Local schools take environmentally friendly approach to constructionPosted on: 10/16/2008
By Cate Lecuyer, Staff writer
BEVERLY, Mass. — It isn't easy being green.
But with government incentives and the promise of
long-term savings, it's getting easier to construct energy-efficient
buildings with light sensors, wind power and gardens on the roof.
And it's no accident that schools — the institutions
responsible for educating young minds and thus shaping the future — are
at the forefront of green building.
"Schools and universities are teaching the new
generation what's best for the population in general," said Bill
Vitkosky, who's managing plans for a new visual and performing arts
center at Endicott College. The building includes remote control
lighting, a heating and air conditioning system that physical plant can
manage with the click of a mouse, and a rooftop garden where students
can hang out.
"It will actually give us an insulating layer of
material that will reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs
in the summer," Vitkosky said.
Montserrat College President Helena Sturnick had a
similar view on plans to build four apartment-style dormitories that
will be LEED certified, meaning they'll meet the highest federal
standards for green construction.
Part of that, for example, means having the frames of
the buildings put together by a green-certified manufacturer in New
Hampshire, and then transporting them to Beverly in a wide-load truck.
The construction is done off-site, and the manufacturer is held to
air-quality standards that are better for the environment, Sturnick
Like the art center at Endicott, the dorms at Montserrat will also have green roofs.
"More and more schools are accepting the fact that
you've got to go green. It's not just for now, but for the future,"
Sturnick said. "And we're working with the next generation of artists,
and people who will live on this earth."
Public schools are also embracing the green movement,
especially since 2006 when the state mandated green elements, like
improved indoor air quality, and agreed to reimburse a portion of
projects that meet energy-efficient standards.
Combined with rebates from utility companies, schools
have been able to afford better heating systems, lighting, windows and
other energy reducing features. Plans for the new Beverly High School,
for instance, include lighting that automatically adjusts to the amount
of daylight in the room, so the lights are never unnecessarily bright,
and they turn off when nobody is in the room.
Beverly planners also hope to supply half of the building's electrical needs through wind and solar power.
It would cost about $2 million, but emerging grant
opportunities and incentives for municipalities and schools to go green
may make it feasible, Mayor Bill Scanlon has said.
"We have the opportunity to provide the high school
with the largest percentage of renewable energy, to the best of my
knowledge, of any school in the entire state of Massachusetts," Scanlon
said during his inaugural address in January. "We all know what is
happening to the price of fossil fuels with gas now over $3 per
Indeed, growing concern about the environment combined
with state incentives to go green are drastically changing how schools
are being built, said Joseph da Silva, an architect and consultant who
specializes in green schools in Massachusetts and on the North Shore.
"If you're building a school that's not green, you're
really not spending your money wisely," he said. Although initial costs
are more expensive, the idea is the project will eventually pay for
itself through energy savings that accumulate over time.
"You're making a 30- to 50-year investment," he said.
'World has changed'
When Swampscott began planning for a new high school
in 2003, it was before going green had so much support from the state,
and the town couldn't afford the upfront costs.
"It would have taken years and years to reap the
benefits," said Joe Markarian, a member of the Swampscott school
building committee. "At least 20 years."
The town looked into green alternatives like a roof
garden, a windmill and drilling into the earth for thermal heat, but it
was all too expensive.
Instead, they designed the building with as many
windows as possible, and with southern and eastern exposure so the sun
would shine in most of the day, and cut down on lighting and heating
Markarian said the town also purchased better heating and cooling systems through utility companies that were offering rebates. He said nobody is disappointed with the building, which was completed last year, but over time it's become much easier to build green schools as more people have embraced the concept. "This was five years ago, and the world has changed a lot," Markarian said. "People are far more green conscious today."
Source: The Salem News Online
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