Energy efficiency

By Ken Smith

Idlewild is one of three Southern Baptist churches to receive the Energy Star Award.

Idlewild Baptist Church, Lutz, FL, opened its 440,000-square-foot facility – after relocating twice in 12 years – in 2005 and has 10,000 members.

From the start, energy was a major consideration for the facility and was therefore incorporated into the design phase and the selection of equipment. Energy-influenced decisions included the choice of tinted windows and a light-colored roof to reduce solar heat load. Energy Star-qualified appliances were chosen and placed throughout the facility, including washers, dryers, refrigerators and dishwashers.

Rather than select lower-cost but less-efficient items, higher-efficiency water fixtures, chillers and lighting fixtures were specified. The installation of a complete building automation system enabled control of the HVAC, and occupancy sensors were installed in most rooms to control the electrical loads. Further investment was made to permit and drill a well, which is used for both landscape irrigation and a chiller water tower.

“Building an energy-efficient facility is just the beginning,” says Robert Wilson, facilities manager. “We began benchmarking our energy use, comparing our facility to existing churches in operation at that time. Initial energy budgets forecast that IBC would use similar amounts of energy to facilities in approximately the same climate zone.”

Curbing consumption
Wilson, along with his predecessor, Tony Pasley, began a program that was both attentive and aggressive to monitor and curb energy consumption. Quarterly meetings are held with utility providers to understand load profiles and usage. This data is used to set priorities and systematically work on areas to reduce consumption. A full mechanical maintenance contract was signed to cover chiller repair, but more importantly, to provide preventative maintenance for all three chillers.

Since they were first installed, chiller flows and data from the automated system were monitored and analyzed, and systems were reprogrammed in pursuit of continuous improvement based on observed data. IBC also began an ongoing maintenance program with Siemens Building Technologies to maintain and optimize the automation system which controls lighting and HVAC devices throughout the facility.

“We launched several initiatives to maximize the automation system, and we continue doing that,” Wilson says. “A Siemens technology specialist spends one day a week here to help us maintain a focus on energy reduction.”

One major step was to upgrade the lighting system to increase zoning and the level of control. This gave IBC the ability to control each classroom and area of the building individually. With both integrated system control and a zone scheduling system, operators schedule individual rooms based on daily activities. Then the scheduling system coordinates with the Siemens automation system to heat, cool, ventilate and light rooms according to the schedule.

IBC’s technology investments include the capability for remote, wireless laptop monitoring and operator control of HVAC system adjustments in real time during high usage events such as Sunday services. This also gives building managers the ability to check remotely on building status or verify reported conditions.

Entering into a long-term gas purchase agreement has reduced the volatility risk and stabilized future monthly and annual natural gas costs.

Ongoing improvements
“We’ve accomplished quite a bit,” says Wilson, “but we believe energy management requires ongoing improvements. We’re currently facing an electricity demand charge increase from $7 to $11 per kilowatt (kW). Two of the biggest users are lighting and HVAC so we’re continuing to pursue enhancements to the sequence and control of the chillers and other equipment for heating and cooling.”

Portfolio Manager, a free online tool from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, has become Idlewild’s formal benchmarking tool and a way to explore new opportunities for efficiency. The 2006 calendar year was entered as the baseline and results showed a 15 percent reduction in 2008 electrical consumption. Portfolio Manager has also been used to run simulations such as comparisons to an average K-12 school.

The monthly finance committee meetings include an agenda item for discussions of operations and energy costs. Finally, both administrative and building management teams look for networking opportunities where they can share their knowledge with other congregations and learn what others are doing.

This aggressive program has yielded an 18 percent energy reduction from calendar year 2006 to 2008. The first half of 2009 shows a 26 percent reduction compared to 2006. The implementation of enhanced control has resulted in improved occupant comfort and reduced costs. Tightened zoning allows each classroom to be controlled individually with minimal energy use. Vacancy sequencing permits humidity and temperature to be maintained within specified offset limits which supports fast recovery for occupancy mode.

Idlewild Baptist estimates saving more than $25,600 annually in energy costs for the operation of their house of worship. The savings of more than 264,000 kWh  and almost 3,600 therms of natural gas per year represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 40 homes.

“We will continue to pursue energy reduction by tweaking and closely monitoring the building automation system wherever we can without curtailing activities or programs,” Wilson says. Even though IBC has seen an increase in activity of events utilizing the facility more, they have continued to reduce the energy usage an additional average annually 5.5 percent since 2009, thus allowing the savings to be redirected to increased outreach and ministry programs.

Ken Smith is minister of administration at Idlewild Baptist Church, Lutz, FL. Three Southern Baptist churches have received the Energy Star Award: Prestonwood Baptist, Plano, TX; First Baptist Church of Springdale, AR; and Idlewild.


One Response to “Energy efficiency”

  1. Wow, what an informative blog post on designing and equipping churches for energy efficiency! It’s great to see the emphasis on incorporating sustainable practices into church buildings. Energy-efficient design and equipment not only reduce environmental impact but also help save costs in the long run. The tips and insights shared in the article are valuable for any religious organization looking to make their facilities more energy-efficient. Kudos to Church Executive for providing such practical guidance to support sustainable efforts within the faith community. Keep up the excellent work!

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