The Place of Forsyth

Combating Homelessness in an Energy Efficient Way

The Place of Forsyth

Combating Homelessness in an Energy Efficient Way

Founded in 1975 as a Catholic Social Service (CSS) initiative to eliminate poverty, The Place of Forsyth spun off from CSS in 1999 to become the lead agency and safety net for Forsyth residents in their time of crisis. The Place provides emergency assistance for basic survival needs (food, clothing, medicine, and financial) and seeks to eliminate hunger, deprivation and homelessness in Forsyth County.

As part of its mission, the Place operates a thrift store located in their facility in Cumming, GA. With over 24,000 square feet of space, the Place consumes a great deal of energy, lighting, heating and cooling the store and adjoining offices. Prior to applying for and receiving a Grants to Green Assessment in 2010, the Place was well aware of the issues its facility faces related to energy usage and efficiency.

For example, the facility lacked proper insulation and its lower level HVAC systems located in the 24-foot ceiling required a lift to change filters. Lighting issues in many areas presented safety concerns during power outages and exterior lighting was ineffective and unreliable. There were several leaks in the walls and the poorly sealed garage door, roof and windows permitted unconditioned air to enter the building. The freezer that stores provisions for The Place’s clients was old and inefficient and actually stopped working, causing thousands of dollars of food to spoil. While the staff recognized the need to address these issues, they lacked the technical knowledge and expertise required to effectively do so.

Through the assessment, the Place of Forsyth staff learned about the variety of ways they can improve their facility’s energy efficiency and reduce utility costs. Specific recommendations included:

  • Replacing the high bay flourescents with more energy efficient lighting
  • Upgrading existing T12 lighting with T8 lighting
  • Upgrading the walk-in cooler and freezer
  • Replacing the HVAC systems with more energy efficient models
  • Sealing the garage door and roof to prevent unconditioned air from entering the building
  • Installing low flow faucets and a timer on the hot water heater circulation pump

Committed to conserving energy and resources, the Place’s former Executive Director, Sandy Beaver, knew she wanted to implement as many of these recommendations as they could. She applied for and was awarded a Grants to Green Implementation award for $19,318 in 2011 to implement all of the above recommendations except the HVAC system replacements, which were deemed too costly.

As with many construction projects, the actual costs far exceeded the estimated expense. To meet the required match and the additional costs, Beaver successfully solicited a $25,000 donation from a private company and over $1500 worth of materials from a local vendor.

Her efforts have paid off. The Place of Forsyth has significantly reduced the amount of energy it uses and has demonstrated a savings of 32% and $10,245 annually.

These savings greatly exceed the estimated annual savings of $6,300. Provided The Place continues to exhibit such savings, they will recoup their investment in just under five years.

Beaver is pleased with the savings and with the upgrades that were completed. “We were able to resolve a lot of problems we had that were critical to our mission. If you save money on overhead, it makes it easier to carry out your mission,” says Beaver.

The Place of Forsyth has been conserving and looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption for a number of years now. Their four-acre grounds are planted and drought tolerant. Thermostats are programmed, unused electrical items unplugged, lights turned off when not used and they now recycle cardboard, metal and electronics. Thrift store discards have been recycled for 13 years and result in monetary benefits to the organization.

But according to Beaver, Grants to Green has made them think more about long-term sustainability and learn how to better understand their carbon footprint and how to reduce it. “Grants to Green has demonstrated how partnerships are mutually beneficial. It has truly helped us to be forward thinking and to be a leader in this area,” says Beaver.