Over the past decade Sustainable Schools has analyzed the actual energy performance of Ontario’s 5,000 K-12 schools along with data from reputed high-performance schools across North America. No correlation has been found with building age or any particular HVAC system design. Indeed, some of the early research into schools funded under the federal Commercial Building Incentive Program found no overall improvement due to additional investment and that some intended energy efficient design improvements, such as ventilation heat recovery equipment, were actually counter-productive, adding more in fan power than was saved in heating energy use. More recently, we have begun looking into applications of ground-source heat pumps of which there are 50 reported in Ontario’s schools. Despite the additional investment, only a few operate as efficiently as the best of conventionally heated schools while most are at or above the median energy use of all schools.
The accumulation of data over the years indicate that the fundamentals of high energy efficiency lie not in additional investment but rather in design standards, commissioning, operations, building automation and organizational alignment. All of these can be accomplished with today’s good practice technology and strong attention to detail.