Nickels and dimes, millions of times: SBTS energy conservation strategy to save thousands

Communications Staff — March 4, 2010

Dan Diffey looks at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary differently than most students and staff members. Most admire the campus’ stately buildings, the inspiring steeple of Alumni Memorial Chapel and Southern’s manicured grounds. Diffey looks around and sees the “on” light of unmanned computers, air conditioning units working in overdrive and light bulbs burning bright. Ultimately, he see money being tossed away.

In August 2009, Diffey joined Southern’s operations department as the energy education specialist, a position that allows him to explore the SBTS campus and find ways to make it more energy efficient. Last year the campus administration adopted a collection of energy management guidelines and Diffey was brought on board to facilitate those guidelines.

“Our ultimate goal is to save money,” Diffey said. “It is all about being good stewards of our money and being better stewards of our environment – which is important.”

Diffey — who jokingly refers to himself as Southern Seminary’s “Energy Tsar” — works directly with representatives of Energy Education, a company responsible for creating and helping implement customized energy conservation programs for K-12 school districts, institutions of higher education and large churches.

In 2009, Southern entered a multi-year partnership with Energy Education to learn how to heighten efficiency and ultimately save budget funds. Diffey reviews data and tours campus facilities with the Sodexo facilities management team and Energy Education representatives, who are on campus at least twice a month, and then seeks to implement cost saving measures.

Diffey reports that with the support of Sodexo, and the campus community, Southern is planning on saving at least 20 percent on 2010 energy expenditures with these new energy conservation initiatives, which equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

“In the first six months of the program we’ve saved more than $115,000,” Diffey said. “And we’re about to step up into even more cost savings.

“In the first phase of the program we’ve focused on some big things, like making sure that were only heating and cooling facilities when needed and making sure that were not keeping lighting on when unnecessary. The Chapel for instance, costs more than $2 per hour to light, that doesn’t sounds like much, but that is about $50 a day, which computes to over $15,000 a year to light the chapel. If no one is using that facility, we should keep those lights off.”

Diffey is starting to focus on smaller things, like asking employees to turn their computers off at the end of the work day and turning lights off when rooms and offices are empty, which will compute into thousands of dollars in savings.

“If every individual would turn their computer off when they leave for the evening they would each save the seminary between $150 and $300 each year. We have enough employees for that to mean saving thousands of dollars each year,” Diffey said.

“We’re just in the habit of keeping things on. When you keep the lights on, even in small room, you’re talking about a couple hundred dollars a year. That is why I am the energy educator; I hope to make people conscious about how much money they consume in using energy when it is not necessary.”

Individual staff members will be asked to take responsibility for their own workspace and each office will have a point person who will work directly with Diffey.

“We are not trying to make people feel uncomfortable, we’re just asking them to be good stewards,” Diffey said. “When you set guidelines or general principles, there are always exceptions. We are just trying to save nickels and dimes, thousands of times a year. That turns into significant amounts of money, which can be used towards better things, like furthering the mission of Southern.”

Some general energy management guidelines will include:

1. Staff members are responsible for implementing the guidelines during the time that he/she is present in the classroom/office

2. All office machines (copy machines, laminating equipment, etc.) shall be switched off each night and during unoccupied times. Fax machines should remain on.

3. All computers should be turned off each night. This includes the monitor, local printer and speakers. Network equipment is excluded.

4. All capable PC’s should be programmed for the “energy saver” mode using the power management feature. If network constraints restrict this for the PC, ensure the monitor “sleeps” after 10-minutes of inactivity.

5. Temperature settings on thermostats should be about 68 degrees in the winter and 72 in the summer.

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