The Energy Chronicles

Case Study – Des Moines Public Schools Benchmarking & ENERGY STAR® Certification

Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) is a school district in central Iowa consisting of 33,000 students and 71 facilities throughout the city of Des Moines. The DMPS operations department oversees the management and function of all facilities in the district and is charged with ensuring the safe and efficient operation of each building. With such a large portfolio of buildings, each with different layouts, systems, and needs, constant maintenance is needed to keep safe and effective learning environments for students.

DMPS leadership has always valued the concept of efficiency in order to free up general fund dollars which are used to pay utility bills as well as educational materials and teacher’s salaries. Lowering utility expenditures makes more money available for hiring staff and supporting students. Originally, benchmarking was done to find out how the district was performing compared to other districts. Check out the story below to learn more about how DMPS achieved success, and how you can do the same!

Energy Benchmarking

Energy benchmarking is the process of tracking the energy use of a building in order to compare the building’s performance to other similar buildings and to the same building over time.

An ENERGY STAR score ranks a building’s energy use as compared to similar buildings across the country and assigns a 1-100 score that reflects the percentile of efficiency that a building operates with. Buildings rated below 50 are poor performers and often have significant opportunities for improvement and savings. Buildings rated at 75 or higher are eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.

Without benchmarking, it is difficult to compare buildings to each other. Within a district such as DMPS, each building is a different size and has different equipment and needs. Without accurate benchmarking, it is impossible to tell how a large high school is performing compared to a small elementary school. ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is an online benchmarking platform designed to benchmark commercial buildings of all types across the US. Benchmarking through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager takes into account square footage, energy consumption, weather data, and the building use type. Knowing which buildings are low-performers allows for focused maintenance and upgrades to capitalize on the greatest energy savings opportunities first.

When buildings are operating efficiently there are many benefits. Productivity increases when students and teachers are comfortable in their environments, with enough light, enough fresh air, and appropriate temperatures. Building operators often are forced to spend all of their time addressing immediate maintenance and safety concerns in their schools, leaving energy use on the back burner.

Benchmarking for DMPS

Brubaker elementary school entrance

The Energy Group was called in to review the benchmarking efforts of DMPS and to certify the eligible buildings through ENERGY STAR as top performers. TEG reviewed utility billing data to ensure that the schools were on the optimal billing rates. Then, the usage profiles were analyzed to identify energy-saving opportunities. Often, problematic systems within a building can be identified through seasonal and historical analysis of a building’s fuel use. Buildings that were performing poorly as a whole were identified based on their low ENERGY STAR scores.

DMPS had several buildings performing well and rated at 75 or higher, thus qualifying them for ENERGY STAR certification. ENERGY STAR certification is an official label provided to verified high-performing buildings to recognize their achievement as energy-efficient facilities. Certification is awarded on a single building basis and is valid for one year only. Continued certifications prove that a facility has continued to perform at a high level over time.

The Energy Group has the qualified licensed professionals (Professional Engineers) that are needed to verify eligibility for certification. TEG’s engineers measured the air quality and lighting levels throughout DMPS schools in order to ensure a healthy environment. We walked through DMPS buildings to ensure that there were no environmental concerns such as odors, humidity, or temperature problems. TEG verified the benchmarking data and completed the necessary paperwork for the certification applications.

Results of ENERGY STAR Partnership

picture of led lighting Roosevelt high school
LED Lighting in the Roosevelt High School gymnasium

Multiple DMPS buildings received ENERGY STAR certification. The recognition drew attention to the efforts of the operations department and to the district as a whole. Being recognized nationally for doing the right thing has demonstrated leadership and brought notoriety to DMPS.

Efforts to continue yearly certifications for DMPS facilities have continued to put a focus on energy efficiency within the school district.

Standardized set points and set back temperatures, daylighting and occupancy control, CO2 sensors for HVAC control, VFDs, and expanded energy management system presence are all energy efficiency improvements that have been made throughout the DMPS facilities.

DMPS and TEG have an ongoing relationship. Both parties recognize the importance of tracking energy use in order to promote efficiency in the facilities. Every year TEG repeats ENERGY STAR certification for eligible DMPS facilities. DMPS has earned ENERGY STAR’s Partner of the Year award each of the past 8 years for their commitment to leadership in the ENERGY STAR program. The district has saved over $16 million in energy costs and has avoided 25,000 metric tons of carbon emissions since 2008.

The Partner of the Year awards and continued ENERGY STAR certifications have brought local and national recognition to DMPS. The City of Des Moines was ranked #3 on ENERGY STAR’s published list of mid-sized cities in the US with the most ENERGY STAR buildings in 2019. The majority of certified buildings in Des Moines belong to DMPS. Recognition serves to promote the importance of the energy management efforts of the district which constantly reduce carbon emissions, reduce utility costs, maintain healthy indoor environments for students, and free up general fund dollars for education. Preventative maintenance efforts and quick responses to changing conditions are significant factors in energy management. Districts with reputations for being energy efficiency leaders earn the respect, funding, and support that they need for the operations teams to continue doing this important work.

Schools have unique energy challenges. With highly variable operating hours, zones, and desired conditions throughout the facilities, controls systems and real-time monitoring are especially valuable to school districts.

Energy efficiency is comprised of two main factors: equipment and operation. A school with high-efficiency heating, cooling, and lighting can still be an energy hog if this equipment is not operated efficiently. While new equipment only needs to be addressed every once in a while, operations and controls need frequent tuning to maintain peak efficiency.

Benchmarking Your Building

Regular monitoring of energy usage within buildings leads to huge energy and cost savings. Problems are identified quickly and remedied before they multiply. Buildings can avoid paying extra sums of money to their utility companies and instead funnel that money into paying teachers and providing resources to students.

Benchmarking helps identify which facilities present the largest savings potential. ENERGY STAR certification brings positive recognition to those facilities that have made persistent efforts to manage their energy use.

The Energy Group can help your facility develop an energy management program, benchmark your buildings, and apply for ENERGY STAR certification. Contact us today.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *