School infrastructure is back in the spotlight. Every building is an opportunity to save energy and save the planet. Schools are a prime example of the sort of environment with high, inflexible energy demands, large population, and complex HVAC systems. That makes them perfect opportunities to make a real difference in the fight against climate change.
The pandemic shed a blinding light on some of our nation’s toughest challenges and weak points. As school districts struggle to navigate remote schooling and worked to bring students back safely, the sorry state of HVAC systems took center stage. One study found more than 36,000 with underperforming heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that put students at risk. These are systems that can’t simply be updated. Most of them are designed around old, inefficient technology, and now is the time to replace these systems as a part of a comprehensive effort to provide a healthy environment for students and improve energy efficiency.
Many schools have HVAC systems and other basic infrastructure systems built over fifty years ago. We may not think of them as infrastructure, but school buildings are the nation’s second-largest infrastructure expense annually. The attention these facilities received during the pandemic focused primarily on ventilation, with schools needed to circulate and replace air efficiently to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus between classrooms. But that attention also exposed the tremendous carbon emissions associated with schools that require heating and cooling for roughly nine months of the year. Schools are responsible for 72 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of 8.6 million homes.
All of the energy costs money. In addition to providing students, teachers, and staff with a healthier learning and working environment, the $130 billion in funding allotted for school infrastructure in the American Jobs Plan will also lower operating expenses. Every dollar saved on heating and cooling is a dollar better spent on improving services and learning opportunities to students by providing teachers and administrators more resources.
There’s ample evidence that our schools need this level of investment. In 1995, 63% of schools were categorized as in serious need of repair. In 2020, 41% of schools need a complete overhaul of ventilation systems.
This level of investment is vital for the improvement of everything from energy-efficient light bulbs to modern air filtration systems. If every building is an opportunity, schools embody tens of thousands of opportunities that we can directly fund for the betterment of generations to come, but we need to act right now.
Ready to learn more about energy efficiency in schools, businesses, or any facility? Contact Keen today!