The energy management efforts undertaken by Columbia Association (CA) in recent years are supportive of the responsibility bestowed upon CA by Jim Rouse to “respect the land” and to care for the environment.
CA has reduced its utility costs by 20% since fiscal 2012; in fiscal 2017, it spent $400,000 less than it did just five years ago for electricity and for natural gas. CA also is part of the Department of Energy’s Better Building Challenge, committing to a 20% reduction in energy use across its building portfolio, between 2012 and 2022. Its progress has been significant and is presently at an 18% reduction.
These energy management efforts have been challenging. CA owns more than 50 community buildings, as well as 23 outdoor pools, many of which were built several decades ago. Due to their age and usage characteristics, these buildings have been very energy intensive; but, CA is finding ways to make them more energy efficient and sustainable while serving the community.
Led by Jeremy Scharfenberg, CA’s energy manager, CA is measuring and tracking the energy performance of all of its facilities and following an energy management plan to achieve savings. We have invested significantly in projects that reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re even spreading the word about the importance of energy efficiency to our team members and in the community.
CA has also embraced renewable energy. All of CA’s electricity use is now offset with green power, thanks to the solar farm in Western Howard County; solar panels at Amherst House and River Hill Pool; and the purchase of wind renewable energy certificates. As a result, CA has reduced its carbon footprint by more than half.
We have upgraded lighting in our three fitness clubs, as well as in numerous other facilities. Leveraging new LED technology, there has been marked improvement in light quality on the interior and exterior of these facilities. CA is also installing new, high-efficiency Energy Star HVAC units as a standard at all of our facilities. And, a new combined heat and power (CHP) unit at Supreme Sports Club produces electricity and heat at the same time, generating roughly one-third of the electricity needs for the building, while heating pools and providing hot water for showers. Through its Smart Energy Savers Program, BGE awarded CA a $66,000 rebate for installing the CHP unit.
CA also received two awards earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Energy, which recognized CA as one of just 13 “Partners in Better Buildings” through the Better Buildings Alliance’s Interior Lighting Campaign.
As a community services organization with a large footprint in Columbia, CA strives each day to lead by example. During CA’s fiscal 2017 (May 2016 to April 2017), the organization’s total energy consumption — electricity, natural gas, propane, fuel oil, gasoline and diesel — was equal to that of more than 900 homes of average square footage. Encouraging others to follow our lead will make an even greater difference.
To engage the Columbia community, CA launched the Columbia Solar Cooperative, which helps residents install solar panels at a reduced cost. Also, we continue to direct residents to the rebates and incentives offered as part of BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program, which includes home performance energy audits, appliance rebates and discounted high efficiency LED light bulbs.
These efforts are an investment, but they are also an investment in the future; producing economic, environmental and social benefits for CA and the Columbia community.

E-mail [email protected] with questions/comments.