BOISE, Idaho - Caldwell School District has opened the state of Idaho’s first school to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification - Van Buren Elementary - with the help of McKinstry, an Idaho-based building expert. McKinstry provided mechanical engineering services and sustainability consulting for the school, which was built with a host of energy efficient features expected to save the district thousands in future energy expenditures and provide a healthier learning environment for its students, 89 percent of whom fall below the poverty line.

Caldwell’s goal for Van Buren Elementary was twofold: to significantly provide a better indoor environment for students and to significantly reduce the schools overall operating costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the money spent on fueling a school exceeds the money spent on salaries, supplies, and books. In fact, schools spend in excess of $6 billion annually on energy alone, a cost that could be defrayed by 25 percent with better conservation initiatives. Caldwell School District anticipates saving 30 percent in future energy costs by equipping Van Buren Elementary with energy saving features.

“Energy-smart building choices make good sense,” said Jennifer Swindell of the Caldwell School District. “Not only do they save money while decreasing our carbon footprint, but it’s been proven that energy saving innovation in school buildings greatly improve our teachers’ ability to do their job and their students’ abilities to learn.”

Van Buren’s new school building is 70,000 square feet and boasts a number of improvements designed to conserve energy and enhance learning. These include: the building’s V-shaped design intended to capture solar energy; large classroom windows that provide illumination throughout 90 percent of the building; building products made from recycled materials; high-performance kitchen and bathroom fixtures to maximize water efficiency; and HVAC systems that keep room temperatures consistent and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Caldwell School District is the first in Idaho to make the connection between long-term energy savings and increased education resources,” noted Ash Awad, McKinstry’s VP of energy services. “It has shown unwavering community leadership in its commitment to set a new standard for education through emphasizing energy conservation and operational efficiency. Its vision of considering TCO (total cost of ownership) for both existing and new facilities arose out of a desire to ensure that students within its jurisdiction receive equal access to a safer, healthier, and more enriching learning environment. The Caldwell School District’s vision and sustained efforts in this regard has made it a model for Idaho.”

In addition to an improved school environment, the Caldwell School District hopes to use Van Buren Elementary’s sustainable features as a teaching tool. The district is currently working with administrators to integrate sustainable concepts into a curriculum that will demonstrate to students how small changes - such as recycling, conserving energy, and buying local - can make a difference in their lives everyday.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy, and facility services. The company employs over 1,600 professional staff and trades people throughout the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, West, Midwest, and Southwest regions of the United States with operations in more than 15 states. For more information, visit

Publication date:12/14/2009