A Guide To Greener Schools

One group put together a publication to promote safer buildings.

For facility managers in the education market, it can be hard to know which “green” or “sustainable” practices will actually help reduce costs.

Often, environmentally-friendly terms can mean different things to different individuals.

To clear up this confusion, and based on years of experience, one group put together a publication to offer facility managers guidance.

According to Carolyn Sarno, the “Regional Operations & Maintenance Guide for High Performance Schools and Public Buildings in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,” published by Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), provides pertinent, applicable advice.

“The guide contains operations and management (O&M) procedures that will lead to overall improvements in the working and learning environment, including reduced operating costs, healthier indoor air, improved comfort, reduced water consumption and improved environmental stewardship,” Sarno says.

“O&M procedures targeted at energy efficiency can save 5 to 20 percent on a building’s energy bills. These savings can total up to hundreds of thousands dollars annually, and many can be achieved at no to little cost.”

The following tips are included in this guide for schools and other public buildings.

Tracking Energy Use

A building’s energy usage can be tracked using simple tools or spreadsheets, according to Sarno.

Once usage numbers are known, a good follow-up step is a building audit.

“Audits typically cover everything from building occupancy schedules to utility billing data to surveys of plug loads such as computers, copiers, vending machines and more,” Sarno says.

Lighting Maintenance

Proper lighting system maintenance will improve lighting levels, encourage efficient operation and keep energy costs under control, Sarno notes.

Sarno recommends the following maintenance schedule:

  • Periodic cleaning of lamps, lenses and fixture surfaces (annually or more often)
  • Visual inspection for faded or flickering lamps
  • Measurement of light levels with a simple foot-candle meter to address low-light level complaints
  • Inspection of manual and automatic controls for proper function and to make sure controls have not been disabled
  • Cataloging and stocking of proper replacement lamps and ballasts
  • Replacement of all incandescent lamps with the appropriate compact fluorescent lamp or a complete linear fluorescent fixture
  • Lamp recycling policy and a proper storage place for lamps waiting to be recycled.

Exterior Water Use

Commonly, large amounts of potable water are used to irrigate landscaping and playing fields, Sarno states.

“The use of potable water for irrigation can be minimized or eliminated by specifying drought tolerant plants and grasses, collecting and using rainwater for irrigation, and/or using highly water-efficient irrigation systems,” Sarno says. “When specifying water conservative plants, determine soil composition and ensure that existing soils will support the specified plants.”

Also, if irrigation must occur, it is best to irrigate during morning hours to increase the benefits and ease evaporation, according to Sarno.

Cleaning Green

“Approximately five billion pounds of chemicals are used in the United States each year to clean and maintain institutional and commercial buildings,” Sarno reveals.

“The majority of these products are derived from non-renewable natural resources, and for the vast majority of the 70,000-plus ingredients used to make these products, little testing has been conducted to evaluate long-term effects on children or the environment.”

Sarno says that the highest-risk chemicals should be distributed using a sign-out system, and workers should be properly trained on minimizing chemical use.

Also, the highest-risk chemicals should be eliminated after in-the-field testing finds acceptable substitutes.

For a free download of the NEEP guide, either in whole or divided by chapter, visit

For more information or answers to any questions you may have, contact Carolyn Sarno can be reached at [email protected] or (781) 860-9177 ext, 119.

Posted On March 21, 2014

Phillip Lawless

Phillip Lawless is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has over 15 years of professional writing and editing experience.

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