Austin Independent School District

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School or School District

Project Type

Sustainability and Energy Management Strategy




Austin, TX

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Annual kWh Savings:

30,000,000 kWh

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Annual CO2 Reductions:

16,000 metric tons


Maxwell Sykes spent his fellowship building in-house capacity to address energy management issues.


Austin Independent School District (Austin ISD), the sixth largest school district in Texas with 135 facilities serving 83,600 students and 11,800 employees, enlisted EDF Climate Corps fellow Maxwell Sykes to help identify opportunities to reduce its energy and water use. Both the district and the Austin community value environmental sustainability, and the district had achieved some success in improving energy and water performance through implementing actions such as green building design standards, energy-efficient HVAC replacements, summer facility shutdown procedures and compressed workweeks during the summer. To build on its past success, Austin ISD was interested in better understanding its performance compared to other districts and finding specific opportunities to further reduce its energy and water use and costs. To that end, the district hired a sustainability coordinator in late 2014 and tasked a staff person with managing a new utility data management system in early 2015.


Sykes started by interviewing Construction Management and Facilities staff, meeting with some of the district’s engineering consultants and analyzing and benchmarking energy and water data. These steps made it clear that there was strong interest and opportunity to achieve significant energy and water reductions. Because energy costs are significantly higher than water costs, Sykes focused his recommendations on energy management.

Sykes determined that his fellowship could provide the most value by building the in-house capabilities needed to manage a long-term energy management program rather than identifying one-off projects to implement in the short-term. He interviewed staff from school districts across the United States to investigate the business case for an in-house energy management program and to better understand how other school districts had succeeded. In the end, Sykes presented a set of cost avoidance scenarios, developed an energy management framework to guide the district in building and growing its program and laid out a set of specific recommendations for year one. The recommendations focused on building an energy management team and solidifying five crucial foundations for long-term success across the spectrum of energy-related decisions, from design and construction, to operations and maintenance, through staff and campus culture and behavior change.

Potential Impact

Sykes estimated an ongoing energy management program could help the district avoid $1.7 million to $5.2 million in energy costs every year, with additional savings opportunities in water. Annually, such a program could save an estimated 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity, 382,000 therms of natural gas and nearly 16,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of his fellowship, Sykes presented his findings to potential internal Austin ISD champions, including the Board President, CFO, Executive Director of Facilities, Executive Director of Construction Management, Director of Maintenance, and Sustainability Coordinator, in addition to local energy efficiency and environmental advocates. The district is now working to determine how to embed an energy management team as a core function of a planned Facilities reorganization and inform the development of the district’s first Sustainability Master Plan.

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