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Program helps small businesses save energy and money

Brian Deal
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Photo by Clark Brooks
Brian Deal, a professor of urban and regional planning, is the director of the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, based at the U. of I.

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Businesses in Illinois are now able to cash in on energy savings, thanks to a new technical-assistance program administered through the School of Architecture and the Office of Continuing Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In response to growing energy costs and in support of small businesses, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have developed the Small Business $mart Energy Program as part of the state’s “Opportunity Returns” initiative. Through this program, funded by DCEO and the U.S. Department of Energy, small- to medium-sized businesses can now receive services that will identify opportunities to save energy and money, reducing overhead and operational costs. These, and many other services, are available from the program’s new Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, which is based at the U. of I.

According to Brian Deal, a professor of urban and regional planning and director of SEDAC, technical services offered by the center are designed to identify opportunities for energy savings through intelligent building design and efficient building components and systems.

“The goal of this program is to reduce the cost of doing business for Illinois commercial entities,” Deal said. “It will also demonstrate to businesses the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency and support job creation and retention in Illinois.”

Secondary goals of the program, he said, are to support electric reliability in the state and reduce pollution by minimizing wasted energy.

Two local companies – iCyt Visionary Bioscience Inc. and Champaign Telephone Company – were among 20 companies statewide that participated in a pilot program last year. According to a DCEO news release, one-time program costs were $225,000, with combined annual savings for all businesses participating estimated at $630,000. Overall, businesses realized a 34 percent rate of return for recommended energy-conservation investments – or nearly $3.4 million in net present value terms.

University and SEDAC staff members will work with building owners, business operators, architects, engineers, contractors and other industry professionals to incorporate and enhance the energy efficiency of new and existing businesses. They also will provide unbiased, third-party consulting for energy-efficiency improvements.

“Program staff (members) will work with the facility owners and their architects and/or engineers to incorporate the recommended energy-efficient technologies,” Deal said. “Energy-efficiency design assistance will include feasibility studies, lifecycle cost analyses and design suggestions that will familiarize project engineers, architects and other stakeholders with innovative, cost-effective, efficient design approaches.”

A network of energy service providers and design assistance experts also has been established to assist with implementation of the center’s programs.

According to Don Fournier, research specialist in sustainable planning and design at the UI’s Building Research Council and SEDAC program manager, four levels of technical services are provided through the SB$E program: initial consultation and advice, energy audits and recommendations, design assistance and energy analyses, and project implementation follow-up assistance.

Another key component of the program is training. The U. of I.’s Office of Continuing Education is assisting with those efforts, developing courses for design professionals, engineers, contractors and business owners that emphasize energy-conservation techniques.

According to David Schejbal, associate vice chancellor and director of OCE, classes in sustainable energy will be available this fall and next spring in the Chicago area. The courses are being developed and taught by faculty members in the School of Architecture and department of landscape architecture, and by SEDAC staff.

“Online classes also are being planned to help make this important information more accessible,” Schejbal said. U. of I. architecture and engineering students are assisting with development of online courses.

Illinois businesses can apply now to receive the free SEDAC assistance by completing an application form, which is available at the center’s Web site, The site includes information for service providers and design professionals interested in participating in the program. The site also includes registration information for training opportunities, and relevant information on energy efficiency strategies.

“Ultimately, SEDAC is designed to become an important and central resource for energy-efficiency information in the state of Illinois,” Deal said.

For additional information about the Small Business $mart Energy Program or the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, contact SEDAC at 800-214-7954.