LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2009
Adlai E Stevenson High School
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
LEED Gold 2011
The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:
EAp1,EAc1, EAc2.1, EAc2.2, MRc4.1, SSc4, WEp1, EQc2.1
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
Goals and motivations
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
There were three overall goals for the LEED project. The first was to benchmark performance compared to other schools. We are always trying to measure academic and financial performance in relation to other schools. The second goal was to use LEED to identify opportunities for improvement as it relates to the school's vision statement, which encourages "continuous improvement." Third, students were to be engaged in the process whenever possible.
The school established its Green Committee in 2007 to initiate efforts for sustainability. One of the early committee tasks was to calculate our carbon footprint, but we found this was not an effective way to compare ourselves with other schools. Therefore, we selected the LEED process to achieve our performance and benchmarking goals.
When ENERGY STAR ratings for schools became available in 2000, we were pleased to obtain an ENERGY STAR label based on a 79 rating on our largest addition which opened in 1995. In 2009, we found that prior efforts in upgrading our building gave us a 79 rating for the entire complex. Shortly thereafter throughout the LEED process, our ENERGY STAR rating improved to 87, which validated our benchmarking goal.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
- Cost/Utility Savings
- Organizational Policy
- Provide learning opportunities for students
LEED provided a structure that ensured each operational decision included a cost/benefit consideration. In the end, it was determined that operational dollars were saved throughout the process.LEED also provided a national metric for measuring sustainability and a road map to assess continued improvement. National recognition for building operations complements the many awards the school has received over the years for excellence in education and community service.
It was important to the school's Green Committee that the LEED effort involved students and provided learning opportunities. Students were engaged, whenever possible, to participate and learn about sustainability concepts through LEED-related activities. Students were involved in water flow fixture measurements, a transportation survey, an occupant comfort survey, an energy audit walk-through, and stormwater calculations.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
My role in the Stevenson High School project was to provide energy modeling and ASHRAE Level I and II analysis, as well as retro-commissioning services. In providing this analysis, cost-effective strategies for reducing energy use were identified. Working with the team, we developed a solid plan to move forward to make improvements to the school.
A primary challenge in providing an ASHRAE Level 2 analysis for a school in Illinois was balancing the requirements of the audit with the real-world desire to assist in decision making by providing additional information. This was used to access state and federal funding to implement the strategies considered. The challenge of striking a balance was met by merging two report formats in a way that met the sometimes conflicting requirements. For example, ASHRAE requires the measurement of the interaction of each strategy with the previously studied strategy while the State of Illinois wants to see each strategy modeled separately to determine savings from that strategy alone.
Beyond the goal of meeting LEED requirements, this project used this work to leverage funds within the state to help pay for post-LEED certification retro-commissioning of the building, as well as additional energy efficiency strategies.
One of the most time-intensive activities during the pursuit of LEED was the lighting inventory. With a one-million-square-foot facility, there are a multitude of lighting fixtures to take inventory of and many different shapes and sizes. But this was one challenge that was worth the effort. The process helped us identify many lamps that were no longer in use at our facility and therefore allowed us to organize our inventory. It was noted that we were using lamps that were outdated and newer, more efficient, lamps were available. We were also able to lower the overall total mercury in the lamps we use at our facility and decrease our lighting load.
Natural light fills the forum, a main school entrance and important gathering space. Photo provided by James Steinkamp Photography.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
The team structure and emphasis on student engagement were key to the success and completion of this initiative. I was impressed by the continued emphasis on the part of the Green Committee to bring students into the effort whenever possible. The Green Committee never lost sight of education as the primary mission. This emphasis could be a transformative strategy for other schools pursuing environmental initiatives and LEED certification. It should be noted that an individual to lead this effort from a leadership position is essential to seeing this through.
LEED was not a simple undertaking. It involved every aspect of the building from operations to environmental impact to how the occupants commute to and from the facility. The school's goals of continuous improvement and being a professional learning community meant that we already had a school that was efficient and operating in a relatively sustainable manner. But these two things alone did not make achieving LEED certification an easy journey. The complex and thorough application required careful review of policies, an operational check of the HVAC/water systems, an update of the building's automation systems, a survey of the comfort levels and transportation methods used by the occupants, and an energy analysis. Fortunately, we had a Green Committee composed of all of the key areas at the school. The Green Committee decided to pursue LEED and to divide the work so each part of the school could be involved. This team approach allowed all members of the Green Committee to have a deeper understanding of how our school functions.
This process would not have been possible without an individual in a leadership position to see the project through. Stevenson High School's success in achieving Gold certification was due to the perseverance of Assistant Superintendent Mark Michelini. He engaged the various business partners involved with the process. He encouraged student participation, explained procedures and costs to the Board of Education, considered the input from community members, invited an outside agency to evaluate the energy and HVAC usage, and kept the Green Committee on track and focused on the goal.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
As a school with the mission of being a professional learning community, we wanted to integrate the LEED process into our curriculum and also involve the students. This was a key success of the effort.
One of our first integrations of LEED with curriculum occurred when we had our AP Environmental Science students conduct a sweep of the school to measure water flow from all faucets and showers. Armed with buckets, stop watches, measuring devices, and pre-identified room and fixture assignments, students from each period contributed to establishing gallons per minute (GPM) data for the LEED water survey. Since this activity coincided with the AP Environmental water unit, we were able to discuss water waste as an important environmental problem. The students also realized the value of numerical data when trying to solve environmental problems so the effect of new policies or technologies can be quantified.
AP Environmental Science teachers and Green Committee members created a Scantron survey to gather feedback regarding occupant comfort. After the thousands of completed surveys were returned and stacked, students sorted the forms by school HVAC zone. During this activity, students were realizing that being "green" did not mean that one had to sacrifice comfort. This is a critical concept for students to realize as they consider their own energy use for the future.
Prairie and wetlands plantings in the school's front lawn provide soil stabilization around the retention pond, as well as habitat for wildlife and a pleasant place to walk or study.
We used the talents of Green Team Club members to help conduct a school-wide transportation survey. We developed an easy-to-fill-out survey and gave out candy bars as incentive to participate. On a Friday during our three lunch periods, we collected information from faculty, staff, and students. Details about the daily means of commuting used for the week were recorded, including what type of vehicle or mass transit was used and if they carpooled or not. By the end of the day, we had more than 800 surveys that resulted in critical points for achieving LEED Gold. Students were made aware of the importance of efficient transportation as a means to move toward environmental stewardship.
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
The most important strategy that was implemented on our project was the completion of the ASHRAE Level II energy audit. This process identified many sensors and controls that were either out of calibration or were not operating properly. Therefore, all HVAC controls were calibrated, their operation verified, and thorough component and system-level functionality checks were completed. We were also able to fine-tune our reset schedules. By doing this, we were able to see notable savings in our heating and cooling costs. The energy audit also identified many lighting upgrades. The aggregate of these projects allowed us to raise our ENERGY STAR rating significantly.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
In early 2010, we conducted a transportation survey electronically. Unfortunately, the response rate was only 15%. Though we know that approximately two-thirds of our students commute to school via bus, this could not be confirmed with such low survey participation. So, in the fall when students were back in school, our Environmental Science teachers organized an in-person survey of random building occupants. It was a large undertaking, but our response rate was much higher and results were more in keeping with what we expected. We were able to demonstrate that 72% of occupants take alternative means of transportation to school/work.
What was a pivotal moment that impacted the project's direction?
We are proud to be Stevenson patriots; we are proud to be environmentalists; we are proud to have helped our school become the first high school in the United States to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance 2009 Gold certification. Together as the Green Team, we were offered the chance to help by leading the effort to conduct the transportation survey.
We learned that, to have successful survey participation, an incentive needed to be given to students and faculty. Mr. Wilms organized the meeting and Mr. Michelini explained to the Green Team that Stevenson could offer candy bars to survey-takers as an incentive. Once the incentive was identified and ordered, we needed a date to conduct the survey. There had to be enough time to order the candy, print the survey sheets, and reserve space in the cafeteria. Once the date was identified, as a club, we instantly had more confidence in successfully executing this survey. We knew we could do this! We created the survey according to LEED for Existing Buildings guidelines, as well as learned how to distribute the survey and manage the expected influx of survey-takers.
We met a week before the survey was distributed to establish when students could volunteer to help out and to teach students how to efficiently document and collect the completed surveys. After an hour of cooperative teaching and learning, we were ready.
We conducted the survey during the lunch periods and the stack of completed surveys grew. Finally, as the last lunch period's bell rang, we all turned to each other with huge smiles on our faces. We did it! We learned how to plan, organize, unite, and work as a team to achieve a common goal.
Our primary contribution was to help our school earn LEED Gold because of the transportation survey. However, our learning went beyond that. We attended Green Committee meetings and during the celebration and plaque presentation event, Green Team members led tours around the school, highlighting energy-efficient architectural and design features. In the end, students, in addition to faculty, were needed for Stevenson to achieve this milestone. Together, Green Team members united with faculty and administrators to reach a common goal: LEED for Existing Buildings Gold.
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