LEEDing the way
Wilmore Elementary looks to become first LEED EB-certified school in Kentucky
By Jennifer Wohlleb
It could take as long as a year, but when it’s completed, the LEED certification process that Wilmore Elementary in Jessamine County is piloting could serve as a framework for other schools.
Volunteers with the Kentucky chapter of the United States Green Building Council are working with the district and its partners toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in the Existing Building category, making Wilmore the first K-12 school in Kentucky with LEED EB certification.
“After we’re done with the LEED process, we want to make a business case for this pilot project, so other schools can look at what we’ve done here and say, ‘What did it take to accomplish this and is this something that we can do as well?’” said Bill Sharp, a member of the Kentucky Green Building Council’s board of directors.
What is LEED?
Like Energy Star certification, LEED encourages efficient use of energy, but goes further.
“Energy Star is measuring energy, the usage and setting those benchmarks for utility usage,” said Sharp, who is an electrical engineer with CMTA, Inc. “LEED is a holistic approach of looking at the building and the environment around the building, everything that comes in and out of it.
“LEED also includes the well-being of the occupants, and trying to improve their productivity, their quality of life when they are in the building. It includes things like daylight use, controlability of the systems. Those aren’t things that Energy Star considers.”
Jessamine County Schools Energy Manager John Clemons said that’s what is so exciting about this process.
“With Energy Star you’re not using much energy, whereas LEED-EB is that you’re doing things right,” he said. “You can get an Energy Star certification by doing the wrong things. You can have not enough light in the classrooms, you can have your HVAC set too low or too high, you can take your fresh air and turn it off, and that happens. LEED-EB says you’re not doing that. It says you are doing things right and that you have an efficient environment.”
Pursuing LEED certification is a little like a college degree – there are prerequisites every building must meet, and then there are “electives” that will help the applicant reach a minimum of 40 points on a 110-point scale. The higher the score, the higher the level of certification.
“Normally, these projects cost money to get them registered and certified, so USGBC has provided a grant, so this is being done for free from that standpoint, but we’re still going to be documenting every expense,” said Chris Tyler, also a member of Kentucky’s Green Building Council’s Board of Directors.
Tyler said one of the goals is to be able to provide other schools with information about the process.
“One of the biggest hurdles (to LEED certification) has been the unknown,” said Tyler, who is an HVAC sales engineer with Thermal Equipment. “How much is it going to cost, what is the return on it and what’s the benefit of doing this? That’s one of the benefits for us as a chapter and as an industry, to go through this process and now be able to put together a business case of what the costs are and what are the benefits, at least based on this one example. And that information will be able to be shared with design professionals and schools across the state.”
The group selected Wilmore because it is not new or recently renovated and could provide the team with at least a year’s worth of baseline data on factors such as energy use and water consumption. Tyler said having a district energy manager was also an important factor.
“One of the things that was important to us as a team was the culture and the staff that were going to be there supporting us,” he said. “We did want them to have an energy manager … it showed to us a level of commitment from the school district as well as providing us someone to work with as our point person.”
The process kicked off at the end of October. The team said students will not only be involved in some of the certification data gathering, but will benefit directly in the classroom.
“These are the engineers, the architects, even the city workers of tomorrow, so why would we not want to get those kids involved right now,” said Wilmore Principal Andrea McNeal. “Plus, there are so many applications for learning. There’s tons of math work, tons of science stuff, even social studies.”
— For more information about LEED certification, click here.