Building energy savings into school design means more money for education.
At Yes! Magazine, Erin L. McCoy describes what planners did for the rural Richardsville Elementary School near Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“When Richardsville opened its doors in fall 2010, it was the first net zero school in the nation, meaning that the school produces more energy on-site than it uses in a year.
“Solar tubes piping sunlight directly into classrooms eliminate much of the school’s demand for electric light, while a combination of geothermal and solar power cut down on the rest of the energy bill. Concrete floors treated with a soy-based stain don’t need buffing. The kitchen, which in most schools contributes to 20 percent of the energy bill, houses a combi-oven that cooks healthier meals and eliminates frying. This means an exhaust fan doesn’t pipe the school’s temperature-controlled air to the outdoors all day long.
“Meanwhile, ‘green screens’ in the front hall track the school’s energy usage so kids can see the impact of turning off a light in real time.
“These and other innovations make Richardsville better than net zero. It actually earns about $2,000 a month selling excess energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority. …
“Three factors are essential to making a green school work: First, you need the participation of the community and the local power company; second, you can’t forget that a school is a dynamic learning environment; and third, you need to speak the language of money.
“Since the economic recession began in 2008, school districts have suffered. Local tax bases were shaken as property values plummeted, and states have cut back on funding to districts, which were pushed to cut funds wherever they were able. Addressing energy use made a lot of financial sense.”