ASHRAE and NASEO Hold Congressional Briefing on Net-Zero Energy Capable Schools

On November 14, 2012, NASEO and ASHRAE hosted a High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC) briefing on “The Promise and Proof of Net-Zero Energy Schools” in Washington, D.C.  The event highlighted the benefits that local communities and school districts gain from high-performance and zero-net energy capable schools, including reduced and stable energy and facility operating costs, improved stewardship of public resources, and enhanced facility resiliency.  The presentations also illustrated the key role that State Energy Offices can play in facilitating high-performance and zero-net energy capable buildings projects.

Doug Read, ASHRAE Director of Government Affairs and Chair of the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition, welcomed attendees to the briefing and introduced Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL), who is finishing her term as Co-Chair of the High Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus.  Congresswoman Biggert remarked that “high-performance building” has become a catchphrase during her time as Co-Chair of the Caucus.

David Terry, Executive Director of NASEO, began the briefing by providing a national overview of recent zero-net energy capable school projects.  While there is a need to gather more cost and performance data, these projects are being built in a variety of climate zones across the country and within current school cost standards.  Mr. Terry also described a joint project between NASEO, New Buildings Institute, Resource Media, and ASERTTI that is developing strategies to help state and local governments promote zero-net energy capable buildings, especially in schools and the public sector.  New Buildings Institute is a national leader in the zero-net energy field and recently produced a report, “Getting to Zero 2012 Status Update,” that provides information on the characteristics, costs, and design features of zero-net energy capable buildings.

Greg Guess, Director of Efficiency and Conservation in the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence (DEDI), noted “Better schools mean better learning environments and better educational outcomes.”  As part of a diverse coalition, DEDI helped mobilized teams of designers, architects, and school administrators to develop and construct zero-net energy capable schools.  This 10-year effort resulted in a transformation of the way schools are built in Kentucky with the energy efficiency of new school buildings improving dramatically over the period—truly a “lead by example” state.  This effort also led to Kentucky having the country’s first zero-net energy school, Warren County’s Richardsville Elementary, as well as zero-net energy capable sites in Fayette, Kenton, and Trimble Counties.  He pointed out that one of the high performance schools claimed the lowest cost per square foot of all Kentucky’s public facilities the year it was built.  Mr. Guess described the important role that the U.S. State Energy Program funding played in helping Kentucky pursue and achieve their market transformation goals and encouraged other states to identify similar opportunities.

Kenneth L. Seibert of CMTA Consulting Engineers, the lead engineering firm on several of the Kentucky school projects, discussed the integrative design approach and key systems that allowed the buildings to achieve deep energy savings. “Net-zero is the glamorous part,” he said, emphasizing that the biggest impact of these projects is the “focus on reducing energy consumption.”  ASHRAE’s Advanced Energy Design Guides supported this goal by providing design recommendations, data, and resources specific to Kentucky’s climate.  Involving the occupants and managers of the school buildings throughout the design, learning, and post-occupancy phases has had a significant impact on energy savings, noted Seibert.  Emphasizing the on-going potential for financial returns, Mr. Seibert noted that Richardsville Elementary has produced approximately 24-megawatt hours of electricity more than it has consumed in the past twelve months, which equates to a $34,000 payment from the electric utility to the school.

Both Kentucky speakers recognized the National Energy Education and Development (NEED) Project, a NASEO Affiliate, for their energy curriculum development that allows students, especially in these high performance buildings, to apply their energy and science learning in a practical setting.

The event’s cosponsors included the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, Illuminating Engineering Society, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, the National Fire Protection Association, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, and the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions.