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Facilities Management Initiatives

About Us

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) spends about $42,000,000 annually on its electric, oil, gas and water utilities. The Office of Facilities Management is tasked to keep this bill as low as possible through development and implementation of conservation programs. FCPS has had an active and aggressive energy management program since 1978, and is a leader among school systems in Virginia and nationwide in minimizing the use and cost of energy.

Historically managing energy has been about providing comfort and lighting in our classrooms and offices while containing costs. The need to control greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants resulting from energy use has become increasingly important as our understanding of climate change and its potential ramifications has advanced. On November 7, 2008, the FCPS School Board adopted Policy 8542 - Environmental Stewardship (pdf).

Energy conservation remains the best proven and immediate way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing energy consumption lowers our carbon footprint and reduces operating costs as well, freeing up funds that can be better spent educating our children rather than purchasing electricity and gas. For this reason, the FCPS Energy Management Section focuses on energy conservation.

Energy Systems Specialists will help FCPS reduce consumption of electricity, natural gas and water through building audits conducted by a team of Energy Specialists who will be working with both instructional and facility management staff. Additional information on the program is outlined in the  FCPS Guidelines for Energy Conservation & Building Management.



Responsibilities of our Office

FCPS has invested in advanced energy management systems (EMS) over the last 38 years to operate the buildings providing suitable comfort conditions whilst minimizing energy use. The latest technologies are employed to provide Remote Supervisory Access and Control to manage the building energy usage and comfort control. Currently a team of 13 technicians, energy system specialists and engineers are employed to provide this service. The technicians and associated supervisor manage the day-to-day operation of the systems within the buildings providing “break-down” service, temperature issue resolution and operational issues at the school level either remotely or attending the local school. The energy system specialists delve into the software to enhance the energy efficiency and improved operation of the heating/cooling systems and equipment. The engineers (all CEM certified) provide engineering services for new EMS upgrades, energy saving projects, project management of project implementation, and review of new technologies by having a larger view of energy efficiency through utilization of technological solutions. The EMS have a life span of approximately 15 years and are replaced on a rotating cycle where funding permits.
A new philosophy has been introduced that seeks to improve the functionality of the EM department and better utilization of resources whilst obtaining gains in energy reduction and providing improved temperature regulation conditions in the schools and at a lower cost of install and maintenance.

Continuous Improvement

CO2 logo in green grassFCPS is very conscious of reducing its CO2 footprint to improve their environmental impact. This involves more energy efficient processes and integrating sustainability within academia – actively engaging students for the future. Therefore the FCPS impact is lessened whilst the students are learning to be good stewardships.
A large portion of the efforts of the energy management department is to curtail energy usage thus having a significant impact on FCPS CO2 footprint. Current CO2 reductions are about 15% since 2002 even with school growth. Since 2008 the energy usage has decreased by 10%+ whilst increasing the student population and square footage of the schools. FCPS is enhancing its energy conversation efforts over the next 5-10 years to reduce energy by 20-30% (weather always has an impact that cannot be predicted) whilst expecting an increase in square footage and student enrollment.

Occupancy Scheduling

Facility use and scheduling is a critical component of energy management. Each building is assessed for its occupancy and use patterns in order to identify periods of inactivity and low usage. Mechanical systems are then programmed through building automation and control systems to reduce mechanical operation based on actual scheduling needs and, therefore, energy consumption during periods of low usage. Schedules are reviewed regularly with site based administrators and adjusted for seasonal patterns and system performance. School locations conducting events outside of normal operating hours are required to enter these activities in FSDirect.  During unoccupied periods, temperature settings shall be at the night setback or setup temperature as determined by the OFM and controlled by programmable energy management systems. In spaces in which the occupant can locally control the temperature setting with a thermostat, the occupants are responsible for changing the setting of the thermostat at the end of the workday to 55 degrees in the heating season and 85 degrees in the cooling season.

In spaces in which the temperature is controlled by a programmable energy management system, setting the temperature setpoints and occupied periods is the responsibility of the OFM and/or the operating engineer in the building.  Occupied settings are now updated at 74 degrees for cooling and 68 degrees for heating. Unoccupied setpoints are to be 55 degrees in the heating season and 85 degrees in the cooling season. Exceptions to the unoccupied temperature settings may be made by the OFM in order to protect the building, achieve improved energy efficiency, or maintain comfort during the occupied period. 

In buildings with energy management control systems, appropriate staff members may override the system using the local override switches to set the building to occupied mode for school-based activities or approved community use. Overrides shall be used only for the building zone to be occupied. Override times shall be limited to the times that the zone is occupied.

Energy Management

Energy must be measured to be understood to manage. The EM department is implementing the most advanced Energy Management Platform available to connect all utility meters from each school in a single interface that will provide in-depth and live data detailing the energy use instantly. Currently the district is advancing towards an Enterprise Energy Management System that record, analyze, report on, and provide improved energy minimization through sending external control parameters to the EMS in the buildings. This will provide a Window to the Energy. Currently energy is tracked using bill data but that is usually 2-3 months behind and is only retroactive not live and dynamic for instant resolution of high energy using incidents. The system is currently being tested at Poplar Tree to satisfy DIT requirements but will be soon rolled out across all schools.

Ultimate Challenge

Net Zero Buildings or Positive Energy Buildings is now possible and cost effective in reducing the energy bills to zero and in fact to utilize each building as an alternative power production plant thus selling power into the grid (a positive energy building is a building that on average over the year produces more energy from renewable energy sources than it imports from external sources:, each school could make money that could be used towards the budget. The building would need to be built with high quality design and project management using the latest technology. The building would be highly energy efficient at a low EUI of 20-23 kBTU/sqft (currently 58). Then solar power could provide the energy required at full load and any excess would be saleable into the grid – thus netting FCPS money from a school.
Initially the cost of these highly advanced buildings is about 30-40% more than current designs; however an ESCO could be used to fund the projects with performance guarantees thus ensuring required and desired outcomes. The projects additioanl cost to current designs), it is reported would pay for themselves after 10 years. Then for the next 20 years of the building life, FCPS is not only savings millions of energy bill dollars but also generating excess electricity thus increasing the ROI. Viewing this from a 30 year plan, after the first 10 years of projects, and due to the constantly reducing energy budget, this budgetary money could be used to finance the next 10 years of projects, this could continue for the 30 year plan to get all building Net Zero or Positive Energy Buildings.
To achieve this Design and Construction (D&C) would have to take this vision on board. The OFM energy budget would have to be applied to these types of designs as funding when energy savings are realized from the initial projects.


Per regulation 8541, all FCPS schools and centers will have mandatory recycling programs for paper products, cans, bottles, and fluorescent light bulbs. Construction waste materials will be separated and recycled. Local recycled-content and rapidly renewable materials will be used in new schools and renovated schools when readily available.

Click here to learn more about FCPS' Recycling program