Benchmarked: An energy case study from MCPS

March 16, 2015
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Benchmarked, a new energy blog series, examines local businesses who have used EPA’s Portfolio Manager to track energy use.

Montgomery County Public Schools

Company/Property Name:  Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)

Name and Title:  Russell Main – Utilities Analyst

How many buildings do you manage?  We manage 196 schools plus administrative facilities for a combined total of 232 facilities.

What kinds of building uses are in your buildings?  The majority of our buildings are K-12 educational institutions with administrative offices and maintenance facilities for support.

When did your company begin benchmarking?

MCPS has been monitoring our buildings energy use index (EUI) to highlight areas for performance improvement for over 20 years. The EUI is a measurement for thousands of btu’s per square foot. Tracking each school’s EUI has allowed us to compare our schools’ performance year over year. However, our first attempt at benchmarking using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager was made in 2012.


A photo of Northwest High School

Northwest High School has the lowest EUI of all the MCPS buildings.


Why did you begin benchmarking?

We were interested in seeing which and how many of our facilities are eligible for Energy Star Certification as well as knowing each building’s Energy Star Score. Knowing our Energy Star Score allows us to compare our performance nationally in addition to monitoring our year over year performance.

Who has done (in the past) and does (if different now) your benchmarking in Portfolio Manager?

I personally uploaded data from our fiscal year 2012 using a database tool that I developed. The database tool was helpful in organizing large amounts of data for pasting into the K-12 excel spreadsheet that was available for use with the older version of Portfolio Manager. Currently, the K-12 spreadsheet is no longer available in Portfolio Manager. I recently organized and uploaded approximately 20,000 records to be pasted into the newer Portfolio Manager template. After the completion of the recent upload, MCPS has 3 years of data loaded into Portfolio Manager.

How has benchmarking your energy use changed the way you manage your portfolio? What do you do now that you didn’t do before?

Since the most recent upload of data into Portfolio Manager was completed in early January of 2015, we have not made any additional changes. MCPS has baselined our energy data and reinforced school-based conservation through incentives and recognition since the 90’s. The incentives and recognition are implemented by our School Energy and Recycling Team (SERT) program using results from our database. However, having our data uploaded into Portfolio Manager offers us an additional tool for analytics.


A photo of the SERT Team standing in front of a Green Ribbon Schools banner.

The SERT Team. From left to right: Richard Benjamin, Helen Blankfield, Shela Plank, and Russ Main.


Have you done anything that drastically improved a building score? If yes, what?

Since the 90’s, we have improved our overall EUI from 70 to as low as 52. MCPS uses geothermal heat pump systems, has performed retro-commissioning, peak load management, and utilized utility incentives which were primarily lighting with some mechanical. Additionally, MCPS has been designing new schools using LEED Gold standards.

What building’s energy performance are you most proud of, and why?

Northwest High School. Northwest High School has an EUI of 46. The students, faculty, and staff at Northwest High School are committed to energy conservation through our SERT program. Additionally, MCPS has achieved an overall energy use index in the range of 52 to 59 for the last 5 years.

What advice would you give for anyone benchmarking for the first time?

Develop a system for auditing and ensuring that your utility data is in chronological succession and accurate, because data entry errors that produce gaps in billing dates cause problems uploading data to Portfolio Manager. If you are having problems uploading data to Portfolio Manager, there are very useful resources available for assistance on the Energy Star Portfolio Manager web site. Also, the EPA was also able to provide some assistance through The Cadmus Group, since we had such a large data set to upload.


A poster of MCPS employees holding balloons with conservation messages.

A poster showing Northwest High School’s commitment to conservation.


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