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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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We last left a mythical board of a synagogue/school with a question: “Would changing lights in the building result in a real 78 per cent cost savings?”

Readers posted comments on The CJN website, including a City of Toronto representative and a lighting company (http://www.cjnews.com/node/90060#disqus_thread).

However, the most interesting observations, unrecorded on the website, came from a team of middle school junior energy auditors from the Toronto Montessori Jewish Day School, where learning is facilitated through self-discovery, using guided conversations and experiments.

The conversation started with a video that looked at the science behind climate change and ways to reduce energy generation requirements by changing consumption habits  (http://bit.ly/climatereality-billnye).

The students, who were split into junior energy auditor teams, developed an understanding of their own family’s consumption patterns, with each team contributing data on the number of family members at home and the size of the home. They also pulled data from their family’s electricity and gas bills.

The teams then compiled a table of monthly consumption numbers, sharing the information they had. By putting numbers side by side, the students saw patterns emerge, and this prompted a discussion about kilowatt hours and consumption.

 Why do two same-sized houses with an equal number of occupants have different consumption patterns? Did this apply to schools and synagogues, too?

In the home discussion, big-screen TVs, refrigerators, washer/dryers, dishwashers, microwaves and electronic chargers were identified as devices that consume electricity. The light bulb discussion led to an expedition to the school building and the synagogue that houses it. The students counted the number of fluorescent lights that consumed electricity in two portable classrooms. Moving to the main synagogue building, they were confronted with multiple lighting types and many incandescent, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), warm lights, cool lights, spotlights and chandelier bulbs. They asked how long the lights were left on, how long the bulbs would last, how long it takes to change a bulb and the effects of esthetics due to different light colours.Back in the classroom, the students started to put it together: how much lighting was there in the school versus the synagogue, how long were the lights left on and how does that build up to kilowatt hours, and how is the school charged for energy consumption within its monthly rent?

However, unlike at home, there was no utility bill the junior energy auditors could look at to see the total kilowatt hours consumed.

Without that bill, the students concluded there was no incentive or monetary value for the school to conserve energy, as there was no way to quantify the impact. They did see the value of conserving energy at home where behaviour changes could be tracked to quantified consumption reductions.  

The Montessori learning method helped students experience first-hand a systemic Jewish community issue, the non-transparency of energy data. Would making consumption data visible to a tenant/school, leading to reduced consumption/operating costs, be a disadvantage to a landlord/synagogue by leading to reduced revenues?

Transparency needed? Discuss!

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