. It involved replacement of heating and ventilation systems. The buildings were newly air-conditioned.

Energy efficiency has improved since the baseline year of 2007, reports Hogen. Jefferson School’s score increased from 79 in 2007 to 92 in 2013; Washington’s from 92 to 96; and the High School’s from 75 to 89.

Besides a continual fine-tuning of the heating, AC and ventilation systems, Hogen credits increased energy efficiency to the ongoing investment. Over the period tracked, the district has installed new boilers and new, triple-pane energy efficient windows at the school sites. It has gone through two rounds of lighting upgrades, putting in increasingly efficient light bulbs.

The projects have helped save the district an average of $21,500 per year, or $129,000 total, in utility spending since the baseline year, calculates Hogen.

He specifies that 2,738,019 KBTUs were saved in 2013 compared to 2007. Rebates from New Ulm Public Utilities have helped create these savings, adds Hogen.

Hogen and custodians continue to monitor equipment room by room, checking each unit for efficiency.

“We want to keep track and stay as efficient as we can, yet healthy,” said Hogen.

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