The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 30, 2002


Carlisle awarded Green School grant

The Carlisle Public Schools have been awarded a $20,000 grant that will help fund the feasibility study to determine Carlisle's needs for new school space. The so-called Green Schools grant, awarded by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), will allow the schools to look at energy- and cost-saving building options that might not otherwise be taken into account in a typical feasibility study.

The green-schools approach looks at siting and orientation of buildings, types of material used, heating and cooling systems, and lighting, all with an eye to reducing energy and maintenance costs while both taking advantage of and protecting the surrounding environment. Often green building studies also look at water-efficiency measures such as rain-water harvesting for landscape use.

The Carlisle Schools will use some of the funding from the grant to take advantage of computer modeling developed by the U.S. Department of Energy to evaluate the cost of design changes on energy used by the school over the life cycle of a building. Such modeling can be used to see what would happen in various scenarios.

Why is this important as Carlisle considers its space needs? Because after school staffing expenses, energy and maintenance represent the biggest operating cost for the schools, currently at $248,692 for gas, electricity, water, and buildings and ground maintenance. Some schools are already realizing significant savings from green initiatives. Recently, for example, Clackamas High School in Oregon used computer modeling to compare energy use in a green building design versus that in a standard school design. Opting for the green design, the school found savings of $75,000 to $80,000 per year.

In Carlisle's case the feasibility study will likely look at ways to take advantage of daylight, energy-efficient windows, and lighting system regulators to reduce lighting costs; to use "solar gain" to minimize costs for heating and ventilation; to choose building materials conducive to good air quality and working environments; and to minimize total life-cycle operating costs.

In helping the school decide whether and where to build, the study will look at how to preserve trees and habitats, how to manage storm water, and how to route traffic effectively while limiting environmental impact.

Daylighting is likely to be an important aspect of the Carlisle study. A recent study in California involving more than 21,000 students found that those in schools with the most daylight improved math test scores by 20% and reading tests by 26%. To gain further efficiencies, green buildings can also use lighting systems that automatically dim or brighten lights as needed in accordance with available daylight. In such buildings, light switches are located away from their typical positions next to doors to help curb users' habits of turning on lights regardless of whether additional light is needed. Another option to be studied is thermal window shades, which have been used effectively elsewhere to reduce energy loss during dark hours in winter.

The feasibility study will focus as well on what types of heating and cooling systems will perform best for Carlisle while also holding down costs. The options might include hot water or forced air, fueled by natural gas, a combination of oil and gas, and solar energy.

Another important aspect of green buildings is selection of building materials that meet the schools' need for durability while also looking at minimizing and eliminating toxic substances both in construction and in furnishings. Radon, lead, formaldehyde, and organic chemicals from furnishings and building materials and carbon monoxide from heating systems are some of the common indoor pollutants. Typically, studies also look at whether recycled and recyclable materials meet school needs. The study will also look at maintenance issues, including ability to minimize mold and mildew.

Another important aspect of the green approach is the opportunity it could afford Carlisle to benefit from rebate programs offered by utilities such as NSTAR and Keyspan.

The building committee will ask the contracted design firm to analyze various options for housing an expected school enrollment increase of 350 students in the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade system (for a total of 1,200). The options include expansion and renovation on the existing school site, including the hillside adjacent to the schools; new construction on the Banta-Davis site off Bedford Road; and new construction on the Spalding Fields between the two other sites. The study will focus on traffic and parking issues for all of the sites.

The MTC, which funds the grant, is the state's agency for promoting the use of renewable energy sources. The MTC also awards a number of $500,000 grants yearly to school building projects that take advantage of renewable technologies. Carlisle could become eligible for such funding farther along in the process. The Massachusetts Green Schools Initiative is a collaboration between the MTC Renewable Energy Trust and the Massachusetts Department of Education's School Building Assistance Program.

Dan Cook of the school building committee (SBC) helped write the successful application for the green schools grant. The SBC includes Carlisle School Committee members, the school business manager, and volunteers, all appointed by the board of selectmen. Paul Morrison of the school committee chairs the SBC.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito