Leading by example: District banking on ‘green’ school concept

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New middle school could be among the most environmentally friendly, officials say

By Jessica Singleton

The new Owen County middle school will use modern technology to create an earth-friendly atmosphere.

Superintendant Mark Cleveland said he wants the school to qualify as an Energy Star building. This is a program that labels buildings based on their energy efficiency. According to the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, only 12 Kentucky schools currently qualify.

This program is not only friendly to the environment, but friendly to the pocketbook as well. Less energy-use equals less money to run the building. Cleveland said he will compare the short-term cost to the long-term saving before any new technology is purchased.

One example is sensors that can tell if a room is empty or full of people. The sensors can adjust the fresh air pumps to run only when rooms are in use. He said the program costs $60,000 but will pay for itself in just five years.

“When you’re talking about a building that could last 30 years, the savings add up quickly,” he said. “We want a building that is cost-effective to operate.”

The building committee is also considering controls on the exterior lighting. At the high school, he said all the exterior lights are controlled together. They are all on or all off. Individual controls gives the school the ability to customize light levels and save energy.

Energy saving is not the only green aspect to the new school, they are also conserving water. Cleveland said it may be possible to collect rainwater and use it to water the landscaping. Another possibility is to create a roof-top garden on part of the school. This garden would be accessible through the second floor media center. Cleveland’s intention is for this space to become an outdoor classroom, complete with room for science experiments and gardening.

The school board continues to search for innovative ways to save both the environment and the budget.