Back to school with Buddy Ohm

Written by April Wright
Back to school - Whitefish - Blog

This past week we’ve watched as loved ones share their back to school photos before heading off for their first day. It’s an exciting time of year for students—one chock-full of new beginnings, new classrooms and teachers, and educational advancement. For facilities and operations staff who run and manage these buildings, however, a new school year is full of student and teacher comfort to be conscious of, risks to mitigate, and budgets to keep; which all together can be quite challenging.

Kindergarten through high school buildings in the U.S. spend an average of 67 cents per square foot (ft2) on electricity and 19 cents/ft2 on natural gas annually[1]. The costs at a college campus are a bit higher at $1.10 per square ft2 on electricity and 18 cents on natural gas annually[2]. While energy costs are slightly different, both K-12 and colleges and universities have tight facility budgets. Every dollar counts because a dollar saved is one that can go back into other areas of educational improvement.

The great news is that top energy-performing schools use three times less energy than the least efficient schools[1]. That’s why we’re excited to be working with school districts and colleges across the country to help them become a top energy-performing school.

Over the next month, we’ll feature a handful of schools and/or colleges. Each one has unique energy and monitoring challenges to solve over the Fall semester.

Whitefish School District
In March we announced our plans with the Whitefish School District at our annual Buddy Connect event. Whitefish School District officially opened their Center for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (CSE) in April, the state’s first net-zero facility, including classrooms, laboratories, a greenhouse, energy systems, production gardens, orchards and an experimental forest. It’s an ambitious project, but one that is critical for a sustainable-focused community that sits at the base of Glacier National Park.

To help achieve net-zero, the Whitefish School District installed Buddy Ohm to help monitor its real-time energy use throughout the year. The building is measuring 11 unique electricity data points, temperature and humidity for each floor, the greenhouse as well as water, and a water meter is soon to be installed. With all of these data points in place, Whitefish School District will be working first to establish a baseline and then to set goals to help reduce its energy use.

Every part of the CSE building is designed to be used as learning opportunities for the students, so to champion the project, Whitefish has designated two student interns for the year. This summer, the Buddy team has worked with Whitefish to create a study guide to provide the students with the fundamentals on Ohm, energy and power, and how to use Buddy Ohm to monitor energy use. In October the student interns will travel to Seattle to meet with various members of the team to learn how educational paths in data analytics, science, etc., translate into jobs. During this trip, they’ll also lean on our team and external experts to develop an energy monitoring plan for the CSE and larger Whitefish School community.

Stay tuned next week as we share another school’s plans for the Fall semester.