Salvation Army Energy Summit Promotes Savings and Stewardship

Jun 6, 2019

On May 23, about a dozen officers and property managers throughout The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division gathered in the headquarters lunchroom to discuss lighting, boilers, and solar energy.

These discussions were part of the Building Energy Summit, which offered information on energy efficiency programs. The programs aim to lower maintenance costs to ensure that the highest amount of donor dollars possible goes toward vital programs for those in need.

Representatives from several local organizations – including the Chicago mayor’s office, ComEd, Peoples Gas and Illinois Green Alliance – shared about free energy assessments, rebates and incentives available for energy-efficient retrofit projects, and special savings for non-profit organizations.

Small Projects, Big Impact

One of the biggest takeaways was that small projects often yield the best results. Amy Jewel, from City Energy Project and the Chicago mayor’s office, said, “Tuning up your boiler can save you money. It’s not as sexy as solar, but just as important.”

Major Merrill Powers from the Freedom Center said that small tweaks he and his director of facilities have made to their electric and gas usage since their building opened three years ago have produced 25% savings.

Beth Holaday from Verde Energy Experts encouraged attendees that lighting is the “low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency” as it can significantly decrease energy consumption and cost.

Tom Nylen, Facilities Director for the Metropolitan Division Headquarters, experienced this truth firsthand when he changed the lighting throughout the 80,000-square-foot building to fixtures that are more efficient and saw a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption. “This isn’t just about a program,” Nylen said, “it’s about being good stewards.”

Sharing the Knowledge – and Savings

Nylen was the driving force behind the Summit. Six years ago he started conducting energy assessments on the Metropolitan Division Headquarters building, as well as the Mayfair Corps, 6 houses, and 4 apartments the Army also owns on the same few acres of land in Albany Park. “I make money for the Army by saving it,” Nylen said. “This is my way of giving back.”

He organized this summit to help the other corps in the division understand “the money we leave on the table if we don’t take advantage of these programs, rebates, and incentives.” The idea appears to be catching on. Sean Fisher, Property Manager for two Chicago Adult Rehabilitation Centers, just conducted energy benchmarking on his buildings. He said the summit gave him new insights into the rebates available and the reasons these efforts are important.

Louis Cook, Facilities Manager of the Shield of Hope, attended to learn about the possibilities of solar power for their one-year-old building. James Foggs, Facilities Supervisor at the Red Shield Center in Englewood, learned helpful information as he considers a boiler replacement for his 13-year-old building.

Nylen said his next goal is exploring renewable energy, such as solar panels that generate and store energy. The Army can sell any excess energy back to the utility companies, creating a revenue stream.

“This is the donors’ money we’re talking about. It’s important that we’re good stewards of what they’ve entrusted to us,” Nylen said. “It’s our responsibility to manage our buildings efficiently. If I could help move the Army in that direction, that’d be wonderful.”


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