IRVING, Texas - School districts around the country looking to enhance their sustainability efforts will have a new role model in Texas. The Irving Independent School District (IISD) recently broke ground on a new “net zero” energy middle school - a building designed to produce as much energy as it consumes - and selected technology from Convia Inc./A Herman Miller Co. to help reach optimal energy efficiency while also helping it attain net zero status. The Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, slated to open in the fall of 2011, will be the largest net zero energy middle school in the country at 150,000 square feet.

“The construction of a net-zero building helps reverse negative trends associated with climate change,” according to Scott Layne, assistant superintendent for support services for the IISD. “The Lady Bird Johnson Middle School is deploying advanced energy management strategies to reduce overall consumption; however, we are also aiming to produce as much power as we consume from the power grid using renewable energy production technology. Convia will aid us in this effort by allowing us to understand our energy usage in near real-time by zone and by automatically adjusting power levels accordingly to ensure we maintain our net zero status.”

The Convia technology allows for the integrated control of lighting, plug loads, and HVAC/thermostat set points, which can account for nearly 93 percent of total energy use within a building, said the company. The school expects to consume roughly 50 percent less energy than similar sized schools. Some key components of Convia that will be featured in the school include:

• Energy Savings: Occupancy sensors will be located throughout the school, reducing the amount of devices electrically engaged at any given time. Timed events will also ensure power levels in the public areas are optimized based on the function taking place in the space.

• Daylight Dimming: Light dimming levels will be automatically adjusted based on the time of day and the level of natural daylight available, which helps lower energy while also ensuring students are not distracted.

• Dynamic Load Balancing: Low priority lighting zones will be dimmed or shut down automatically when power consumption in the building reaches a pre-determined level. This will ensure power consumed balances the power generated by renewable energy sources.

• Wall Switches: The switches will enable users to control daylight dimming. Simply click once and lights turn on and daylight dimming is activated. Push and hold the switch and lights brighten and daylight dimming is disabled.

• Wand: Through Convia’s “plug and play” connections and wand, users can renovate space via virtual rewiring (without the hard-wiring of devices or switches), allowing them to customize and configure their space more easily.

With Convia’s Energy Track Reporting Tool™, building managers can track energy use at a zone (e.g., individual classroom) or circuit level. Energy Track displays the school’s actual energy usage on a simple dashboard interface. Energy metering chips integrated into the Convia-enabled control components allow for accurate reporting. According to Convia, unlike traditional energy management control products, which can only manage energy based on estimates of consumed use, Energy Track allows administrators to accurately determine the efficiency of the school, an essential part of maintaining net zero status.

“The Lady Bird Johnson Middle School serves as a prime example of the innovations being made in green construction and also as a testament to the lengths local governments are venturing to reduce energy consumption,” said Randy Storch, president of Convia. “We’re honored to have been selected to assist the IISD reach its goal of building the nation’s largest net zero middle school and help the district maintain that status for years to come.”

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Publication date:09/06/2010