The Curious Case of Northland Pines High School

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: LEED Designs Don't Always Lead to Sustainable OperationsPt. 2: Controls, Commissioning Key to Realizing Green Building PotentialPt. 3: Energy Model: Use To Compare, Not To PredictPt. 4: This Page

If there's one building that has received the most scrutiny about its LEED certification, it's Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wis. The 250,000-square-foot building was the first to have its LEED certification challenged. It received Gold in spring 2007, after opening in the fall of 2006.

Though the general perception in the industry is that the building's certification was challenged because its energy performance is poor, that is not the case. It isn't true that the challenge was performance-based. It's also not true that the building is a poor performer.

Two engineers, along with some co-signers from the community, filed a 125-page appeal to challenge the certification based on what they argued to be non-compliance with three LEED prerequisites. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) hired two third-party auditors to review the building, its energy model and its commissioning process. The reviewers concluded that the building rightfully earned the prerequisites, as well as all of the other credits it received. In April 2010, USGBC ruled for the building to maintain its certification.

With that headache out of the way, facility managers could continue focusing on operating the building at its already-high energy performance. "To start, we already had a really efficient building," says Dave Bohnen, building and grounds supervisor. "We continued to look for other opportunities." Bohnen set the BAS so that hallway lights come on two minutes before class change and go off two minutes after, as one example. He also adjusts the BAS for heating and cooling schedules each Monday morning, based on that week's building schedule. Northland Pines is used frequently by the community; it includes a community athletic center with an indoor track.

Though the building can't officially receive an Energy Star rating because it shares a gas meter with an elementary school, Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services, for Hoffman, LLC, the firm that built the building, says it would clock in at 75. Its energy use intensity (EUI) at the end of fiscal year 2010 was 66.9 kBtu/sq.ft./yr., down from 70.1 when the building opened. It was modeled to use 63.2 kBtu/sq.ft./yr., but the extended hours, not the fact that the building is energy inefficient, is the dominant factor in the school's higher-than-modeled use, says Steve Carlson, principal with CDH Energy. At any rate, Northland Pines' EUI compares favorably to the EUIs of other similarly sized Wisconsin high schools, as compiled by the Wisconsin Public Schools Benchmarking Project. The average EUI for schools 200,000 to 250,000 square feet is 75.2.

— Greg Zimmerman

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  posted on 11/4/2011   Article Use Policy

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