school construction

Green Building Report

The Little School that Could, Thanks to Green Grants

By BOM Editorial Staff  

When Janice Spears needed a new school building, she got creative. Spears, superintendent for Community Unit School District 3, Fulton County, Cuba, Ill., knew that neither she nor the community would be content with a traditional school building. But because the school district is located in an economically depressed rural area, funding was tighter than for most public schools. Spears needed a solution that would provide some much-needed financial help but also allow for some creative freedom in the design of the school. Her goal was to build the greenest school she could.

Although some people who apply for grants assume that opportunities are limited, Spears says that the grant opportunities are limited only by one’s imagination. And she proved it by gaining hundreds of thousands of dollars of “green” grants.

Though application for the green grants was a key component to the school’s funding, the first step was to contact the state, which offers construction grants based on a poverty index. With Fulton County’s 66 percent index, the state covered 66 percent of building costs for the new school.

The district received $4.6 million for the building from the Illinois Capital Development Board. It also received $2.8 million from local tax increases.

“Our community strongly supports education, and the tax increase passed two-to-one,” says Spears. The third primary source of funding came from more than $725,000 in green grants. The green grants Spears secured included:

• $100,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the photovoltaic system, and another $300,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

• $100,000 from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for special windows and additional insulation in the ceiling and exterior walls.

• almost $100,000 from the Ford Motor Co. and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for crumb rubber to upgrade the baseball and football fields.

• $60,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for the green architectural design fees.

• $60,000 from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for a greenhouse. (To save on labor costs, community volunteers built it.)

• $4,500 from Ameren/CIPS, the local power company, for “smart lights” for the football field.

• $2,500 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for alternatives to the use of plastic foam cups and plates in the cafeteria.

Grants also helped cover the cost of 100 percent recycled and recyclable carpeting, gymnasium bleachers created from recycled milk jugs, carbon dioxide sensors, acoustic ceiling tiles and energy-efficient split-face building blocks.

Tackling Challenges

Securing the grants wasn’t exactly a simple process. Spears says that there were a number of challenges and qualifications the district had to meet.

“First is finding the grants,” she says. Given her personal and professional commitment to green building, though, Spears spent her own time seeking grant opportunities and completing the paperwork.

Some grants required matching funds, something the district couldn’t always afford. “I was able to obtain a grant last summer for a wind turbine that would cover one-third of the cost,” she says. “However, I had to turn it down because we didn’t have a source for the rest of the funding.”

In some cases, the grants are conditional. For example, some base the amount of payment on the number of kilowatts. “Our photovoltaic project funding was limited because they would only fund so much per kilowatt,” she says.

Finally, grants didn’t cover all of the green building elements Spears wanted to include. For example, she was unable to locate a grant for the school’s geothermal project, so that was paid for out of the building funds. “Grants also did not fund the carpets or bleacher seats made from recycled materials,” she says.

Preliminary Results

While detailed payback information for the energy-saving strategies isn’t yet available, Spears says that estimates suggest the projects are saving the school 35 to 40 percent of its energy costs. Most of these savings are coming from the geothermal and photovoltaic projects.

While the energy savings are the practical benefit, recognition for the green project was the icing on the cake. The district recently won the governor’s award for energy efficiency, the only school in the state ever to receive this award.

Keys to Success

Spears attributes the school’s success to a number of things. First was a common goal among the board, administration and community. “Everyone actively supports this,” she says.

That support motivated Spears at the start of the process to begin looking for grants that focused on green construction. She also worked to make sure that all the green elements were properly integrated into the building as a whole so they work as a coordinated system. The integrated approach is also important because the district has no professional maintenance department. The integrated strategy also appealed to the granting agencies.

“You need to read grants two or three times before you apply for them to make sure that you see what they are really looking for,” she says.

Finally, Spears says a key to the school’s success was staying the green course. “People who give you an initial grant need to know that you will use it properly,” she says. “When you can go back to them with a demonstration of your success from the first grant, subsequent ones are easier to obtain.”

The Future

One of Spears’ immediate goals is to secure funding for the wind turbine project for which the school district was unable to match the granted funds.

Spears is also waiting to hear about another grant for green cleaning supplies.

And she is searching for a grant so industrial arts students can help build a cistern to capture water runoff from the building and parking lot to use for irrigation. She’s also trying to find a grant that would allow the district to develop some natural areas for nature walks, bird identification and native tree identification, among other things.

Finally, the district will soon be getting a grant for vermi-composting, which uses worms to compost organic matter. “We will feed our garbage and waste paper to the worms,” she says. “Their castings produce rich fertilizer that we plan to sell to nurseries, which highly prize it.”

— William Atkinson is a freelance writer.

Rising Green Tide in Public Buildings

The City of Boston’s decision to adopt LEED-NC for its city-owned buildings and to require it for all private buildings 50,000 square feet or larger makes Boston the first city on the East Coast to do so. It joins 18 other cities and counties across the country that have taken similar steps.

While Boston’s decision goes farther than many by requiring the private sector to certify its buildings, the city’s announcement illustrates a trend of public sector leadership on green buildings. And it’s not just local governments.

In addition to many federal agencies requiring LEED certification, states are doing it too. Massachusetts is considering following Boston’s decision and requiring LEED certification for state buildings. Massachusetts would join Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Maine on the East Coast as well as Michigan, Washington, Oregon and California further west.

There is no hard evidence yet that the private sector is following the public sector’s lead. However, as the private sector begins to realize that green buildings make economic sense, then we expect to see green buildings move into the mainstream, says Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council. “The public sector is definitely setting a good example.”


Spreading Sun Power As the cost of photovoltaic (PV) systems starts to go down and states and utilities make it more profitable to install them, PV is increasingly becoming a viable power generation option. That’s true nowhere more than in California.

When the 904 kilowatt PV system on the roof of the FedEx building at Oakland International Airport is connected, it will be among the largest PV systems in California, home of more installed systems than anywhere else in the country.

The FedEx system will feature 5,569 modules covering 81,000 square feet of roof. The system will provide 80 percent of the facility’s peak load.

Still larger is the existing system at the University of California at Hayward. That 1.05 megawatt PV system supplies 30 percent of the university’s peak load. The system is the largest for any university in the world and one of the largest in the country.

First LEED Supermarket The Giant Eagle supermarket in Cleveland became the first LEED-certified supermarket in the country.

The 80,000-square-foot facility uses 30 percent less energy than comparable supermarkets. Skylights integrated with lighting controls that vary the electric light provide ample natural lighting in the store. A wetland is used to treat parking lot runoff. Cabinetry is made of strawboard and only environmentally responsible cleaning products are used in the housekeeping program.

The supermarket was also recognized in 2004 as an Energy Star Retail Partner.

Green Power Two government agencies and two private organizations have teamed up to produce the “Guide to Purchasing Green Power,” a tool for facility executives interested in purchasing electricity generated using renewable sources.

Written for business, government and academic organizations, the guide includes information about different types of green power products and the benefits of green power purchasing. The guide is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, and the World Resource Institute and Center for Resource Solutions.

The guide is a free online resource.

Green Source The Minnesota Environmental Initiative (MEI) has launched a free online directory of companies and organizations providing energy-efficient and renewable energy products and services.

The directory provides specific company information that allows users to quickly find vendors that will meet their green needs. Categories include building efficiency, combined heat and power, energy controls, lighting and transportation.

CI Launched The U.S. Green Building Council officially launched LEED-CI for commercial interiors at the council’s conference, GreenBuild, in Portland, Ore. LEED-CI is the third green building rating system available by the council. Also available are LEED-NC for new construction and LEED-EB for existing buildings.

LEED-CI addresses the selection of green elements for sustainable tenant space. It also focuses on water efficiency; energy performance, including lighting and lighting controls; sustainable design and use of interior systems and furnishings; and indoor environmental quality.

A companion rating system, LEED-CS for core and shell, is under development and completing its pilot phase. LEED-CS is expected to be released later this year.

Green Roofs The British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Centre for the Advancement of Green Roof Technology will be spending nearly $834,000 to study the design and installation of green, or vegetative, roof systems. The center will look at the thermal performance as well as their potential to control storm water. The center will provide a testing and verification facility for the local green roof industry.

Hats Off Former CEO and president of the U.S. Green Building Council, Christine Ervin, has lots to be proud of as she steps down from her leadership role at the council. For her success, Ervin was honored along with a group of other influential green leaders at GreenBuild.

Ervin, who led the council from 1999 to 2004 saw the fledgling organization go from 200 members to 4,500. Helping to create something new was “fun and exciting,” she says, but what she remembers most was the launching of LEED in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2000, followed by the first GreenBuild conference in 2002. To see the efforts of everyone come to fruition was worth all the ups and downs, she says.

“Along the way, we encountered the full gamut of reactions,” she says. “GreenBuild’s huge success has been gratifying.”

While her regrets are few, Ervin was and is concerned about the council’s rate of growth with so many new products and ventures. “The most consistently successful companies and organizations know the value of focus and great execution on top priorities,” she says. “I wish I could have done more to see that staff and volunteer resources were focused on fewer priorities.”

She now heads Christine Ervin Co., a green building consulting firm based in Portland, Ore.

Winning the green leadership award was William Browning, senior fellow and founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Green Development Services. Browning now is helping to develop “new urbanist” community in Virginia called Haymount. Edward Feiner, chief architect of the U.S. General Services Administration, Herman Miller and Seattle-based Mithun, an architecture firm, also won for their green building and environmental successes.

Health Care Company Takes Turn Toward Green

Wyoming, Mich.

It started like any other health care project. Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., was landlocked in a neighborhood and needed to expand to meet community needs. It located a 170-acre tract of land just outside the community that offered many advantages. The large acreage meant plenty of room for expansion. There was easy access to highways and the Interstate. Plus, the location would put the new hospital closer to the growing need for health care in the rural and suburban areas outside of Grand Rapids.

Then the hospital, with its parent company Metropolitan Health, took a sharp detour from the traditional route. It decided the new development should be more than a hospital. Metropolitan Health envisioned a medical village with restaurants, medical office buildings, banks, a fitness center, nationally based retailers and a major hotel. And it decided that all the buildings, including the hospital, would be certified green using the U.S Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. If all goes as planned, Metro Health Village will be the first green, LEED-certified health care campus in the nation, according to the hospital.

“We’re in the health business,” says Jeff Smitley, director of engineering and real estate for Metropolitan Health Corp. “It only makes sense that we do what we can to provide a healthy environment for patients and staff as well as the community.”

Deed Restrictions Mandate Green

To make sure the village starts and stays green, Metropolitan Health is going to draw up deed restrictions requiring LEED certification, Smitley says. Indoor environmental quality and energy consumption will be key aspects of all the village’s buildings. Metropolitan Health is working with a partner, The Grainger Group, to develop the village. Interest in building has been very high, Grainger reports.

Occupying about one-third of the space is the new hospital. The $150 million, 448,000-square-foot, 238-bed hospital, the centerpiece of this development, is expected to open in 2006. With a careful eye on the use of energy and materials for the hospital, Smitley says that his team is shooting for a LEED silver rating.

“It won’t be as difficult or expensive as it might seem,” he says. The hospital expects to pay about a 1.5 percent premium for the hospital and a 3 to 5 percent premium on the entire project. For a hospital, a silver LEED rating is tough, he says, but possible because a design team experienced in green buildings and LEED has been assembled.

The hospital will be green inside and outside the building. All patient rooms are private, with most having views of natural landscape in the village. No PVC or vinyl will be used in the constructing and equipping the hospital with the exception of PVC in the wire and cable insulation. And green materials, such as bamboo, cork, and recycled and recyclable carpet, will be used.

But energy use and production is what really sets the hospital apart. Energy is so important that 50 percent of the budget for the project is targeted for energy strategies, Smitley says.

Investing in Energy Measures

The hospital will make extensive use of daylight, high-efficiency motors and efficient lighting, including LEDs. The thermal envelope will be contain high-efficiency windows. “Because of the power plant and the energy efficiency steps we’ll be taking with the hospital, we will be able to cut the energy use at the hospital by 30 percent,” Smitley says.

But how the hospital produces energy is as important as how it uses that energy. Because the ability to easily expand the hospital is important, the design team decided to build an independent power plant, called the Advanced Energy and Sustainability Center. This free-standing building will be unusual, to say the least. By incorporating sophisticated green design strategies, Smitley says he expects the plant to get a platinum LEED rating, the highest the council awards.

Phase one of this two-story, 45,000-square-foot facility will feature a combined heat and natural power system that will provide baseload power, as well as steam, high-temperature water and chilled water. It will also include an induction-coupled rotary flywheel for uninterruptible power. Phase two will include electrolysis-generated hydrogen for use in generators. The electrolysis breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen, which will be captured and used by the hospital. The water will come from a 20-acre pond that will collect runoff from the village. Smitley expects to produce the power for the electrolysis using renewable energy.

The plant will also produce methane by composting waste materials from the hospital and the village.The power plant will provide about 30 percent of the power for the hospital from on site sources. The remaining 70 percent is going to come from the utility’s green power program.

U.S. Green Building Council

Kevin Hydes
Keen Engineering

Vice Chair
Tom Paladino
Paladino & Co.

Gail Vittori
Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

James Goldman
Turner Construction Co.

Immediate Past Chair
James E. Hartzfeld
Interface Americas

David A. Gottfried
WorldBuild Technology Inc.

Michael L. Italiano
Sustainable Products Corp.

President, CEO and Founding Chairman
S. Richard Fedrizzi
U.S. Green Building Council
1015 18th St., NW Ste. 805
Washington, DC 20036

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  posted on 2/1/2005   Article Use Policy

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