In 1872, a small, determined congregation pooled their hard earned money to purchase the original building of The First Baptist Church of Dallas (FBC-Dallas). The cornerstone of the current sanctuary was laid in downtown Dallas in 1891. Six city blocks and seven major buildings later, First Baptist Dallas stresses a commitment to "serving the Lord by loving others well and standing firm on biblical truth."
Created as a separate ministry, First Baptist Academy (FBA) opened its doors in September 1972, with 127 students in grades K-7. The first senior class graduated in 1977 and today the K-12 student body stands at 600 representing 110 zip codes and the more than 210 area churches they attend. FBA is part of the more than 1 million square feet that make-up the FBC-Dallas campus. The school benefits from being within walking distance of DART rail service as well as the Dallas Art District which creates a unique cultural environment for students with an art museum, symphony center, and performing arts center all nearby.
In late 2007, church leadership became increasingly concerned with the utility budget and steadily rising utility rates. The need to manage costs was one part of it, but the church leadership was also aware of an important stewardship role in protecting the environment which they believed was a biblically rooted task from God. "With a church our size, we should be at the forefront of demonstrating energy-efficient, green solutions," says Gary James, FBC-Dallas energy education manager. "We need to show leadership that other churches and our members can follow. That's why we view our program as being about energy 'stewardship,' and not just energy conservation."
"I think our story is best told by the numbers," James continues. "We were spending close to $1.4 million for utilities before our program began. For 2009, we project that will be down to about $1 million. In just the first 10 months of our program, we managed to save close to $400,000. The amount should grow to $450,000 when we reach a full 12 months."
James credits three major factors for the program's success: strong support from the executive staff; an outstanding facilities department; and the help of Energy Education, Inc., a Dallas-based consulting firm that is partnering with the church in developing and monitoring an energy efficiency program. The firm assists with the performance of routine energy audits, makes changes to equipment usage patterns, helps uncover billing errors and metering inconsistencies, trains staff on capturing and analyzing data, identifies equipment that is not working properly, and reconfigures facility usage patterns. Energy Education was ENERGY STAR service and product provider Partner of the Year in 2009.
To maximize savings, focus is on three critical areas: mechanical configurations, energy accounting and changing people's consumption habits by teaching energy education and awareness. "We want to create an energy conservation ethic and culture that will continue to yield results," James says.
The position of energy educator manager (EEM) was also created as part of the stewardship program. James, who is a church member with experience as a deacon, was selected for the role. He works closely with both the facilities department and Energy Education to become the in-house expert. His responsibilities include internal audits, developing customized plans for each building and teaching efficiency. "It's my job to bring accountability and responsibility to the energy management process by bringing it to the people level," James explains. "That's where the difference is made."
The combined knowledge of the facilities department and Energy Education is used in an ongoing assessment of the facilities determining energy needs during each 24-hour period. Everything that uses energy or utilities — electricity, natural gas, irrigation, water and sewer — has been looked at and plans have been made on how to use it as efficiently as possible.
Energy Education has provided training, diagnostic and prescriptive services as well as making the church a licensed user of EnergyCAP software a diagnostic tool to help pinpoint energy audits. It also works as an accounting tool to find potential refunds or billing errors. This has become a key facet of the overall program. The program's cost avoidance module is the measurement and verification tool. Measurement is based on consumption comparisons between the base year and the current billing cycle done meter-by-meter.
James says that Energy Education was responsible for introducing FBC-Dallas to the information and services available from ENERGY STAR. "With their help, we've established a Portfolio Manager account and use it with our current consumption data," James explains. "We also have a number of ENERGY STAR qualified products throughout the facility such as appliances, light fixtures, televisions, and office equipment. Looking for the ENERGY STAR label is part of our purchasing philosophy."
Early in the establishment of the energy stewardship program, the congregation adopted a church-wide policy and guidelines. These were made available for review by the congregation and were stressed to church leadership and staff. "As the program gained traction and measurable results become accessible, the results are shared with church leadership, including the deacon body. Portfolio Manager and the EnergyCAP software provide us with accurate and reliable measurement and verification of our success," James states. "With $450,000 in savings anticipated in our first year, this represents funds that can be redirected to and contribute to the church's ability to better serve our members and our community."
First Baptist Church of Dallas estimates that they are saving $450,000 annually in energy costs for the operation of their house of worship. The savings of nearly 6.5 million kWh per year represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) equivalent to the emissions from the electricity use of nearly 648 homes.
Energy Education, Inc.