A Place to Grow, LLC is a childcare center located in Brentwood that offers a nature-based learning environment. The school is set on 13 wooded acres and allows the flexibility for children to explore curriculum while in nature. The center is a Licensed Plus and Nature Explorer Certified school.
In May 2016, A Place to Grow purchased a 3,700 square foot building. The owner, Jennifer Briggs, immediately recognized the opportunity to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to align with her mission to be a good steward of the environment and the center’s nature-based philosophy.
The improvements would also enable the small business to better plan for its energy costs. Jennifer understood that a highly variable budget with significant unplanned energy expenses is a significant challenge that has the potential to ruin a small business.
The solution: pursue energy independence. The first step in the process was to engage CDFA and secure grant funding to support a Level II audit. The grant provided 75% of the costs towards the audit, with the small business contributing 25%. The audit identified several opportunities to reduce heat loss, reduce propane dependency and increase heating efficiency, including the addition of a solar array.
Taking on that level of energy improvements is no small task for a small business, particularly in the childcare sector where profit-margins are notoriously slim. But passion, drive and the understanding of the significant return-on-investment enabled A Place to Grow to successfully move onto the implementation stage.
To successfully implement these improvements A Place to Grow leveraged a variety of resources, including: CDFA’s Clean Energy Fund, Public Utility Commission grants, Energy Tax Credits, two REAP Grants (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) and Eversource Rebates.
The total investment – $93,000 – achieved the following energy efficiency and renewable improvements:
1. Weatherized the building;
2. Converted primary heating and cooling to air source heat pumps;
3. Installed a new roof; and
4. Installed solar PV array.
And the timeline was aggressive – the process began in early 2018 with an application to CDFA to help fund the energy audit and was completed by mid-October with the finished solar installation.
The results are already being realized by the small business. Energy costs are down $1000 from last year and have stabilized substantially. Moreover, building comfort has improved significantly. And the best is yet to come with the business realizing the return-on-investment in solar.
With all of these improvements, A Place to Grow now has an Energy Star rating of 94 of 100 for its building energy performance. The owner recently completed a workshop on commercial building management to ensure plans are in place for the proper maintenance of these improvements.
Most importantly, A Place to Grow remains committed to sustainable practices, improved insulation and better energy management practices in the long-term. And what better way is there to engage and educate the next generation of environmental stewards than by teaching them to love nature from such an early age and leading by example.