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UCPS continues goal of leaving ‘green’ footprint

Anisa Baldwin Metzger, with the Center for Green Schools out of Washington, DC, facilitates a recent daylong training session for UCPS facilities and maintenance personnel that addressed UCPS going “greening” in existing schools.

The Union County Public Schools system is taking “green” to the next level by attempting to LEED certify existing schools with little or no capital investment.

When the system gets money to do capital projects, thinking green will be part of the plan. “We’ll be looking at what we can do with projects we have to do anyway, but we can make them a bit better by making them green and sustainable,” said UCPS Facilities Director Don Hughes.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The certification UCPS is looking at is called LEED EBO&M (Existing Building Operations and Maintenance).

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed a Green Existing Schools Toolkit to help schools and school districts “green” their existing facilities and achieve LEED certification.

To help in this effort, UCPS facilities and maintenance personnel recently attended a daylong training session to help get the process started of “greening” existing schools. The training was at no charge to the school system.

“The purpose of this meeting is to facilitate a conversation with school district staff on how they can improve existing schools in the district,” said session facilitator Anisa Baldwin Metzger, with the Center for Green Schools, (a part of the US Green Building Council in Washington, DC).

The first school to work toward the LEED EB certification will be Stallings Elementary. “We’re using Stallings Elementary as a case study to look at improvement across the district to policies and procedures that have to do with the health of teachers and students and also resource efficiency,” Metzger said.

LEED consultant Hamilton Cort of Cort Architectural Group said the certification process could take between one to two years.

“We looked at the schools in the system that would be good candidates for this rating system,” Cort said. “We chose Stallings for three reasons.”

The first reason, he said, Stallings was recently completed, having been built in 2008. “The rating system is built around current codes and standards so a newer building is going to be more likely to meet those standards,” Cort said.

The second reason was the school’s design, which had been used in two other schools, making it an established design with the “benefit of evolutionary refinement.”

The third reason, “The school has no auxiliary structures like mobile units that would complicate the energy measurements,” Cort said.
“We’ll do more schools as we have funds or grants to do that. It is something that is very important for the planet,” Hughes said. “We have to think green and sustainability.”

Hughes said the school system hopes to build all future elementary, middle and high schools with a green and sustainable design in mind. His ultimate goal is to take the green and sustainable ideas into the classroom.

“I’m hearing from parents and students, ‘Why aren’t we recycling?’ ‘What are we doing green and sustainable?’ So, until the words gets out to everybody, no one really knows what anybody is doing,” Hughes said.

According to the US Green Building Council, there are “environmental, economic, health and community benefits from building green. Environmental benefits of building green are to enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity; improve air and water quality; reduce solid waste; and conserve natural resources.”

The economic benefits include the “reduction of operating costs, while enhancing asset value and profits.”

The health and community benefits include “improving air, thermal, and acoustic environments; enhancing the occupants’ comfort and health; minimize the strain on local infrastructure; and contributing to overall quality of life.”

Wolfe School, which opened in March of 2008, was the first green and sustainable school to get the LEED BD+C (Building Design and Construction) certification. Wolfe School, a 26,000-square-foot facility, specializes in educating special needs students. It was designated LEED Certified in February of 2010.

“We started with Wolfe, now we’re going to existing schools,” said UCPS Facilities Director Don Hughes.

New Town and Rocky River were the first elementary schools to work toward the green and sustainable design, with Stallings and Poplin Elementary schools following suit. Stallings Elementary will be the first to undergo LEED EBO&M (Existing Building Operations and Maintenance).

UCPS is now a K-12 member of the USGBC, which means that UCPS personnel can have access to information on the USGBC web site, such as seminars, webinars and access to green tools and green teaching plans.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 30, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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