Lower Energy Use For The Poudre School District; How & Why?

Posted on January 16th, 2012 by



John Little,  Stu Reeve, and Pete Hall, of the Poudre School District talk about why they are participating in the Better Buildings Challenge.

Full Transcript:

Ben Lack: How did you became aware of the Better Buildings Challenge and why did the  Poudre School District decide to become a part of it.
John Little: You need to get the other 2 people involved in here first before we do that because my participation is by default because Poudre High School was picked as the project to be involved. Stu Reeve who is sitting to my right, our energy manager, and Pete Hall who is director of facilities, is also here in the room.  I’ll hand this over to Stu for just a second here.
Stu Reeve: We were approached by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; we do quite a bit of work with those folks here in Colorado, out of Golden. They asked us if this might be a program we’d be interested in since we are such a proactive school district in the state of Colorado.  We also have been a participant with several programs through the Department of Energy, as well as Energy Star, and looked at the criteria required from the Better Buildings Challenge. We have an energy baseline from 2005 and the only difference was that the Better Buildings Challenge was looking at 2008 as a benchmark; the district already has a 20% reduction goal in place. We passed a bond initiative in 2010, which included major infrastructure upgrades, such as mechanical systems, fire alarms, electrical infrastructure, roofing, etc. It really aligned with what we’re already doing, so we didn’t really see it as being any different.
Ben Lack: What steps are you implementing? I know that the baseline is a little bit different from the baseline that you’re working on but give me some insights into what some of those plans look like as far as what you’re looking at for your portfolio for lowering energy use?
Pete Hall Beginning with our 2000 bond initiative, the district embraced the integrated design process following a sustainable design guideline, co-created with The Brendle Group, a local Fort Collins engineering firm. Building off the successes of the sustainable design guidelines, in 2006 the district created, what the Brendle Group indicated at the time, was the nation’s first K-12 sustainability management system that incorporated 18 different departments sharing a vision of resource conservation, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, transportation efficiencies, sustainable education, and health and wellness. Embodied within that, each of these departments has the power to make decisions along the avenues of sustainability.From a greenhouse gas emission reduction standpoint, we know energy is the biggest contributor. And so, everything from projects including lighting fixture retrofits to pump replacement begins with energy efficiency guidelines embraced by the district. We reduce life-cycle costs by controlling run-times in the buildings and we have been doing that since about 1994. The district started measuring the efficacy of managing HVAC run-times, in addition to improved lighting to reduce heat load and improved thermal mass to reduce heat loss. These features are designed into a new building, so it became part of the integrated strategy.
Ben Lack: Are all of the improvements or all of the projects that end up being executed driven by financial payback in energy cost savings or are there other metrics or considerations you use before you implement or approve a project?
Stu Reeve: It’s a life cycle cost analysis piece of the puzzle. A lot of the district equipment is aging and life cycle is becoming a factor. The district has schools that are new, middle of the road, and some pretty old ones. Sometimes, it’s trying to create equity out there as well. It’s driven by ensuring this equipment is replaced in a reasonable way and then making sure each of our classrooms has an equitable look from a brand new building to an old building, providing our students with the best learning environment possible.
Ben Lack: How are you being held accountable by NREL and the DOE to achieve the savings that you publically chose to commit to?
Stu Reeve We participate in Energy Star, so they have access to our portfolio through Portfolio Manager. We monitor monthly reports by school site and share data so schools can assist us with our energy management goals. These projects are designed, implemented, and when completed, we will be working alongside the schools to measure the results.
Ben Lack: The district is in a unique position in the sense that you’re working on schools and obviously education of energy responsibility is an important driver in today’s society. I’m curious to know if you can speak to any steps that the school district is taking to translate the efforts that you  are making toward the education of the students in the classroom in regards to energy efficiency and sustainability
Pete Hall You can take that from what this district is recognized for and it is what we do. With our integrated designed and sustainability management system, the efforts are incorporated within the framework of our schools. We have ten schools that are actively composting, and Stu is working with a group called Energy Rules at the City of Fort Collins, as well as other partners, to work on delivery of that type of education in the classroom. I’m very careful when I say curricular delivery because that becomes a bit more of a challenge with education; there are a lot of energy programs and energy conservation clubs in these schools.Some shining examples can be seen in schools like Kinard Middle School, Poudre High School, Fossil Ridge High School, and Bacon Elementary School. We have 6 schools that will be participating in our sustainability management system interviews for the reporting year of 2011, which is a great step for us to get them involved. That’s how we are working within schools. We have great administrative support for these efforts, recognizing its holistic approach. It’s not one path it’s all paths to sustainability and the benefits from energy savings as a business practice.
Stu Reeve We also work closely with Colorado State University. There’s a wide variety of people that we work with around how we can get in and impact schools and their requests on energy conservation or environmental stewardship. Working with Dr. Jeni Cross from Colorado State University, they have been studying our school district around behavior and awareness and from the societal side. Dr. Cross has several publications about how we do what we do, what we have learned, and how can you duplicate that across other school districts or even other businesses.
Ben Lack: As you prioritize the projects that you implement into these schools, can you talk to me a little bit of how much of those steps and procedures are defined as innovative ways to be energy efficient and if there is some of that taking place. Can you provide an example of a school or process that you’re taking that isn’t commonly accepted or has been used as much as other strategies?
John Little We don’t have a lot of cookie-cutter schools, so every school we work on is a unique situation which poses different challenges. The heating and cooling pieces of these schools are unique to each school. Some of our older schools were constructed with unit ventilators as their primary HVAC system. In looking at replacing the equipment like for like, we could get some energy savings but we are not really improving air quality and air transfer. We are looking at different ways of delivering the air and air changes in the school which is an evolution of what we are doing, using displacement ventilation to improve air quality and occupant comfort.We are trying to make sure that people don’t read that the only thing we care about is energy savings and everything else is second tier. If all we do is save energy and people don’t notice any difference in comfort, we’ve failed. Delivering the proper product and the highest quality product is a very high priority in everything that we do.
Stu Reeve Ample research went in to studying these buildings before we started to get into our design, so we knew what we needed to do. We did full building envelope studies and retro-commissioning on these buildings in order to get in and find out exactly how they perform, including life cycle cost analysis and energy modelling. We try to approach it just like we would a new building.
Ben Lack: Gentlemen, I would like to close by asking you why you’re doing what you’re doing?
Pete Hall We began in 1993-1994 with an awareness of the need for energy savings. We have learned to provide a better learning environment by how we construct new buildings to how we operate and remodel existing buildings. It has become our culture; we mentioned behavior and awareness. We’re in a great community that has supported our efforts throughout. We passed the bond and the mill and the city tax increase in 2010, when other state-wide initiatives were failing. We’re in a good place to implement an improved way of doing business and provide exceptional learning spaces.
Stu Reeve We also look at it as best management practices when compare notes with others and learn. It’s a business model and a lot of these strategies are about the comfort of the classroom. With utility rates going up, best management practices can mitigate those increases. We can control use but we can’t control cost this is better management practice on how we can mitigate those utility cost increases. We can control use but we can’t control cost; those rates are moving pretty fast for us right now, so this is the good way for us to put money back into the classroom and not into utility bills.
Ben Lack: Before we let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience?
John Little I think the most important thing is to make sure it’s about comfort and educational spaces that provide the best learning area, and energy savings are complimentary to that. These are a high priority for us and we are going to do our best and see how these projects perform. Budgets are always a challenge for school districts, both within the bond fund and the general fund. We have some challenges and opportunities within the on-going daily cost of operating, so we’re hoping that we can do our best and confirm the taxpayer support of our practices.

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