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Greens Advocate Guaranteed Energy Efficiency Guidelines for Bond Construction

by Mark Marcoplos

The Orange County Greens are mounting a fall campaign to ensure that modern, "energy-smart", sustainable construction of all new buildings is guaranteed before the bonds are decided on election day. If county leadership does not pass a resolution guaranteeing such an outcome, we should withhold support for the bond measures.

During the last couple of decades, enormous strides have been made in design and technology related to building construction, energy consumption, and resource efficiency. Here and there, across the country and around the world, municipalities, companies, and individuals have been building and designing on the cutting edge. The result of their work is an integrated body of knowledge and a track record characterized by successful redundancy.

Not far from here, over in Wake and Johnston Counties, are five schools designed by Innovative Design, based in Raleigh, which incorporate daylighting. Carefully designed "roof monitors" allow sunlight to penetrate the interior of the school and special translucent fabric baffles prevent direct sunlight from causing glare in work areas.

In daylit, energy-efficient schools, smaller mechanical systems are needed. Less lights are required and the necessary ones are energy-efficient types resulting in less heat which reduces the cooling load. And saves money with a smaller heating and cooling system.

The newer school designs result in payback periods between one and three years. After that the real gravy starts coming in as reduced energy bills.

Two recently built daylit middle schools were compared with non-daylit schools built at the same time and the an nual savings was found to be an average of $0.25 per square foot. In local terms, if the 136,221 square foot McDougle Middle School had been built as an energy efficient daylit structure, the annual energy savings would be about $34,000. And energy costs are certain to go up over the life-span of the school. But just using current costs, the conservative savings over the fifty year life of the school would be $1,700,000.

As a consequence, the environmental burden of these buildings is greatly diminished. People are generally proud of such an accomplishment in their school district and the students are taught a valuable lesson before the first bell rings.

A fascinating fringe benefit of daylighting is the increased health and productivity of those who work in such an environment. Innovative Design's lead architects, Michael Nicklas and Gary Bailey, had heard of a study in Alberta, Canada concerning enhanced student achievement in daylit schools and decided to check into it locally. They looked at California Achievement Test scores of the student body before and after moving into the Four Oaks School, an "energy-smart" school in Johnston County. Countywide student averages were also compared, as were scores from students who moved into non-daylit schools.

After one year in Four Oaks, scores rose an average of five percent, improving to fourteen percent after two years. Students who moved into the non-daylit schools showed no improvement, actually dropping a little in relation to the county average.

Interestingly, the Four Oaks population's scores dropped way down below the county average after their old school burned and they spent two years in temporary mobile classrooms while the new school was being built. As soon as they moved to the daylit environment, their scores began to climb until they had significantly surpassed the county average.

Energy savings, environmental benefits, higher test scores, and a more comfortable educational environment-it's the no-brainer of the election season.


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