Four buildings in Decorah recently received Energy Star designation.
They include First Lutheran and Good Shepherd Lutheran churches, Ace Hardware and Erdman Engineering. They achieved the recognition through assistance from Winneshiek Energy District (WED), an Energy Star Partner.
"We had no idea about Energy Star for buildings until we worked with the Energy District on efficiency improvements," said Karla Erdman, of Erdman Engineering. "They helped us enter and analyze the data, and then go through the Energy Star application process. We're thrilled that our building is being recognized for the energy improvements we've made, and we have seen savings on our utility bills too."
"The Energy Star program is excited to work with the WED and their Energy Star commercial building partnership effort," said Jerry Lawson, national manager for the Energy Star Small Business & Congregations Network.
"Congratulations to the owners of the recently certified buildings. Decorah already has a greater per capita concentration of Energy Star buildings than any of our leading metro areas," he said, adding he's anxious to see how many more buildings become certified here.
Launched in 1992 by EPA, Energy Star is a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency.
WED is promoting Energy Star building certification throughout Winneshiek County, and for a small fee is able to assist buildings in the data analysis and application process.
"For a building to qualify it must rank in the top 25 percent of energy use per square foot for its building type and climate zone," said WED's David Paquette. "Not all building types are eligible, but for those that are, it is a tremendous opportunity for 'benchmarking' (seeing how you rank), recognition and sharing with your peers."
The two churches and Erdman Engineering made improvements through energy analysis and planning help from WED, which improved their scores. Ace Hardware received an assessment but no major work was identified as cost-effective, Paquette said.
"Quality energy analysis and planning is key for building owners to make decisions," said WED Director Andy Johnson. "We have great services available to all Winneshiek County households, and we're working on the establishment of robust energy planning services for non-profits, businesses and farms again in 2013."
The two Lutheran churches will be receiving letters of commendation from the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Programs in February.
"First Lutheran has been investing in energy efficiency improvements for some time, and it is wonderful to receive this recognition," said First Lutheran member Jim Martin-Schramm. "It is an indication that we're on the right track, and provides motivation to continue our stewardship work both as a church and as individual congregation members."
The awarding of Energy Star designation for these four buildings more than doubles the number of such buildings in Winneshiek County. Previously, only Decorah Bank and Trust, J.C. Penny's and the Oneota Community Coop had achieved this award.
"The Coop was the very first building we were able to help with," said Johnson. "We realized there was potential to achieve large numbers of such awards given the amount of energy improvements that are happening locally. There's no reason Decorah and Winneshiek County shouldn't have more Energy Star buildings per capita than any other locality in the country if we put our minds to it."
The Energy Star evaluation and application process begins with the entry of building and energy use data, and WED is looking for more building owners to help through the process.
For a limited time the District can offer these services for a low fee thanks to help from the Iowa Energy Center. Building owners can learn more at the District's Energy Star project web page, on the national Energy Star web site at, or by emailing email@example.com.