Within the energy business, everyone is always looking for the next big thing. Often, that’s a new piece of technology, a new form of energy, or the most recent bit of analysis. salesforce service cloud . Those are all well and good, but what if the most significant factor when it comes to saving energy was inside all of us?
One of the many special qualities that characterize the people who come to work at McKinstry is a genuine desire to make a positive difference—both at the company and in the community. Across the enterprise, we are moved to share our success with others.
It is McKinstry’s honor to support the generosity of its people through an employee-directed giving program. Since 1999, employees have sent $1.4 million from the McKinstry Charitable Foundation to non-profit organizations across the country.
These days, school districts face several challenges to maintaining energy-efficient facilities while also providing a safe and healthy learning environment. Among these challenges are:
- Constantly-changing student needs
- Security issues and compliance requirements
- Evolving technology and increased energy use
- Aging physical infrastructure and deferred maintenance needs
- Budgetary strain
Since education is a school district’s first priority, though, these facility challenges are often overlooked. Even when identified, they can be difficult to afford. However, we at McKinstry know there’s a great opportunity for school districts to simultaneously lower their utility bills and have more money available for teachers, students, and classrooms.
As with any environment, it’s impossible to make a change without first identifying and then finding solutions for the problem. In most cases, administration, occupants and operators are not taught what to do and how they can make a difference. So how do schools waste energy and money? How do they make changes to save?
McKinstry often talks about the impact of school facility improvements on students—better air quality, improved academic performance, and utility bill savings that can then be better spent on supplies and technology.
That being said, McKinstry’s commitment to education often goes beyond building projects. We love to be involved at the classroom level in the school districts where we live and work. In fact, McKinstry recently visited DeForest Area School District in Wisconsin and Wayzata Public Schools in Minnesota for that very reason.
In November 2015, Trenton Smith and Dan Choi from McKinstry’s office in Madison, Wisc. visited Windsor Elementary in nearby DeForest Area School District as volunteers during the school’s Junior Achievement Day.
Dan and Trenton actively engaged more than 20 young learners in Mrs. Keyes’ first grade class in discussions about what makes a neighborhood, what a business is, what businesses they might find in a neighborhood, and the differences between a need (food, shelter, clothing) and a want (toys or a puppy).
By taking part in these critical thinking exercises, Dan and Trenton gave these students an early introduction into the important concepts of community, planning, and prioritizing. This was their second visit to the school as part of an ongoing McKinstry partnership, with a third Junior Achievement Day scheduled in March.
In January 2016, Chris Sawyer and Jessica Aleshire from McKinstry’s Minneapolis office participated in a Career Exploration Day at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn. Nearly 80 high school students attended the optional event to meet with professionals from the engineering and construction industries and discover potential career paths in those fields.
The Wayzata students asked a variety of questions from “What does an engineer do?” to “What kind of education and experience will help me get started in the energy or construction trades?”
After spending about two hours with students, Chris and Jessica joined other industry participants in meeting with a few teachers from the high school to discuss how secondary students interested in energy or construction careers can be further supported in pursing that line of work.
McKinstry realizes that America’s next generation of engineers, electricians, and pipefitters is currently learning in classrooms like these in the Midwest. It’s why we value making the K-12 learning environment the very best it can be, and it’s why we’re privileged to play our small part in nurturing the students who will—quite literally—build our future.
Recently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The report ranks U.S. states, and it does so by assessing the progressiveness of each state’s energy efficiency policy.
Notably, some of the top-scoring states are also home to McKinstry offices: California (#2), Oregon (#4), Washington (#8), Minnesota/Illinois (tie or #10), Colorado/Iowa (tie for #12), Arizona (#17), and Wisconsin (#22) were all above-average to excellent, based on the ACEEE’s metric.
The ACEEE metric is based on a variety of factors, among them a state’s utility and public benefits policies, transportation policies, building energy codes and compliance, state government–led initiatives around energy efficiency, and appliance/equipment standards.
Policy development work may not seem like an obvious focus for a construction company, but McKinstry is committed to being proactive, planning and executing for the long haul, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for our clients.
In light of this correlation between McKinstry’s presence and sophisticated energy efficiency policy, here are some thoughts from key McKinstry leaders on the ACEEE report and how the company approaches energy efficiency policy:
Megan Owen, Strategic Market Development Director, Seattle
“These ACEEE rankings are an affirmation of all the good work we do with our customers across the country to move the energy efficiency economy forward. In particular, our Midwest regions have a focused approach to advocate for policies and programs that open up faster and more cost-effective pathways for schools and local governments to address maintenance and operational issues in their facilities.”
Paul Gustafson, Business Unit Manager, Minneapolis
“There are quite a few initiatives in Minnesota around green power, solar energy, and overall energy efficiency. The state’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) promotes energy efficiency in state facilities, and we’re working within that program right now.
We have a number of employees who are members of professional organizations, as well as local and regional chapters of K-12 associations, since we work predominantly with K-12 schools and municipalities. It’s good to be in the room when policy is discussed or made.”
Dan Choi, Business Development Director, Madison, Wisc.
“In Wisconsin in particular, we have ‘enabling’ legislation, so we utilize lobbyists and consultants—not to change anything, but to keep responsible energy efficiency policy in place and make that policy a win for our clients and for Wisconsin.
Our clients have a huge need for legislative authority and funding tools that support energy infrastructure upgrades—so anything we can do to help keep good policy in place is more of a benefit for them.”
Time is a compelling force, and it’s easy to let time dictate how we make decisions. Quick decisions can be awfully appealing in a short-attention-span world, but we like to think a little differently here at McKinstry.
There’s real value in longevity, and we’ve found that thoroughly planning a long-term project—which means beginning with the end in mind—is reliably the most fiscally prudent and sustainable solution for our clients. When we say we’re here for the life of your building, we mean it. Where this approach truly shines is when McKinstry has the privilege of partnering with a client who shares these values.
Scott Downing, the Superintendent of Schools for the Warsaw R-IX School District in Warsaw, Mo., is a firm believer in the power of long-term thinking.
“We definitely look at total cost of ownership (TCO) and how decisions we make now play out over the next five to 10 years,” Downing said. “These decisions are important especially in the educational environment when you are talking about facilities and buildings that aren’t getting any younger.
“You have to keep up with escalating energy costs and educational expectations,” he added. “Holistic information becomes very important but only by looking at the impact of a lot of little pieces.”
To achieve that vision, Warsaw R-IX School District teamed up with McKinstry to develop and execute a long-term strategic plan for their district. We engaged stakeholders at every level to understand the district’s priorities and develop actions and timelines. Next, those plans and recommendations were put into motion.
“To date, McKinstry has addressed plumbing and piping deficiencies, installed energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors, renovated restrooms fixtures and addressed ADA compliance issues in Warsaw,” said McKinstry Business Development Manager Joel Gundelfinger. “Currently, the facility committee is addressing the timing and planning to fund and implement deeper retrofits and tackle a large deferred maintenance issue.”
By applying a forward-thinking approach, Warsaw R-IX School District is now able to evaluate the true cost of facility improvements and choose solutions offering the greatest value for the life of their buildings. It’s a model that works for Warsaw R-IX School District and also helps many of our other clients save time and money over the long haul.