Energy & Resiliency

Stretching Your Bond Dollars for Education Facility Upgrades with an Energy Project

Author-Maureen-McDonaldby Maureen McDonaldJun. 12, 2020

With the global pandemic currently affecting nearly every industry, energy projects, needs, and consumption are being brought to the forefront of discussions within the education sphere.

Specifically, with bond dollars becoming available, how do you stretch them to make facility upgrades with an energy project and why should you do so during a global pandemic?

Amid a global pandemic, it may seem odd to turn attention to aging facilities and deferred maintenance, but major repairs or necessary replacement of buildings and equipment won't wait until the pandemic is over. Specifically, COVID-19 will also require facility modifications to ventilation systems and measurement of air quality content (HVAC), changes in room configurations due to social distancing, and technology upgrades and additional equipment. Bond dollars can be used to address the majority of these issues, but there is also more to consider.

Some of these related needs require more than just money. In schools, additional staffing to support small group learning, more transportation options, increased entrances and exits, and enhanced cleaning and maintenance equipment and staff are required just to have spaces efficiently run to maintain the recommended safe guidelines.

The lack of extra funds is not exclusive to the conditions stemming from COVID-19. But, as a solution, utility and operation expense savings can be captured to offset capital cost for needed facility upgrades in light of COVID-19. By projecting the savings from an energy project and through precise planning, districts will be able to invest in additional facility upgrades with saved bond dollars. With planning and coordination, bond dollars can be stretched to meet multiple needs.

The Correlation between Bond Dollars, Facility Needs, and Energy Projects

Accomplish more with bond dollars

Typically bond dollars are used in a variety of ways for facility upgrades and energy needs. Bond dollars can go toward new school construction, new and upgraded technology, school modernization, building modernization, increased safety and security efforts, and new construction and upgrades for athletic facilities like stadiums and gymnasiums. But, with bond dollars typically being used in these ways, how do you make them go further?

Most of the energy operating and utility expenses related to the upgraded facility and energy needs derive from large energy 'eaters' such as the HVAC system, cafeteria/kitchen, gymnasium, and behaviors that don't respect energy usage. By identifying and measuring the energy/utility costs of each, you can reflect them as a percentage of operations, leaving way to reduce these costs and reinvest in the education environment.

Don't miss out on funding opportunities

To address specific needs and to save more in the long term, engage an energy services partner to tap into their expertise regarding energy conservation efforts, equipment efficiency evaluation, financial engineering, and funding allocations (e.g., grants, energy projects, special programs, etc.). It's important to remember that although there are a lot of options, districts do not follow every opportunity to utilize favorable programs that help schools — this is where a trusted partner can assist.

By stretching bond dollars, more projects can be addressed — even during uncertain times"

A trusted partner can identify the potential measures for savings and provide energy efficiency project financing, and solutions for changing energy usage behaviors such as recommending hiring an energy manager to sustain savings and keep staff on track. This creates more opportunities for bond dollars to go toward multiple needs. After developing a scope of work, projects can be financed to use savings for reduced out-of-pocket costs and to pay for projects over time, enhancing cumulative savings over life of the equipment to capture for offsetting capital cost and stretching your limited bond dollars.

With the goal of upgrading facilities and providing a safe environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an ideal upgraded facility would be a Smart building with automatic controls for air, lighting, restrooms, and doors. By using bonds, grants, and/or savings from capital expenditures, all measures can be evaluated and optimized to provide a safe and efficient education environment. By stretching bond dollars, more projects can be addressed — even during uncertain times.