Wallowa Lake Lodge is saving energy and the environment

Wallowa Lake Lodge is saving energy and the environment

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On the banks of the picturesque Wallowa Lake sits the historic Wallowa Lake Lodge. Since the lodge opened in 1923, the building has remained almost identical and has continued its involvement within the community. Throughout the years, the lodge has brought the small town of Joseph closer together and is now an integral part of the community.

After a transformative period in 2016, the lodge went up for auction, which immediately gained attention from large hotel chains and put the community at risk of losing the property to major development. In an effort to “save the lodge”, a group of local investors banded together to purchase the property as a community and preserve the local treasure. Since then, the lodge has become shareholder-owned by many members of the Wallowa County community with the Nez Perce Tribe helping to safeguard the property and banks of the Wallowa River.

To further protect and revitalize Wallowa Lake and surrounding ecosystem, in 2020 the lodge signed a conservation easement with the Nez Perce tribe. Sustaining the environment is something the lodge’s general manager, Madeline Lau, is passionate about. Lau constantly looks for new ways to incorporate sustainability into operations from avoiding single-use plastic to thinking about the buildings’ energy efficiency. “We want to maintain the lodge and continue it for future generations – which can be difficult with the number of repairs needed,” said Lau. This June, the lodge celebrated its 100th anniversary and while the lodge has undergone many modern upgrades, there is still work that needs to be done.

With a 100-year-old building comes antique infrastructure that often requires expensive renovations, which is exactly what Lau, the board of directors and the lodge’s shareholders were facing. “If we had $1,000,000 at our disposal to make all these improvements, we would do it, but we don’t,” Lau said. “From a dollar and cents perspective -this old creaky building is expensive to run, and every dollar counts when you’re a shareholder-owned business.”

After discovering a bat colony that moved into their attic causing tears in the already outdated insulation, Lau knew the lodge needed to replace the insulation so they weren’t wasting money or energy on cooling and heating costs.

This led Lau to meet Energy Trust of Oregon energy advisor Dan Piper at a Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce meeting. After hearing more about what Energy Trust does and the offerings available for businesses wanting to save energy, Lau realized “Oh, we can do this”. Lau then scheduled a time for Dan to assess the lodge’s energy performance and point out property improvements that qualify for cash incentives. Among his recommendations, Dan identified one of the lodge’s most pressing priorities – replacing the damaged attic insulation with more energy-efficient insulation.

“Having someone come in and say ‘this is where you can save money’ allowed us to recoup a huge amount of the attic expense,” said Lau.

With the help of Energy Trust, Wallowa Lake Lodge replaced all 4,000 square feet of attic insulation and received $3,600 in cash incentives including a limited time bonus incentive. The new insulation will save the lodge an estimated $4,000 in annual energy bills.

Better performing, energy-efficient insulation means the lodge will have improved temperature regulation and use less energy allowing management to put more money back into deferred maintenance projects.

“Energy efficiency is important for a small business, it helps us keep our finances in check and we want to do everything we can to positively affect our bottom line.” – Madeline Lau, general manager, Wallowa Lake Lodge

Learn more about how you can save energy at your business with support from Energy Trust of Oregon. Visit our cash incentives page here or get started on your energy-saving project by emailing existingbuildings@energytrust.org.