Sustainability and energy efficiency will be 'areas of focus' when the district improves its facilities, creating the potential for long-term savings

SUBMITTED PHOTO - These windows at Westridge Elementary School have neither a head to cover the top nor a sill at the bottom to keep out rain and air.The Lake Oswego School District may be facing at least $98 million in seismic upgrades and repairs to its brick-and-mortar facilities, but there may be a silver lining in dealing with the list of deferred maintenance: Some improvements could go hand in hand with major energy savings.

The district is in the process of deciding its priorities for a bond measure that could go before voters in November 2016. Potential projects include more than $47 million in seismic upgrades and over $51 million in repairs that were deferred during the Great Recession, when the district opted to focus funds on academics and personnel.

Those totals do not include 30-35 percent in additional “soft costs,” such as staffing, design and permits. And as facilities are further assessed, more projects may be uncovered. But school officials say there could be a lot to gain from facility improvements beyond having newer and safer buildings.

“As we move into updating and upgrading our facilities,” Superintendent Heather Beck says, “sustainability and energy efficiency will be areas of focus.”

At this point, it isn’t possible to put a dollar figure on potential energy savings, because the district hasn’t chosen the projects it will include on the bond measure, according to Randy Miller, the LOSD’s executive director of project management.

“We don’t know what we’re going to fix,” Miller says, “or what we’re going to replace.”

MILLERBut that should change soon.

The community can weigh in on a plan being created by the district’s Long Range Facilities Planning Committee; a meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Lakeridge High School. And then on Jan. 25, the school board will decide whether to adopt the plan, which is a state requirement before putting a bond measure on the ballot.

Once the plan is adopted, another committee will prioritize projects for the proposed bond and bring it before the board for a final vote.

Meanwhile, the district continues to enlist support from volunteers, students and staff for sustainability practices, such as composting and recycling. Five of the district’s 10 schools have already been certified as Green Schools, an effort that complements the LOSD’s own work to improve energy efficiency in all of its 17 buildings.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lakeridge Junior High School's roof is leaky and needs to be repaired.

Energy savings

Not every bond project will equate to energy savings, but some of the needed repairs identified in a recently completed Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) certainly have that potential, such as replacing windows and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Many structural improvements identified in the FCA, including repairing or replacing roofs and improving insulation, also can reduce energy use, Miller says, although that depends on the types of upgrades.

“Quite often, you don’t realize the savings from increased insulation for many, many years into the future, and that’s predicated on a growth in energy costs that is steady and incremental,” Miller tells The Review. “If we get some kind of enormous bump in energy costs, then payback will be sooner.”

The deficiencies listed in the FCA, a required part of the district’s 25-year Long Range Facilities Plan, include electrical and mechanical fixes; many more are structural, such as leaking roofs and long cracks in walls.

“There may be savings to be had in replacing or rebuilding our electrical or mechanical systems that are outside of the known deficiencies,” Miller says. “These are costs that are not currently in any capital planning scenario. But that may change as the (Long Range Facilities Planning) Committee's work continues, and they begin to identify proposed improvements to our schools beyond those identified in the FCA report.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lakeridge Junior High School's walls are cracking.As the years pass, more opportunities to save could turn up. Miller says he is interested in finding and fixing any leaking pipes and looking into investing in low-flow toilets, for example, because “water savings can be significant.”

The district already has enacted major energy-use improvements, he says, such as “relamping” and “delamping.”

For the past couple of years, district staff have been “relamping” — replacing light bulbs with more-efficient fluorescent bulbs and some LED lights. “LED is the wave of the future,” Miller says, “so as we look to upgrade our lighting system, LEDs will be in the mix.”

Officials also have been “delamping,” which involves reducing light bulb use.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - This cracked chimney has unreinforced masonry and probably wouldn't fair too well in an earthquake, necessitating some seismic improvements.“Say in a bank of four fluorescent bulbs in one fixture, you remove one,” Miller explains. “There’s no significant change in quality or light level, and it’s a savings of 25 percent. The more fixtures that you delamp, the more you save.”

That kind of energy savings is crucial for schools throughout the nation, which see tons of money drift out through drafty windows and burn up under hot, inefficient light bulbs.

“K-12 schools spend around $6 billion on energy annually, making energy the second-highest operating expenditure for schools after personnel costs — more money than is spent on textbooks and computers combined,” according to a 2013 report funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

DUKE CASTLEEnergy efficiency aside, another way to save dollars, lives and preserve district facilities is to gird the buildings against earthquakes, according to Duke and Jan Castle, two of the founders of the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network. About half of the repairs identified in the FCA are seismic upgrades, and Duke Castle says retrofitting district structures to resist earthquakes is a sensible investment.

“Think of the cost of rebuilding all of those buildings simultaneously,” he says.

If roads are impassable and many homes have crumbled, a neighborhood school could serve as a safe, central place to congregate, Jan Castle says. Some current buildings may not collapse, but they may not be sound enough to shelter in, either.

JAN CASTLE“There’s a higher standard for immediate occupancy,” she says, adding that it’s far easier to build a new building to that standard than to retrofit an old one.

Miller says seismic improvements to schools would fall under the life safety standard, which involves getting people out safely when an event such as an earthquake occurs.

“In some cases, where the building system works out correctly for us, we have upgraded our estimates for the gyms to an emergency shelter” with an immediate occupancy rating, Miller says. “We couldn’t afford to (upgrade whole buildings) as a shelter in place, but a gym is a significant place where we could fit a lot of people.”


Sustainability in the schools

While seismic upgrades and repairs are being selected that could improve energy efficiency and safety and reduce expenses in the long term, schools are already deep into sustainable practices.

“Students, parents and staff are all working collectively on a variety of different sustainability initiatives at our schools,” Beck says. “Many of our sustainability efforts are driven by the active participation of volunteers; we are grateful for their contributions and their focus.”

A few examples, which might not be found at every school, include:

• Recycling paper, plastics, cans and batteries;

• Minimizing paper usage by sending electronic newsletters;

• Composting and food-scrap services in lunch programs;

• Using washable trays and silverware;

• Encouraging gardens and garden clubs at schools, often run by students, teachers and parents;

• Setting thermostats on timers and turning down the heat during low-use times;

• Switching out box monitors to energy-efficient flat monitors at computer stations;

• Not watering unused fields during the summer; and

• Donating perishables to food banks when schools close for holidays or breaks.

There is a new position on some parent club boards that focuses on sustainability measures. For example, Oak Creek Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association has a vice president of sustainability. At many schools, students are involved in sustainability efforts, such as recycling programs and attending Green Summit conferences.

Many elementary schools participate in Walk and Bike to School Days, and ongoing curricula carries a sustainability focus, such as lessons involving National Geographic information at the elementary level. This year, the district contracted with a new transportation provider that operates propane-powered buses. And five schools have earned Green School designations.

An Oregon Green School has educated and involved staff and students in a successful waste-reduction and resource-conservation program. Schools are certified by Clackamas County and are ranked, highest to lowest, as Premier, Merit or Green.

Currently, two LOSD schools are certified as Premier: Oak Creek and Hallinan elementary schools. Forest Hills and Westridge elementary schools and Lakeridge Junior High have Merit status, says Laurel Bates, waste-reduction education coordinator with Clackamas County. At one point, all 10 LOSD schools had some level of certification.

BATES“Lake Oswego was our biggest school district to achieve all-Green Schools several years back, receiving national recognition,” Bates says.

That could happen again when some schools seek to renew their expired three-year certifications. “I think it’s fair to say there has been interest expressed in all of the schools,” Bates says.

Just how that interest will dovetail with the district’s efforts to maintain and improve overall energy efficiency in its buildings remains to be seen. But a Nov. 2 meeting of the Facilities Improvement Planning Committee — which has 33 members, including students, teachers, principals, parents, classified staff, sustainability experts, city employees and facilities experts — included a discussion of sustainability.

Formal notes on the meeting say that the group is interested in sustainability features that support science, technology, energy and math learning activities. Another idea that sparked the committee’s interest was net-zero buildings, which use renewable technology to produce at least as much energy as they consume in a year.

“Durable, energy efficient systems with long lifecycles,” the meeting notes say, “provide a good investment of public funds.”
By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow me on Twitter
Visit us on Facebook

Learn More

What: The Lake Oswego School District's Long Range Facilities Planning Committee will hold a public input session as it continues to work on a plan for dealing with $98 million in deferred maintenance.

When: 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19

Where: Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Drive

More information: Visit