The Blue Valley School District (BVSD) in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2006 became the first US school district to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tool for Schools National Model of Sustained Excellence Award for its efforts to improve IAQ and energy efficiency. But the BVSD actually began its program in 2000, first building an IAQ team and appointing a leader, then taking on “quick wins” that improved IAQ with little effort and cost.
Over the years, the EPA says the BVSD broadened its goals and undertook larger projects that made the “strategic connections between energy efficiency and IAQ goals to combine resources and achieve greater success.”
For example, a new mechanical system was installed in one school that provided not only improved outdoor air ventilation but annual energy cost savings of $23,000. To ensure continued capital for IAQ and energy-efficiency projects, the BVSD directs money into the operating budget, tracks outcomes of bond-financed improvements, and applies demonstrated cost savings to IAQ management activities.
In addition to the above savings, the BVSD has also realized the following through its IAQ and energy-efficiency efforts:
- Fewer per capita IAQ concerns annually;
- Reduced operating costs through IAQ upgrades;
- Improved test scores each year since beginning the IAQ program, including the state’s highest ACT scores and four of the six top-ranked schools in the state; and
- A marked decrease in instructional time lost from facility problems.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, has also seen “remarkable” benefits from integrating IAQ and energy efficiency in its District 11 schools. With solid top-down commitment from administrators, in 1999, District 11 developed a Resource Conservation Management program “to alter its approach to energy management and actively work to reduce costs.” For existing schools, the District developed a performance contract with the help of the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation’s Rebuild Colorado program. Performance contracting helps the District take on improvements even when no capital funds are available by using the energy savings realized by the projects.
Specific goals for existing buildings in District 11 include:
- Maintaining acceptable temperature and relative humidity,
- Controlling airborne contaminants, and
- Distributing adequate ventilation air.
New construction also has high standards to meet for integrated design, acoustic quality, materials selection, and aggressive energy and water use targets. The District established an energy target of 25 thousand British thermal units (kBtu) per square foot per year (kBtu/sf/year) for new schools, which is a significant reduction from the average existing school energy use of 70 kBtu/sf/year.
The District also has met its IAQ goal of 700 parts per million (ppm) or less of carbon dioxide (CO2) during occupied hours. Other practices include careful selection of building materials to avoid potential indoor air pollutants and taking steps to ensure “air passageways are protected during construction and mechanical systems are balanced and commissioned before operation.”
To keep energy conservation front and center in the schools, the District awards annual $500,000 cash incentives to schools based on the school’s student population and measured energy usage. These monies are often “a substantial portion” of the building manager’s annual budget and are also used in part for energy conservation educational programs.
According to the EPA, District 11 has gained significant IAQ improvements and saved more than $928,000 on energy costs annually. The District has also earned a number of distinctions, including Energy Star® Partner in 2005, recognition by the governor of Colorado as one of the most efficient school districts in the state in 2006, and is one of just six school districts to have earned the Energy Star® Leaders designation.