Welcome back! We hope you had a wonderful, restful summer.
While students and staff were away from campus, our contractors made steady progress toward construction of the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) building and other projects. Construction remains on schedule, with STEAM building completion expected in August 2020, and performing arts/new Alan Harvey Theater building completion expected in the Fall of 2021.
The District is continuing to make significant strides in its initiative to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability across all school sites. This requires investing in new, efficient technologies and re-engineering existing infrastructure. Both the STEAM and new performing arts/theater buildings are designed to be “zero-net-energy” (ZNE) facilities, meaning that they will be highly efficient and generate enough clean, renewable, solar energy to offset their overall energy consumption. District architects used “sustainability ratings” to evaluate and refine the designs for these buildings. These ratings take into account factors such as building dimensions and orientation, which affect the extent of solar heat gain during daylight hours, the ability to take advantage of natural light and fresh air for ventilation, and the ability to maximize the capture of solar energy in photovoltaic panels.
The District’s commitment to sustainability is not limited to new construction projects. Starting several years ago, the District has replaced more than 1,000 light fixtures. For example, the District has replaced metal halide fixtures with highly efficient LED fixtures at Witter Field, Binks Gym, Morrison Gym, Redford Gym, and the Havens MPR. The LED fixtures improved lighting and student safety while significantly reducing energy consumption. Across all school sites, new LED fixtures have daylight sensors, so they automatically dim or turn off when natural light is available, and timer and occupancy sensors, so they automatically turn off when facilities are not in use.
Along the same lines, over the past several years, the District has been installing state-of-the-art climate control and ventilation systems in elementary, middle and high school classrooms to improve heating and cooling, reduce energy consumption and operating costs, and eliminate the use of hazardous refrigerant chemicals. These new systems have been installed in 25 classrooms. The upgrades have made it possible to retire a particularly wasteful and inefficient boiler at PHS, and individual classroom thermostats will ensure that heating and cooling are activated only when the room is in use.
It is important to note that air conditioning has not been a standard feature in schools in this region, but the warming climate now makes it a necessity. In warm weather, it is not unusual for classrooms with western exposure to reach temperatures of 80 degrees or more, and this interferes with teaching and learning. To mitigate this, the District installed solar shades and fans and planted shade trees, but this has not been sufficient to help keep classrooms cool on hot days. For this reason, the District has now prioritized classrooms based on thermostat data, and is installing the most energy-efficient cooling systems available. This installation work started several years ago and is continuing.
The path toward environmental sustainability started over a decade ago, with committed parents, students, educators, and administrators coming together to advocate for conservation and efficiency goals. These goals are incorporated in the District’s Facilities Master Plan and Solar Master Plan, and guide all facilities projects across the District. For more information about the District’s facilities program, and how facilities projects advance environmental, educational, and fiscal goals, please see the information on this website or contact Pete Palmer, Director of Facilities and Construction Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes to you and your family for a great start to the school year,
Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District