Goal to create healthier learning environment, boost energy efficiency and cost savings

OUTLOOK PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Reynolds School District is using green buiding techniques in its four new or substantially remodeled schools to make classrooms healthier, more earth-friendly and cheaper to run. The Reynolds School District is going above and beyond sustainable building requirements to make sure its new and remodeled schools are earth friendly and easy on the budget.

The energy-efficient and healthier schools are part of the district building program paid for by a $125 million bond voters passed in May 2015. Reynolds is well underway with a major remodel and expansion of Reynolds High School in Troutdale. The new Fairview, Troutdale and Wilkes elementary schools are going up to replace the old buildings.

Oregon requires 1.5 percent of public-building construction costs go toward green energy technology, but Reynolds went above that amount, the district said in an announcement, in order to make the schools healthier, cheaper to operate and more environmentally friendly.

"Absolutely it's money well-spent," said Linda Florence, Reynolds superintendent. "If you're spending it up front, you're not spending it every year later on."

Often the 1.5 percent state requirement is satisfied by slapping solar panels on the roof or providing geothermal heating, and Reynolds schools are being built "future ready" to incorporate solar panels if the district decides to add them someday.

However, new sustainable design practices use varied technology to enhance energy and cost savings. Reynolds explored some of these other ways for the new schools to meet and exceed sustainability requirements.

The schools are part of an Energy Trust of Oregon pilot project, the third such pilot for the passive energy technology requirement. The first two are Chemeketa Community College and a Multnomah County Health Department building in Portland.

The goal of the pilot was to determine the contribution of the passive solar design elements in meeting the green energy technology requirements. The new buildings are designed with super insulated walls and roofs, requiring less heating in cool weather and less cooling during warm weather.

"One of the neatest things about this is that in the winter, much of the heating comes from body heat," Florence said.

Windows open

The windows in the new buildings open four inches, which allows for natural ventilation and passive cooling. Strategic placement of the windows enables passive solar heating and natural daylighting. Air shafts also remove warm air from classrooms.

"We still have backup systems," Florence was quick to point out.

The result of the passive green energy scheme is a nearly 20% reduction in projected energy use, which will save the district money over the long haul by reducing heating and cooling costs.

The passive energy strategies qualified the new schools for the Energy Trust's Path to Net Zero program, which provides incentives for furthering energy efficiency goals. The monetary incentives paid for planning for the energy-saving features. The districts figure the incentives will total approximately $400,000 once the projects are completed.

Wilkes Elementary School already was approved for satisfying the Path to Net Zero's goals. Fairview and Troutdale Elementary Schools are being submitted to the Energy Trust in the coming weeks.

The new schools are also designed to improve the learning environment by providing lots of daylight and fresh air. Unhealthy indoor environmental quality, such as poor lighting and high CO2 levels, contribute to issues ranging from asthma to low test scores, some experts say.

The Reynolds School District has worked with sustainability specialists EcoREAL Solutions and Hodaie Engineering, project architects BLRB Architects and owners representative Day CPM, on the green school program.

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