School Energy Efficiency Assessment and Assistance Project

Grant # 06-04
Principal Investigator: Patricia Higby
Organization: University of Northern Iowa, Center for Energy and Environmental Education
Technical Area: Energy Efficiency


In the US, school districts are spending large amounts of money, an estimated $6 billion each year, on energy and energy related costs. The increased price of natural gas and gasoline, an after effect of Hurricane Katrina and Wilma, has made it even more difficult for Iowa schools and school districts to pay their energy bills which are traditionally the second or third largest expenditures for schools. However, as stated in this project’s abstract, “Energy bills can be reduced by 25-30% through efficiency and conservation measures. Energy savings of 5-15% can be achieved at low or no cost changes to school operations and maintenance practices and participation by students, teachers and staff in energy education programs.” Although energy savings have been proven, there are still many Iowa schools that have not adopted these practices and the reasons behind this decision are not clear. Therefore, The Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE) has hired Strategic Marketing Services to assess the current energy situation in Iowa Schools.


SMS has been tasked to gather information on a number of issues related to energy efficiency and Iowa schools from administrators across the state. Specifically, the online research portion of the project has been designed to:
• Forecast trends related to energy costs, school district populations, expenditures, challenges, etc.
• Evaluate current levels of energy efficiency practices and identify barriers to making more buildings and tasks energy efficient.
• Assess renovation plans and factors driving the plans.
• Identify where school administrations gather information and what sources are most widely used.
• Quantify how many schools currently have written policies on energy efficiency and determine likelihood to implement energy efficiency programs.
• Assess familiarity with Iowa Energy programs, their usage and outcomes.
• Create a list of participants who would like more information on energy efficiency programs.

Executive Summary: (Final Report – April 2007)

Knowledge of energy efficiency issues is low among the respondent group.
• Overall, little is known about energy efficiency processes even though there was some indication of general understanding. About one-third of the respondent group was not very familiar with school energy efficiency options; furthermore 40% believe they have a general understanding of the topic but no direct experience with it. Only one-third were familiar with a school district that had at least one highly energy efficient classroom building. Less than 30% of the group regularly reads articles about energy efficiency and only 16% have attended a workshop or presentation about energy efficiency.

Many believe energy efficient buildings offer the same level of personal comfort as traditional structures, but cost more initially.
• Among the respondent group, almost 90% thought energy efficient buildings would cost more initially than traditional structures. Roughly 90% also believed that energy efficient buildings offer the same level of personal comfort as traditional structures. With the budget constraints facing many of the school districts across the country, many may not be able or willing to justify the additional upfront expenditures for a structure they believe to offer the same level of comfort as a building that will cost less to renovate or build.

It appears that about one-third of the school buildings across the state are not at all energy efficient, but many are already employing energy saving techniques.
• Rough estimates suggest about half of the district buildings are somewhat energy efficient and a smaller portion, estimated at 15%, are highly energy efficient. One-third was still reported as not at all energy efficient.
• Only 10% have not done anything significant to reduce energy usage/costs in classrooms over the past three years. Almost 40% employed bulk fuel purchasing while about 36% participated in an energy audit survey and implemented staff and/or student energy conservation programs. High efficiency HVAC retrofits were completed by 27% of the group and about 20% had started to implement the recommendations from their energy audit.

Energy audits are becoming more prevalent among school districts, however implementation is low.
• About half of the respondent group indicated that an energy audit had been completed for their district, the majority of which have taken place since 2005. Of those who have had an energy audit, over 60% reported implementation of only a few or none of the recommendations. Furthermore, less than 5% had implemented all of the recommendations made by the audit.
• Almost 40% of the same group rated their most recent energy audit as neither ineffective nor effective. Only an approximate one-third believed it to be effective to any degree.

Written energy efficiency policies for building construction or renovation are not common among school districts.
• Less than 5% of the respondent group actually had a written energy efficiency policy for building construction or renovation. Of the few who did, implementation responsibility was given most often to the facilities or buildings and grounds departments. Although written policies were not common, half of the group rated it to be somewhat effective, with an additional 40% who indicated the policy to be very effective. None of the participants felt the policy was ineffective to any degree, as the remaining respondents had indicated the policy to be neutral. The most common difficulties with implementation of these policies was monitoring usage and maintaining consistent compliance. Changing established behaviors was also listed as an obstacle to implementation.

Wind and solar energy has been investigated by some, but few have yet to install wind or solar energy.
• Almost 30% of school districts had investigated information about installing wind or solar energy. Of that 30%, only 13% installed wind or solar energy. The group who didn’t install wind or solar energy reported the process to be too cost prohibitive or not cost effective. Many others were not in a location that lends itself well to wind and solar energy; therefore they have chosen to pass on wind and solar energy. Those who have wind or solar energy found most of their background information from energy utility companies and other school districts. They report cost savings as the most positive outcome, but also reported mechanical problems as the most negative outcome.

The level of familiarity and usage among the respondent group was low.
• When asked to rate their level of familiarity with the six programs listed below, most respondents indicated they were not very familiar with any of the programs, as all mean scores were below the midpoint of two on a zero to four scale. The most familiarity was reported with local utility’s energy efficiency programs with a mean of 1.58. The least was with The Iowa Energy Center’s Energy Resource Station and Alternate Energy
Revolving Loan Program with means of 0.29 and 0.39 respectively.
–Iowa Department of Education’s Education Program-Consultant Infrastructure
–Iowa Energy Center’s Energy Resource Station
–Iowa Energy Center’s Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program
–Local utility’s energy efficiency programs
–Energy Service/Performance Contractors
–Iowa Energy Bank

• Local utility energy efficiency programs were the most recognized and the most used with approximately 53% of respondents whose districts had used these programs. Roughly 85% had never used or hired Energy Service/Performance Contractors and the Iowa Department of Education’s School Facilities/Infrastructure Unit. Between 95% and 97% had never used Energy Bank financing, the Iowa Energy Center’s Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program or the Iowa Energy Center’s Energy Resource Station.

Although few have participated, satisfaction levels were high.
• Of the few participants, none reported dissatisfaction with the Iowa Energy Center’s Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program, the Iowa Energy Center’s Energy Resource Station, the Iowa Department of Education’s Facilities/Infrastructure Unit and the Iowa Energy Bank. Roughly 5% of the 15% who have used Energy Service/Performance Contractors were dissatisfied to any degree. Furthermore, less than 2% of the 53% who have used local utility energy efficiency programs were somewhat dissatisfied.

School board members were reported to be most influential in the decision making process.
• Almost 40% of respondents reported the school board has the greatest influence on their decisions regarding energy efficiency implementations. Architects and superintendents followed but were selected by less than 20% of the group respectively. Least influential were school business officials and energy supplier/utility company with 2.5% and 3.4% respectively.
• Of 124 people who had at least one highly energy efficient school building in their district, roughly one-third reported that a person in the administration or on the school board insisted on “green” options. Another one-third stated an emphasis on long-term budgeting was a driving force.
• The most important consideration when designing or renovating classroom buildings was initial cost with a mean of 1.66. Following closely with means of 1.78 and 1.83 were improved student/teacher performance and lifecycle cost.
• The most important consideration when hiring an architectural/engineering design firm was their previous experience with the district with a mean of 1.45. Decision makers also prefer firms with knowledge of energy efficient design concepts (2.27).

Architectural/Engineering Firms top the list of “who to consult when building green.”
• The majority of respondents would consult architects/engineers about energy options when constructing or renovating existing buildings. Many also considered energy/utility companies to be a good source of information followed by contractors/construction management firms. Many would turn to the same types of people when looking for information on funding or financing efficiency improvements, although a large portion of respondents were not sure of who to consult about funding specifically.

Costs of energy are expected to rise and new construction/renovations are planned.
• Almost 98% believed the unit cost of energy will increase over the next five years, with 54% who believed it would significantly increase. Although almost 40% of the group believed their school district’s population would decrease, there were districts planning to construct/renovate in the next five years. Almost 30% planned to renovate 1-2 buildings with an additional 10% planning to renovate 3-4. Almost 10% believed they would renovate 7 or more buildings in the short term. Furthermore, more than one-fourth of the group planned to build 1-2 new buildings in the next five years.

Schools are looking for ways to achieve energy savings through energy efficiency.
• Almost 87% were believed to be somewhat or very likely to implement programs that could cost effectively achieve energy savings of 5-15% through behavioral changes. Roughly 78% were somewhat or very likely to implement projects that have the potential to cost effectively reduce energy consumption by 25-30% through design improvements or installation of energy efficient equipment.
• Almost 70% were somewhat likely to consider using their local utility’s energy efficiency programs in the next three years, with an additional 10% who were very likely. Roughly 60% were somewhat or very likely to consider using services provided by the Iowa Department of Education’s School Facilities/Infrastructure Unit.

Just over 50% were somewhat or very likely to consider using services provided by Energy Service/Performance Contractors and services provided by the Energy Bank. Approximately 47% were somewhat or very likely to consider using the Iowa Energy Center’s Resource Station, while 43% were likely to consider using the Iowa Energy Center’s Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program in the near future.