District Focuses on Energy Efficient Facilities
One of the primary goals of the Pendleton School District’s bond program is to ensure new school facilities are built and operated to minimize long-term maintenance and operating costs. To achieve this, the Pendleton Early Learning Center and the new Sherwood and Washington schools were designed and are being constructed to receive certification by Earth Advantage. The purpose of the program is to improve health, comfort, durability, energy efficiency and water efficiency while reducing operating expenses. Representatives from BBT Architects and Wenaha Group completed specialized training to become Earth Advantage Project Stewards in order to guide design and construction in accordance with strict sustainability standards. The new facilities will be the first schools in our region certified by the Earth Advantage Institute.
In addition, the initial cost of the energy saving measures is significantly reduced by working with the Oregon Energy Trust and the Oregon Department of Energy. Both provide financial grants for projects that incorporate significant energy saving measures. Savings are estimated at more than $500,000, one of their largest investments in an eastern Oregon school district.
The most recognizable energy saving feature of the new schools are the photovoltaic solar panels on south-facing roof areas. Other features include super-efficient heating and cooling systems, LED light fixtures, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and increased insulation and weatherization. The buildings are constructed with very durable and low-maintenance materials to further reduce long-term operating and maintenance expenses.
Reducing energy costs is not limited to the new facilities. At Pendleton High School the old boiler and numerous heating units were replaced with modern, high efficiency systems resulting in significantly reduced utility bills.
While students and staff at Sunridge Middle School certainly appreciated the installation of the greatly needed air conditioning system, they may not realize the work that was done to resurrect the unique active solar system. When the facility was originally built, it incorporated what was at the time a “state of the art” system of solar heat collector panels on the south side of the building. These panels transmitted hot air into underground chambers to supplement the heating system. The chambers could be flushed with cool night-time air in warm months to be circulated throughout the building during the day. Unfortunately, the technology to control the system of air temperature monitors, dampers and fans was complicated to operate and difficult to maintain. The system quickly fell into disrepair and never lived up to its potential.
After months of study and design, this past summer the old equipment and technology was replaced with a simple to operate DDC (direct digital control) system that allows the ingenious solar system to finally live up to its original intent, resulting in significantly reduced utility costs.
While the district capital bond program cannot address every energy saving need at every school, we have made great strides in reducing operating expenses while ensuring our schools are healthy and comfortable learning environments. We have also established the Pendleton School District as a state-wide leader in sustainable and energy efficient schools.
For more information on Earth Advantage, visit www.earthadvantage.org.
By Dave Fishel, Wenaha Group