The US’s schools are always being pushed to become more efficient in terms of the education they provide their students so it only makes sense that their buildings should look to become more efficient, too. That’s likely the thinking behind the new Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator, launched by the Department of Energy (DOE) with two states, six school districts and several national organizations. Under the partnership, collaborators are working to create zero-energy design schools and buildings that are cost-competitive with conventional construction costs.
The effort is part of the Obama Administration’s effort to cut energy waste in US buildings through the larger Better Buildings program. The schools accelerator launched in Virginia at the Discovery Elementary School, a zero energy school and part of the Arlington School District, a partner in the program. Such buildings are called zero energy because they consume less energy or equal energy to the amount of power their renewable systems put on the grid, hence they produce energy savings for schools.
“Through the Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator, partners commit to real savings,” said Kathleen Hogan, U.S. Department of Energy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency. “By using the most energy-efficient technologies, and engaging students and the local community, school districts can lead the way in saving taxpayer dollars and creating more resilient and first-in-class educational facilities.”
The DOE estimates that depending on their local climate zone zero energy schools could save 65-to-80 percent in energy consumption. In doing so, they can spend more money on their students and teachers. They also provide a unique practicable learning experience for students, teachers and parents, who can experience how the technologies, like better insulation and heating and cooling systems save the school money.
For instance, at the Discovery school, it’s engineers expect to save about $75,000 within its first year of operation thanks to offsetting its energy usage with renewable energy. It uses solar power, and geothermal heating, among other technologies, to reduce its impact while Elementary is one of 40 emerging Zero Energy ready schools in the U.S., and was built with advanced next generation energy efficiency and renewable power features, including solar rooftop and geothermal heating.
Other school partners are the Hermosa Beach City School District and the LA Unified School District, both in California; and the Boulder Valley School District, Adams 12—Five Star Schools and Douglas County School District in Colorado. It also includes the State of Minnesota Schools and the State of California Schools. The organizations that partnered in the Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, Southern California Edison, The Energy Coalition, New Buildings Institute, Rocky Mountain Institute and the National Association of State Energy Officials.Tweet