Sustainable Schools … use real data to INCREASE TRANSPARENCY and enjoy a successful future.

Rick Imig sharing a sustainability concept at the Spring User Conference in Longmont, Colorado.

The term “sustainable” has been used for a number of years.  It is most often related to environmental issues but it encompasses so much more.

The most common definition of sustainability:
“…meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
- United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987

So you might be asking, “what does school facility benchmarking have to do with sustainability?”  Actually, several things:

  1. Energy Use - $4 gasoline certainly has gotten the attention of a lot more people.  “Business as usual” energy sourcing and consumption will compromise the ability of our future generations to meet their needs.  Benchmarking energy use can raise awareness.  But until we actually do something to change the numbers the comparisons are pretty worthless.  The difference between where our current study group operates and where leading districts operate, is one entire power plant!  The purpose of our school facility benchmarking is to identify and implement best practices into the schools. 

  2. Economic – This relates to the overall effectiveness of the facilities group.  This is a bigger deal than saving money.  Follow the logic.  A key metric of school funding is the number of dollars per student.  If more dollars go for operations, maintenance, and utilities; less dollars go to teachers, books, and classroom needs.  It is really a discussion about waste and poor leadership.  A poorly run facilities operation is taking money away from the community and the students they are trying to educate.  The answer is not always to drive to “less dollars”.  We are trying to drive towards the “right dollars”.  Production and Production Capability.  A well led facilities organization is on top of their game.  They train, they do PM, they do capital forecasting, they plan, they communicate, they focus on process improvement, efficiency, and effectiveness.  Benchmarking can help highlight the issues and the incentive for change.

  3. Environmental – “Green Schools”, L.E.E.D Certified Schools, are getting more consideration by more districts.  Many have been built and more are under construction.  Benchmarking helps us understand how they perform vs. traditional designs.  What is the water usage?   What about cooling and heating demands?  What about initial construction cost?  A sustainable design will be attractive economically.  A design that is expensive will drive some constituents away.  Economically attractive designs will “self-perpetuate” and have widespread implementation.  As we benchmark, we ask questions and share ideas.  Then we learn.  As we learn, we improve, and we develop approaches that are more sustainable.   Even a task that appears easy – cleaning a floor, gets a new look.  What chemicals are being used?  Are we buying them because of initial cost or life-cycle cost?  How are they being disposed of?  Are we designing buildings with the right floor coverings?  Sustainable designs look at a bigger picture.

Effective benchmarking gets us on the road to sustainability.  Good designs, good practices, good equipment, good processes, and good leadership will pass on a good legacy.

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