Jen's MEM Journey

The Building Whisperer
by Jennifer Weiss -- October 13th, 2011

This week, I met a man that not only communicates with public school employees about energy efficiency, I think the school buildings may actually be listening too!

“Rule #1:  Improve comfort level and energy efficiency will come.”

“Rule #2:  See Rule #1.”

I learned these two rules for improving building efficiency within five minutes of walking into the office of Charles Lamm, Nash-Rocky Mount Public School System’s Energy Manager.  A few minutes later, I learned his nickname:

The Building Whisperer

I should not have been surprised.  Seven years ago, Mr. Lamm was hired to help the Nash-Rocky Mount Public School Systems reduce energy costs.  With over 30 years of HVAC experience and a passion for what I like to call the great “energy efficiency treasure hunt,” he has been widely successful at his job.  And he does it in a very unique fashion – he listens.

He listens to the principals, the teachers, the students, and sometimes … he listens to the buildings.  He sets guidelines for temperature controls in each building and monitors them to make sure that they are operating efficiently.  He fields calls on a daily basis about rooms that are too hot or too cold and makes the necessary adjustments.  He “teaches the teachers” how to change behaviors in the classroom. And occasionally he will show up after hours to make sure that the buildings are behaving – that lights are turned off, computers are powered down, doors and windows are closed and thermostats are working appropriately.  It’s all in a day’s work.

Today, 28 of the 29 schools in the school system have earned the use of the Energy Star label – and the last school is very close to making that number 100%.  This means that each of the schools has met or exceeded Energy Star approved guidelines for energy management and the results are impressive.  Within the first two years, the Nash-Rocky Mount school system saved approximately $500,000 in energy costs.   That’s $500,000 that the schools can use towards books, materials and teachers’ salaries.  Today, the schools continue to avoid increasing energy costs in the range of $1 million a year.

Mr. Lamm says his main goal is to make sure that everyone is comfortable, but also aware of their energy use.  It doesn’t take rocket science.  It just takes the ability to listen.

I’m listening …

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