Results of the second annual “School Energy and Environment Survey” from Honeywell reveal that almost 90 percent of school leaders see a direct link between the quality and performance of school facilities and student achievement. However, districts face several obstacles when it comes to keeping their buildings up-to-date and well-maintained. For example, 68 percent of school districts have delayed or eliminated building improvements in response to the economic downturn.
Gathering input from almost 800 school administrators and school-board members, the survey found that a quarter of respondents have seen district energy costs rise at least 25 percent in the past three years, compared with 17 percent of those polled in 2009. Because of rising utility bills, almost 75 percent of districts have cut spending in key areas, such as maintenance, capital investment, and staffing.
After salaries, utility costs are typically the second largest and most variable district expense, making them a focal point for administrators. Many schools also want to reduce carbon emissions and serve as models of conservation. Other survey findings include:
- Ninety-eight percent of respondents consider energy management important to a district’s long-term success, but more than one-third do not have a strategic plan for managing consumption and costs, similar to findings in 2009.
- More than half of the respondents cited limited funding as the biggest obstacle to launching energy retrofit or renewable-energy projects.
- A majority of school districts applied for some form of stimulus funding through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA); however, only 14 percent devoted those dollars to facility improvements. Most of the money was dedicated to core education programs as well as teacher and staff salaries.
- Almost half of respondents report that the typical age of district buildings is more than 30 years old.
Additionally, while there is growing interest for schools to incorporate sustainable practices into their building operations and curriculum, the survey showed a clear gap between environmental commitments and activity. More than 30 percent of districts have set carbon-reduction goals, but only 6 percent have completed a greenhouse-gas inventory to catalog emissions and create a baseline to measure the impact of related programs.
For detailed survey results, visit www.honeywellnow.com.