East / Regional Reports

Grant Will Support NH School Energy Programs

October 5, 2002
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CONCORD, NH — The Governor’s Office of Energy and Community Services (ECS) has received a $125,000 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to expand and continue two programs designed to help make public buildings more energy efficient.

The grant could open up opportunities for HVAC contractors who are used to working on such funded projects.

The grant was made to RebuildNH, the state’s chapter of Rebuild America. RebuildNH works with public and private entities, providing information and technical assistance to help them build and renovate facilities that will be energy efficient, reduce pollution, and save money.

RebuildNH is one of several energy programs ECS provides for New Hampshire residents, businesses, municipalities, and schools.

Under the grant, an energy resource manager will work with communities in the Littleton, NH, area. A “circuit rider” position will work statewide, assisting local school districts in their planning for the construction of high-performance, energy-efficient school buildings.

Bernie Davis, former projects administrator for SAU 46 in Penacook, NH, and a consultant on school renovations and repairs emphasizing energy efficiency with the New Hampshire Department of Education, has been named to the statewide position, according to Kirk Stone, RebuildNH program manager at ECS.

“The best way to achieve high-performance results in school buildings is to see that they are built that way in the first place,” said Stone. “Bernie Davis has considerable experience in making that happen.”

In particular, Davis led the team that built the Boscawen Elementary School, which received an award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for team efforts in energy efficiency.

IT’S MORE THAN EFFICIENCY

Davis will work to encourage school districts to consider high-performance design concepts and to assist with communications between districts and the state about energy efficiency issues and high-performance school construction. According to studies by the DOE and the EPA, high-performance schools are much more than energy-efficient buildings.

“Because these buildings encourage more daylight and better air circulation, studies have found they actually support the mission of the school by helping improve students’ performance, increasing average daily attendance, and making more funds available for academics by reducing operating costs,” Stone explained.

Important additional benefits include increased teacher satisfaction and retention, reduced liability exposure, and opportunities to use the building itself as a teaching tool.

“I am interested in seeing these considerations become a standard part of the planning process,” Davis said. “Some high performance elements may initially cost more, but the results are more efficient operations, which result in lower operating and maintenance costs in the long-run,” Davis explained. Daylighting (the use of natural light from outdoors to light an indoor space) is a typical example. In addition to substantially reducing lighting costs, which can be 50% of a school’s electric bill, studies indicate that daylighting can enhance student performance.

NATIONAL PROBLEM

Stone noted that the importance of a program like RebuildNH is underscored by studies from the General Accounting Office, indicating more than one in four schools nationwide report unsatisfactory acoustics and ventilation, 19% have unsatisfactory heating and air quality, and more than 15% have inadequate lighting.

“We need to be using the latest procedures, techniques, and designs to build schools,” Stone said. “There’s too much at stake in terms of savings in operating costs and improvements in the learning environment.” He pointed to federal findings on air quality, which show poor air leading to student and teacher performance problems, increases in absenteeism, long- and short-term health problems (and subsequent school costs and liabilities), and actual deterioration of the physical plant.

“Boscawen Elementary School is a great example of how high-performance schools can address these problems,” Stone said. “Bernie Davis was instrumental in building an award-winning elementary school with an advanced ventilation system that provides superior air quality and comfortable temperatures while saving energy. All New Hampshire schools can move in this direction.”

For more information on Rebuild New Hampshire and other ECS programs, visit www.nhecs.org (website).

Publication date: 10/07/2002

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