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Facilities & Construction


Va. School to Add Energy Efficiency Center

The Leonard A. Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration in Franklin County (Va.) Public Schools is already a unique place to get a high school education. But plans are underway for the school to add a new building that proponents say will not only be a learning laboratory for students in the fields of energy efficient design but will attract thousands of visitors annually.


The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED ) will have approximately 3,600 square feet of learning space. Students will learn biology, chemistry and physics within the context of the environmental and architectural principles reflected in the design and functioning of the building. Lessons will focus on features that will be incorporated into the building, some of them already in use at the Gereau Center and on its grounds, such as wind systems, photovoltaics, geothermal energy, gray water recycling and water harvesting, and sustainable building materials and construction techniques.

Proponents of CEED see great potential in using it as a demonstration of the kinds of building techniques and design methods that could be incorporated in homes, and they are planning to host a steady stream of visitors, including architects, builders, and potential homebuyers. They believe, in turn, that it will give a boost to the district’s commitment to preparing students for cutting-edge careers.

Franklin County has suffered as the two strongest sectors of its economy, agriculture and manufacturing, have contracted. Despite this, says John Richardson, an environmental science teacher at the Gereau Center, most students want to stay in the area after they graduate. He explains that CEED could keep them there by spurring the development of new businesses in green design and building.

“One of the limiting factors that hinders the advancement of green technologies and techniques is the lack of installation technicians,” he says. CEED will help to prepare students for careers as technicians, or to go on to college for further study. Richardson says that the school is looking at partnerships with community colleges in the area.

CEED will complement programs already functioning at the Gereau Center, whose students have an opportunity to investigate eight career tracks projected to be in demand when they enter the workforce. Students begin their studies at the Gereau Center in eighth grade, then have the option of switching to Franklin County High School or continuing in a joint program at both the high school and the Gereau Center.

The project is being funded through a combination of county funds, federal grants, and in-kind donations from building firms and other businesses.


EPA Tests for Toxics at Schools

The EPA announced on March 31 that it will test the air for toxic contaminants outside of 62 schools in 22 states. Monitors will focus on those that are known to cause cancer, and those that can cause neurological and respiratory problems. The contaminants tested for at these schools will be based on the best available information on actual pollution sources in the areas.

Rural, suburban and urban schools are on the EPA’s list. They were chosen based on their proximity to sources of pollution such as highways or industrial facilities.

Monitoring will be phased in over a three-month period. Testing will take place at each location 10 times over a 60-day period.

The EPA’s decision follows a USA Today investigation that identified over 400 schools where toxic levels in the air outside appeared to be higher than those outside Meredith Hitchens Elementary School in Addyston, Ohio. That school closed in 2005 following the disclosure that Lanxess Corp., which operated a plastics plant across the street from the school, had accidentally emitted two known carcinogens on at least three occasions. After testing the air outside the school over a seven-month period, the Ohio EPA found the toxic levels at the school to be 50 times higher than what it considered acceptable.