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Retrofitting Buildings With Special Funds

These three districts have used grants or special taxes to retrofit buildings, saving money and increasing security.

Greenville Schools Create Renewable Energy

In late 2010, Greenville Public Schools, a rural district in Michigan, ranked in the 95th percentile nationally for sustainable schools. The district has since applied for LEED certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system, following completion of a green energy project with Johnson Controls.

The district added two 100kW solar photovoltaic panels—one at the high school and one at an elementary campus­—with a $180,000 state grant and revenue funds from Consumers Energy’s Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP). EARP requires energy companies to produce a certain amount of clean, renewable energy or to buy that energy from someone else who produces it, such as GPS’ solar panels.

The district is now making $70,000 per year selling its green energy to EARP. This money is being used to pay off a $5 million bond, fixed at 0.5 percent interest, that funded several energy-saving initiatives, such as occupancy sensors to control lighting and HVAC, new boilers and windows, and low-flow water faucets and toilets in the restrooms, along with the solar panels.

Along with sustainability efforts, the district also added the Johnson Controls Solar Academy curriculum, which includes green energy classroom lessons. The curriculum has been incorporated into the science program at the elementary and middle schools and as an elective at the high school. Energy output from the solar panels is displayed at the schools every day to educate students about the intensity of solar power and to promote a green culture.

Taylor Schools Upgrades Facilities and Infrastructure

In the fall of 2011, the Taylor School District in the suburbs of Detroit partnered with Honeywell to modernize old facilities and update an outdated infrastructure, changes that drove energy and operating costs down by more than $550,000 annually.

The district didn’t have to look far for the $14 million. The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama unveiled in 2009, funded the project. All school districts in Michigan were eligible to receive the low-interest ARRA-supported Qualified School Construction Bonds, which are being paid back with guaranteed energy and operational savings.

Honeywell plans to install conservation measures in all 15 schools this summer, such as new plumbing features to decrease water use in bathrooms. Taylor schools will replace inefficient boilers, lighting, doors and windows in all buildings and integrate an energy management system to help maintenance staff track energy consumption and identify ways to increase savings.

“Most of our facilities had not gone through a major renovation in more than two decades,” says Beth Iverson, Taylor’s superintendent. “And, like many districts in Michigan, we didn’t have the resources to properly maintain existing systems, let alone install new equipment.”

To cultivate a green culture, Honeywell provides Web-based dashboards that allow teachers to see the results and use the school buildings as a teaching tool and show students how to be environmentally responsible. The dashboards can also be used to educate the community and show taxpayers how their money was spent.

Securing Entries in Cobb County

Cobb County School District, located in the suburbs of Atlanta, is making sure staff and students are safe with an upgraded card access control system at its 68 elementary schools. This system was funded by a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax that was passed by voters in the county in Sept. 2008 for this project along with other safety measures, new classrooms and technology upgrades.

Last year, CCSD worked with Ingersoll Rand—a company that provides security, industrial and climate solutions—to inspect every door of all school buildings to determine whether the door frames and hardware were in the necessary condition to start the project. “We visited other school systems and universities and realized that the doors, frames, closers and hardware all have to be in perfect condition for an access control system to work,” says James Carlson, executive director of maintenance services for CCSD. “Then we made a determination of what was needed to bring every door up to standards and be sure it would close securely. In some cases we replaced wood doors with metal doors.”

Proximity card readers, which manage access to buildings, and electric latch exit devices, which secure doors, were installed at all major entrances to the elementary schools. The system unlocks and relocks controlled doors according to the school schedule. If the doors are not properly closed after school hours, an alert is sent to the school office, and public safety is notified if there is no response after 15 minutes. Cards can be programmed to control access for a restricted time.