A valuable program of technical assistance and affordable financing is available to Evanston nonprofits and congregations whose leaders are interested in improving the energy efficiency of their buildings.

The Case for Efficient Buildings

Energy efficiency is increasingly on the minds of nonprofit leaders as they look for ways to cut expenses. They know their older buildings with drafty spaces, aging equipment and inefficient lighting are good candidates for an energy efficiency makeover. By making their buildings more efficient, they know they could lower their utility bills and have more money for their programs.

A more efficient building also means a healthier indoor environment. Better air quality, better lighting and more even temperatures help improve the health, comfort and well-being of all who use the facility.

And for many agencies and congregations, “greening” their building is also the “right” thing to do.  Reduced energy consumption means lower greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.

Assistance Program

Although nonprofit leaders appreciate all this, they often do not have the human or financial resources to undertake an upgrade of their building.  This is where IFF can help. 

IFF is a nonprofit lender and real estate consultant founded in 1988 and dedicated to strengthening nonprofits and the communities they serve. Its Energy Efficiency Program (E2P) provides planning, financing and management assistance to nonprofit agencies and religious congregations for energy efficiency improvements.

Here is how it works.

Evaluation. IFF starts with a walkthrough of the nonprofit facility to generate a list of building features needing deeper analysis. During the visit, IFF will point out any glaring areas of energy waste and identify low- and no-cost energy efficiency solutions. If IFF sees an opportunity to reduce energy usage by at least 15 percent, a detailed energy audit will follow.

The audit will include a test of equipment, an operation and maintenance evaluation, an assessment of the building envelope and a health and safety inspection. The resulting report will detail recommended “energy cost reduction measures,” with projections showing how quickly the upgrades will pay for themselves through lower utility bills.

Financing. IFF will then work with the nonprofit to find and apply for grants and other incentives to help pay for the upgrades. If this does not yield enough funds to cover the up-front costs of the improvement program, IFF offers flexible, affordable financing for the remainder. IFF will work with the nonprofit to match the loan payments to the utility savings so the upgrades can pay for themselves.  

Project Implementation. Once the nonprofit is ready to go ahead with the upgrade program, IFF real estate professionals can manage the project on behalf of the nonprofit.

IFF experts will select the contractor(s) and other key players on the project team, make sure all equipment is properly installed and calibrated to ensure maximum efficiency, and prevent cost overruns. They will also make sure that those using the facility understand how to use the new equipment.

After the project is completed, IFF will review energy bills for the facility and provide a performance report. If the facility is not performing as well as expected, IFF will arrange for a building tune-up.

Additional Incentive Funds

The cost of the energy audit ranges from $1,500 for a religious facility to $3,000-$7,000 for a nonprofit agency (depending on the square footage of the facility and other variables).

If the nonprofit goes ahead with the efficiency upgrade program, then the cost of the audit can be rolled into the total financing package. If after reviewing the results of the audit, however, the nonprofit decides not to proceed with an upgrade program, then the nonprofit is asked to pay IFF for the cost of the audit.

A small pool of local dollars is available to match up to 50 percent of the cost of these energy audits — through the Evanston Climate Action Fund (CAF).

The CAF was established by Citizens’ Greener Evanston to help implement the Evanston Climate Action Plan by providing grants to support greenhouse gas emissions-reduction projects in Evanston. It is a fund of the Evanston Community Foundation, which manages CAF grant-making activities.

Nonprofit agencies and congregations for whom the cost of the energy audit would be a hardship are invited to apply for a grant to offset up to half the cost of the audit. If they later do go ahead with an upgrade program (with the audit costs covered as part of the financing package), the grant dollars would come back to the CAF, to be available to help another nonprofit.

Additional Information

For further information about E2P, visit the IFF website at iff.org.

For help on how IFF can help an agency or congregation lower energy costs: Rachel Higginbotham, IFF business development manager, 312-521-7388 or rhigginbotham@iff.org.

For help on how to apply for matching funds for an IFF energy audit: Jan Fischer, ECF Chief Financial Officer 847-492-0990.

More information about the Climate Action Fund and ways to help support emissions-reduction projects here in Evanston, is available at  www.evanstonforever.org/.