Refine Your Vision of Sustainability Using Data
In my previous post I shared the importance of establishing a baseline for energy performance, setting goals and developing a plan as the first steps to a more sustainable operation. For public sector organizations hoping to identify existing conditions, I suggest contacting your State Energy Office. Many states offer basic energy audits at little, to no cost. If a State does not offer options to provide energy audits, there are a number of Energy Service Companies (ESCO’s) that may offer audit services as a standalone service or part of a larger comprehensive energy management program.
If your organization chooses to conduct an audit, I strongly recommend staff in the business office, facilities maintenance department, building level supervisors, and senior staff be well informed and supportive of the project. The reason being is, even if the audit is a basic Level I assessment, a number of documents will need to be gathered, copied and provided to the audit team. These documents include electric and natural gas utility bills from the previous 14-18 months, floor plans, building occupancy information such as capacity and operating hours, as well as technical information on the facility’s heating and air conditioning systems. All involved must be willing and able to provide the necessary documentation. Failing to do so will provide an incomplete energy profile.
What is most important to each of us is our health. During a routine physical would you want your doctor to give you recommendations on your health after only recording your height and weight? Of course not, physicians gather all kinds of data, including health history, in order to understand what’s going on with their patients. Energy audits are no different. If a key piece of data is missing, developing effective short and long term sustainability plans is not possible. If the commitment to gather all necessary data is not established at the onset, valuable time and effort will be wasted. Worse, yet, the momentum will be halted.
Let’s assume all parties involved are committed to engage an auditing firm and work together to ensure a successful audit. The firm you select should not only be experienced in performing the audit, their staff should also possess the skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a fundamental analysis of the collected data, provide a consumption profile, identify areas of concern, and offer some basic corrective actions.
Ok, the audit is complete, well done! What do you do with all of this valuable data?
Answer: It becomes the foundation upon which you build or refine your organization’s vision to act in a more environmentally and fiscally responsible. If you’re reading this post you are most likely involved, or would like to be involved, with sustainability efforts within your organization. All sustainability efforts must be harnessed by guiding principles supported by a vision or mission to improve. Disorganized actions will lead to frustration, followed by a lack of interest. Eventually, progress will simply stop. Data is so powerful. It tells us how things are, validates actions, monitors progress, inspires us, and provides direction.
So now you know that one of the first steps to improve your portfolio of sustainability efforts is to develop a vision rooted by your data. By the way, commit your vision to writing and refer to it often. Develop a motivating slogan or “brand” that encapsulates your vision. Add this statement to your meeting agendas and promotional material. Major sports teams and product brands use this technique to make sure their players remain focused, “keep your eyes on the prize”. Sustainability is within your reach, make the commitment.
Does your organization use data to refine your sustainability vision? Share your thoughts in the comments!