By Gina Gallucci-White
Columbia Association set a rather ambitious goal earlier this decade, though it was a rather worthwhile challenge to take on.
As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, CA committed to lowering how much energy its building portfolio uses by 20% — and reaching that goal within just 10 years.
That commitment came in 2012. CA had until 2022.
CA reached the goal in half the time, hitting the 20% mark last year, and earning recognition from the federal government for its energy management practices. In the process, CA has reduced its carbon footprint by more than half while also offsetting 100% of its power with solar and wind sources.
“We are thrilled,” said Jeremy Scharfenberg, CA energy manager. “The fact that Columbia Association was able to reduce its energy use by about 4% a year is a testament to the support we have from CA’s leadership. The organization has truly invested in the facilities and our efforts to make sure our buildings use energy as efficiently as possible.”
This past April, CA opened its most energy efficient building to date — Long Reach Tennis Club, an $8 million facility featuring environmentally friendly design decisions and technologies deployed throughout, including a 40 kilowatt solar field that provides about 10 percent of the electricity for the facility, along with ENERGY STAR HVAC equipment, LED lighting and tankless water heaters.
“Building a brand new facility is the perfect time to make design decisions and choose equipment that maximize energy efficiency and sustainability,” Scharfenberg said. “We are really excited about what we’ve been able to do at Long Reach Tennis Club.”
CA’s existing buildings, meanwhile, have been made more energy-efficient through a variety of measures. LED lighting upgrades offer significant energy savings — upwards of a 90% reduction in energy use. HVAC systems have been replaced with units meeting or exceeding ENERGY STAR standards.
“You can also get decent energy savings out of making sure you’re operating a building as efficiently as possible and maintaining the equipment you have properly,” Scharfenberg said. “That includes regular filter change outs, and making sure different components and motors are running as they should.”
All of CA’s electricity use is offset with green power, thanks to a 2 megawatt solar farm in Western Howard County; solar panels at five CA facilities totalling 61 kilowatts; and the purchase of wind renewable energy certificates. This year, however, CA will be focusing on producing renewable energy on-site at more of its buildings.
CA recently completed solar installations at the Dorsey’s Search Meeting Room and Dickinson Pool. CA also plans to continue installing of electric vehicle charging stations. It currently has six around the community, encouraging drivers to be greener.
There’s much more that residents can do.
How you can get involved
Residents can be good stewards for the environment in several different ways:
* CA has partnered with Retrofit Baltimore to provide home energy audits to property owners, providing feedback where energy improvements may be made with support from BGE’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.
* Selecting ENERGY STAR-certified products whenever possible, which save energy and money.
* Installing solar panels. Residents may also participate in the Columbia Solar Cooperative, a CA program to go solar at a discounted rate that is also implemented in partnership with Retrofit Baltimore
“We can make our facilities as energy efficient and sustainable as possible, but the real impact we can have as a community is if residents take similar steps,” Scharfenberg said. “From a scale perspective, if residents are able to save even a little bit of energy, it can far exceed anything we can do within CA’s building portfolio.”
For more information, email energy@ColumbiaAssociation.org.