What initially began in 2008 as a conscientious effort to reduce their school’s energy consumption resulted in Glen Hills Middle School “leeding” the way to gold. In 2013 Glen Hills, a 178,000 square-foot school built in 1970 became the first pre-existing Wisconsin school to become awarded a Gold-LEED Certification.
The project was a cooperative effort by public and private sectors sparked by the school district’s facility management team of Jim Beckmann and Don Bruening. “We never went into this process going for LEED Certification,” admitted Jim Beckmann, Director of Operations for the district. As school budgets tightened, the team looked for innovative ways to reduce operational expenses involving the middle school.
The team began to promote an energy conservation program and enlisted the help of teachers and school officials as a means to save money on operation and utility costs. Incremental modifications to lighting systems, along with the installation of low-flow toilets and a white roof on the three-story school proved to be energy-saving investments. The building is also equipped with an energy-saving roof-top solar collection system which heats the school’s swimming pool. Over the course of implementing these changes the team reduced the school’s energy footprint and watched its Energy Star Rating skyrocket.
By all measures the energy project was successful before LEED was even on the radar. The team recorded nearly a 30% improvement in their Energy Star Rating and recorded approximately $19,000 in operational savings as a result of the school’s eco-friendly efforts. Then in 2011 the conversation involving LEED began as Beckmann and Bruening starting working with Meighan Forrer and Jason Gilbert of Transwestern Sustainability Services to learn where the school stacked-up performance-wise in relation to LEED criteria and among other similar facilities across the state.
Transwestern found the school was positioned well for the next step towards LEED Certification, but the biggest challenge for Glen Hills was the cost related to making it happen. Application fees and studies can range up to $50,000 which is a huge expense for an organization like the Glendale-River Hills School District. However working collectively with the U.S. Green Building Council, the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance and the Transwestern Sustainability Team the school’s facility team was able to conduct preliminary studies to measure the building’s performance and learn if their systems required recalibration, replacement and predict a return on investment. The study uncovered that adjustments in run times, scheduling and modest repairs would increase building efficiency and reduce overhead even greater than initially predicted making LEED Certification a financially viable move for the district.
In a letter to Beckman congratulating the team’s collective efforts CEO, S. Richard Fedrizzi of the USGBC writes: “Schools have always been a major part of my focus at USGBC and while I love to see the designs for modern, green schools, it’s our existing schools where we see the greatest opportunity to make a difference.”
The building was awarded their Gold LEED certification last spring and has continued to implement operational practices and features for future certification purposes.
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