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Harwood Union Middle/High School has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ENERGY STAR certification, which signifies that the building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA.
Harwood Union was recognized at an award ceremony on November 7 at Camel's Hump Middle School in Richmond, along with 10 other Vermont schools that achieved ENERGY STAR designation. The ceremony also marked the launch of Project Green School, an initiative that aims to put all Vermont schools on the path toward ENERGY STAR designation by 2020.
"Harwood Union is pleased to accept EPA's ENERGY STAR certification in recognition of our energy efficiency efforts," said Ray Daigle, WWSU director of facilities and operations. "Through this achievement, the Harwood community has demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs."
Among those in attendance at the award ceremony were Congressman Peter Welch, Vermont Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca, and representatives of the EPA, the Vermont Superintendents Association's School Energy Management Program (VSA-SEMP) and Efficiency Vermont.
Commercial buildings that earn EPA's ENERGY STAR certification use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings and also release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Harwood Union High School improved its energy performance by managing energy strategically across the entire organization and by making cost-effective improvements to its buildings. Harwood Union High School has prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use from over 46 households for a year.
"This achievement reflects the commitment of our staff, faculty, students, administrators and the many people who comprise a school community," said co-principal Lisa Atwood. "Together, we share a vision to forge a better school, to lower overhead costs and to walk the walk of environmental stewardship in service to Vermont's future: our children."
Through Project Green School, Efficiency Vermont and VSA-SEMP will collaborate to help Vermont schools reach ENERGY STAR designation by addressing the energy use of lighting and facility systems – such as heating, ventilation and cooling – and the air-tightness of buildings. The initiative also will enable schools to use the energy improvement process to provide educational opportunities to students and staff.
To earn the ENERGY STAR, Harwood Union High School took the following actions:
Switched the primary heating system to a woodchip boiler. This helped to reduce dependency on oil. Harwood has been able to reduce its annual fuel deliveries from 42,000 gallons to 7,000 gallons. The cost for woodchips is approximately one-third the cost of #2 oil.
Harwood Union High School's Reduction in Carbon Emissions through Refrigeration and Lighting Upgrades Project involved replacing one cooler control/fan on a freezer unit and installing a Freeaire system in one cooler, replacing 33 small refrigerators with two large refrigerators and installing efficient lighting in one campus building. The replacement of the small refrigerators with large, energy-efficient models utilized student researchers in providing data to the faculty on which a decision would be made. Student government representatives completed this research. They monitored five small refrigerators (out of the school's 33 units); energy usage was dependent on the model, size and year that refrigerator was manufactured and some refrigerators were plugged in but were not used. Older models utilized a great deal of electricity, whereas, new energy-efficient models used quite a bit less. On average, the refrigerators used between 260 and 400kw/year. The cost of use averaged around $20/year.
"This was a very positive learning experience for the students, as well as for those who developed the grant proposal. In the end, the refrigerators were removed and were replaced by two larger, more efficient models that serve many individuals," Atwood commented.
Other projects were completed such as changing the water pressure pumps to Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) pumps; replacing the kitchen exhaust hood, which was a 45-year-old single speed system, with an electric make-up air heater, which has been replaced with variable speed fan utilizing the heat from the boiler loop to heat the make-up air (This piece of equipment was considered to be the single largest consumer of electricity in the system, causing a higher demand rate. So far officials have noted that the demand rate for this year has been reduced by approximately 28 percent). T the dishwasher was upgraded to a new model with variable speed fans and a lower water usage. This unit is expected to save the school approximately 87,000 gallons of water annually, thus reducing the need to run the well and pressure pumps.
The HCLC program moved to the Highlands Building adjacent to the track. Along with a rehab of the building, the lighting was upgraded to more efficient fixtures. In 2012, Harwood took on the Whole School Energy Challenge. This program challenges the school to reduce its energy consumption by 10 percent. From this challenge the Energy Militia was formed. The Energy Militia is a group of Middle School Students that meet regularly to investigate and strategize energy conservation solutions for the school.
A sub-metering system was installed to better track energy use in the building. This system allows the students and administration the ability to see in real time how electricity is being used. This will aid in identifying those areas that use the most electricity and help steer the energy conservation efforts. Harwood Union took advantage of the Re-Light Program through Efficiency Vermont. Through this program a lighting audit was performed and some areas were identified that have excessive light levels. The students were given a budget and asked to determine where the best opportunities for savings could be realized. There were many suggestions and the administration considered these suggestions in determining the first areas for retrofit.
EPA's ENERGY STAR energy performance scale helps organizations assess how efficiently their buildings use energy relative to similar buildings nationwide. A building that scores a 75 or higher on EPA's 1-100 scale may be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification. Commercial buildings that can earn the ENERGY STAR include offices, bank branches, data centers, financial centers, retail stores, courthouses, hospitals, hotels, K-12 schools, medical offices, supermarkets, dormitories, houses of worship and warehouses. Harwood Union High School earned a score of 89.
EPA introduced ENERGY STAR in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 65 different kinds of products, 1.4 million new homes, and 20,000 commercial buildings and industrial plants that meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the EPA. Over the past 20 years, American families and businesses have saved more than $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions with help from ENERGY STAR.
To learn more about Project Green School, or support your local school's efforts to participate, visit www.efficiencyvermont.com/projectgreenschool.
The Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy and protect Vermont's environment created efficiency Vermont. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com.
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