Back to School in Better Buildings, Better Schools
Schools are demonstrating what can be done to make comfortable learning environments for kids while reducing their environmental impacts. From energy efficiency efforts to renewable energy installations, schools are helping solve the energy challenges we face.
Guest blog by Stan Price, Executive Director of Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC)
At PC Jantz Elementary School in the Odessa School District in Eastern Washington, teachers reported having to move the students at least 12’ from the wall to help them retain their body heat due to the cold coming in from the windows on windy days. In the Renton School District, aging single pane windows at Dimmitt Middle School let in freezing air into classrooms in winter and allowed them to massively overheat in early fall and late spring. I don't know about you, but I think that we can't make progress in improving the quality of student learning if we can't make the spaces in which they learn comfortable, or even habitable.
Luckily, steps are being taken around the state to improve school buildings and make them more energy efficient. With the help of Schneider Electric, the Odessa School District made upgrades to reduce outside air infiltration at PC Jantz Elementary, including the replacement of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, HVAC control system upgrades, lighting fixture upgrades, windows, and the installation of insulation and plumbing fixture replacements. In Renton, District leaders worked with Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort systems and solutions brand of Ingersoll Rand, to install tinted, double-pane windows, high efficiency boilers and hot water heaters. Companies and school districts are making efforts like the one at PC Jantz Elementary and at Dimmitt Middle School all around Washington. Buildings are being retrofitted with the newest technologies. The energy and cost savings show that we can help the children’s learning environment while creating more local jobs and cutting pollution. Districts can take those dollars saved and reinvest in our children’s future.
Lighting makes a big difference when it comes to learning, and the big technology advances in that arena are being applied to schools. Ameresco Quantum, an independent energy services company, recently worked with the Puyallup School District on projects to upgrade lighting in classrooms, portables and gyms. The effort replaced inefficient T-12 lighting in over a million square feet of classrooms with modern T-8 technology and lower wattage lamps and saved $200,000 in energy costs per year. On the other side of the state, the Columbia School District partnered with Apollo, a resource solutions group, to upgrade many of the heating and cooling components of the school district's facilities. Students in the Columbia School District now can enjoy an improved learning environment with a more comfortable indoor climate.
New control systems and remote access management are more ways buildings can improve energy efficiency. The Toledo School District recently completed a project with McKinstry, a design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm, to install a new direct digital controls upgrade. The new technology allows remote surveillance and maintenance of system use in the Toledo elementary, middle and high schools. The system makes sure that lights, heating, and other systems are shut down at the appropriate times.
Schools across the region are demonstrating what can be done to make comfortable learning environments for kids while reducing their environmental impacts. From energy efficiency efforts to renewable energy installations, schools are helping solve the energy challenges we face.
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC) is a business association of the energy efficiency industry. NEEC’s mission is to promote policies and programs that enhance market opportunities for energy efficiency.