Just 14 months since the First Baptist Church of Springdale (FBCS) and Shiloh Christian School (SCS) began an energy-saving program they have saved nearly $250,000 without any major overhaul or replacement of equipment. "The most significant things we did were to monitor our usage patterns and become aware of how to better use energy, and train both staff and members on how they could contribute to our energy savings effort," says James Maxwell, energy manager. "Our energy-saving program so far is based mainly on awareness and attention to details," Maxwell adds. "We followed guidelines and suggestions from ENERGY STAR for Congregations and we are working with a consultant, Energy Education, Inc."
FBCS dates back to February 1870 when it was founded as Landmark Liberty Baptist Church by six women and seven men meeting in a home. The 100-year anniversary in 1970 marked the beginning of the evolution into today's church with the launching of additional ministries and the opening of a kindergarten that would eventually become Shiloh Christian School. A new church worship center and two educational buildings opened in 1979. Additions of new buildings, renovations of existing structures, and repurposing have taken place about every five or ten years since then. The most recent change was construction of a new children's ministry building in 2006 bringing the total to about 330,000 square feet. "Part of our challenge was implementing a program in a 32-year-old building with numerous construction add-ons and remodels including three different types of HVAC systems," adds Maxwell.
Today's FBCS comprises one church with the main campus and a second campus at a ministry location in Rogers, Arkansas, which began in 2001. It boasts more than 16,000 members and about 6,000 regular attendees in the main worship center. To achieve the mission of "Reaching Northwest Arkansas, America, and the world for Jesus Christ" there are 17 other meeting sites and 13 church plants that are being funded and opened globally. These mission sites stretch across South America, Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, and Australia. The weekly radio and television ministry worship services are carried on local radio stations, and national and local television outlets. The Sunday morning worship can also be seen on the Internet at www.fcbs.net .
The energy program had its beginnings in 2007 when FBCS's Pastor, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, met with Dr. Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX, winner of a 2007 ENERGY STAR Congregations Award. The award was based on Prestonwood saving more than $1 million and cutting their utility bills by 40%. Dr. Graham shared that this was accomplished with the help of Energy Education, Inc., a Dallas-based energy consulting firm. Dr. Floyd brought this information back to Ben Mayes, FBCS executive leader of finance. Following discussions and research, the FBCS board of directors voted to partner with Energy Education for four years beginning in February 2008. Energy Education was ENERGY STAR service and product provider Partner of the Year in 2009.
The program that grew from this partnership focused on three critical elements; mechanical configurations, energy accounting, and changing people's energy consumption habits through energy education and heightened awareness. Maxwell was hired as energy manager at the start of the program. He worked closely with Energy Education to develop an Energy Management Action Plan (E-Map). Once policy, guidelines, and the E-Map were in place, Maxwell began walk-through audits, staggering the days and times, visually checking the properties to ensure the program was working efficiently and effectively.
The energy program's effectiveness is measured in part by EPA's Portfolio Manager. FBCS also relies heavily on a software program that tracks energy usage. The church is a licensed user of Energy CAP software, a diagnostic tool that has helped pinpoint areas of inefficient energy consumption and serves as an accounting tool to help spot potential refunds or billing errors.
The key to the success of the FBCS program was changing day-to-day energy habits by educating staff members and school teachers about the overall function and scheduling of the HVAC system. In his role as a finance leader, Mayes sent out a series of e-mails reminding staff of the energy program. The congregation was briefed at a church business meeting and quarterly reports were presented at a regular staff luncheon. Maxwell has worked informally with administrators and teachers to explain the overall program as well as to delve into specifics about their areas.
"An energy program is like running a marathon, not a sprint," says Maxwell. "It takes some time to educate people about what you're trying to do. You have to make them feel comfortable and confident in what you want to achieve. In the beginning of the program, we used a lot of information provided by Energy Education, and gathered data to show people what was going on in a room."
"We already had some ENERGY STAR qualified equipment and appliances," Maxwell said. "Of course, whenever anything needs to be replaced or added, looking for the ENERGY STAR label is a priority. Primarily, we've taken a common sense approach and we've examined every point of energy consumption." That approach has meant switching off lights when not in use, turning off computers when leaving for the day, and paying close attention to thermostat settings, particularly Monday through Saturday.
"The thermostat setting during Sunday morning worship services remained unchanged," Mayes says. "The thermostat during the rest of the week was tweaked a bit, and significantly so at night when no one is there. But everyone has remained comfortable."
"We estimate we've saved nearly a quarter million dollars," Mayes continues. "That's what you'd call a cost avoidance calculation. The money saved is available to spend elsewhere, in areas such as the missions." Mayes sees a reason beyond cost savings, however. "I think biblically, you're called to be good stewards of what God blesses you with, and I think that's the underlying reason why you do it. This has helped us focus on being good stewards. It's a great program and so far we've enjoyed it."
"We tell our staff to act like they're at home," Mayes adds. "It's an easy way to remind them to turn off the lights when they leave a room or turn off their computers and monitors when they leave for the night. You don't go out and leave things on at home. If you're going to be at a lunch meeting for the next hour, turn your lights out."
Both Mayes and Maxwell say there were very few up-front costs because there were no new HVAC systems or motion sensors. Even lighting wasn't overhauled. "We're doing it little by little," Maxwell says. ""We replace an incandescent light with a compact fluorescent lamp when the light burns out." The remainder of the program currently consists of performing regular energy audits, making changes in equipment usage schedules, uncovering billing and metering errors, training staff on capturing and analyzing data, identifying equipment that is not operating properly, and reconfiguring facility usage patterns."
"We continue to promote within the congregation and staff an energy conservation ethic and culture that will yield dollar and energy savings for years to come," Mayes concludes. "We're also continuing to monitor and audit our progress and I know we will be making more changes in the future."
First Baptist Church of Springdale estimates that they are saving more than $200,000 annually in energy costs for the operation of their house of worship. The savings of nearly 3 million kWh per year represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of about 295 homes.
Energy Education Inc.