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Energy Efficient Schools

Posted: 4:33PM October 12th, 2011 | Comments

For the past week and a half I, along with 10 MMSD teachers, have spent Tuesday and Thursday evenings at West High School learning about energy use in schools. We are taking part in a professional development workshop offered by KEEP (Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program) entitled Wisconsin School Building Energy Efficiency.

We started out the class last week following Glenn Bolt, an engineer with McKinstry, on a brief energy audit of the high school. We visited classrooms, library, shop, gymnasium, auditorium and even the boiler room to learn about how the school building functions. We examined lighting, heating and ventilation systems. And in the process we discussed the challenges and opportunities that face schools when they try to decrease their energy use.

Energy use is a very timely topic for the dozen or so of us in Glenn's tow. In this time of tightening budgets and increasing concern over the future of our environment, the MMSD is engaging in a District-wide energy reduction program. Indeed, with the help of the engineering and energy services firm McKinstry, MMSD decreased its energy use by 5% last year.

And from our tour of West High, I can tell you that getting that 5% was no small feat. Many of the District's schools are housed in old buildings with old and inefficient mechanical systems. And although retrofitting those systems would increase their efficiency, the cost of those projects is prohibitive. Instead, these savings were achieved through optimizing the use of existing mechanical systems.

During our tour of West High we also discovered computers running long after the students had left for the day and lights on in empty classrooms and hallways. Real opportunities lie in how people use these school buildings. Not only do we need energy efficient buildings, we need energy efficient people.

This year, while McKinstry engineers continue to assess energy use and problem solve at the building level, students and staff will lend their hands by engaging in energy saving activities like turning off lights and computers, removing personal appliances from their classrooms and keeping doors and widows closed.

In our class we learned that lighting is 24% of an average schools budget. In MMSD, lighting accounts for approximately 50% of electricity use. Who knew that such a simple act like turning off the lights could have such a big impact?


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