Fulton County Schools, Atlanta
Fulton County Schools operates its school system on
data. Whether the 92,000-student school
system in the Atlanta area is evaluating student work, bus driver efficiency or
teachers, Fulton benchmarks, eyes the data, sets quantifiable goals, and
analyzes the results. In fact, Education Week recently profiled the
school system for their data-driven decision-making in all facets of the
So when Russell Holly, Coordinator of Utility Services, and
Joseph Clements, Executive Director of Facilities Services, set out to cut
energy use in the sprawling school system’s 100 plus buildings, data drove the
planning and methodology. It wasn’t long
before results started showing. In
December 2010, the system was recognized with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Leader
award as a Top Performer, meaning it has achieved an energy efficiency
portfolio rating for the school system’s overall score exceeded Energy Star
Only 50 school
systems in the United States were recognized as Top Performers for 2010 and, of
those, Fulton had the most labeled buildings. Continuing the mission of saving energy and the associated expenses led
to Fulton County Schools to being recognized in 2011 for making an additional
10 percent improvement in the system’s energy performance to achieve an Energy Star
portfolio rating of 83.
According to Clements, Fulton has the fourth most Energy
Star buildings of any school system in the United States.
Atlanta ranked sixth in the nation in the number of Energy Star labeled
buildings in 2010 and Fulton’s schools accounted for 83 of Atlanta’s 201 labeled
buildings. Facilities must achieve a
minimum energy score of 75 and meet additional requirements to receive a label.
Energy Star labeled buildings cost 40 cents less per square
foot per year to operate than the average school, so the system’s 15 million
square feet of facilities translates into more than $6 million per year in reduced
energy costs. “Part of the cost reduction is related to a lighting retrofit, which
generated $600,000 per year in energy savings” says Holly.
Why undertake Energy Star designation, and more broadly
energy conservation? “To be good stewards of tax money,” says Clements. “It’s a good ROI for us, more than a LEED
building or planting grass on the roofs. Energy Star is a good way to compare since it
is weather adjusted.” In 2008, the school system began to use the Energy Star
Portfolio Manager to benchmark individual facilities and also benchmark
performance against schools on a regional and national basis.
Holly says Fulton’s new prototype schools are designed to be
efficient and qualify for the Energy Star label. “Our new elementary schools are designed so
it would be hard for them not to qualify – like entering a hybrid car in a gas
mileage contest, with 22 out of 22 new schools earning the Energy Star label.”
Even though all those schools qualify, operating them more efficiently can get
an even higher Energy Star score.
“Our HVAC systems have an incredibly efficient design. We
separate fresh air intake from the heating and cooling of the facility and
installed dedicated units so we don't have to turn on large areas for partial
occupancy. We have zones that operate
during the summer and evening hours separate from the classrooms, such as the cafeteria
and gym, designed the way we operate the school. We zone our HVAC to allow after-hours operation
for teachers staying late while unused classrooms don't have to be on. ‘Design up front to be more efficient later
on’ is our mantra” said Holly.
For schools without the latest in energy saving design,
Fulton’s Utilities Services Department works with available technology to
control what they can from a central location. “We can’t compare older schools
to new ones, but technology certainly helps.” says Holly. “Key sensors tell us when the areas are cold
or hot, and we can check and find out why. Preventive maintenance contracts
also help us keep our usage down. We
monitor electric and gas usage on real time basis for most schools, allowing
quicker feedback on identifying proper operation and energy waste. After school hours, we make sure power usage
The next step in energy conservation is participation by the
school-based employees and students with items in their control. “We educate
everyone and remind teachers to turn off lights and computers, and limit HVAC overrides,”
says Holly. Small things add up; it’s
not much different than at home.
Russell Holly, CEM, Coordinator, Utilities ServicesJoseph Clements, PE CEM, Executive Director Facilities Services
Judges will add the point totals for each submission to
help choose the winners in each of the four categories.
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