Ashland School District board sets sustainable goals for construction

Ashland schools could be equipped with green roofs, ground source heat systems and solar heated water in the bathrooms.

The school board met Wednesday night to consider these and other sustainable building practices for upcoming construction projects. Bellview Elementary and Ashland High School are the most likely to see significant changes.

Board members laid out three guiding principles for choosing green features: enhance the educational environment, save ongoing costs and serve as a local educational demonstration. Modelling good stewardship of the environment was added to the list as an important, but secondary, goal.

Several green practices have already been incorporated into the design, such as installing low flow toilets and waterless urinals, using high-efficiency appliances, planning for recycling facilities and using more insulation and fewer windows.

"These are not sexy. They are not brain surgery. They are simple things we should be doing," said lead architect Richard Higgins.

Higgins presented the board with a list of additional considerations, including raising the indoor temperature from 75 to 76 degrees, collecting rainwater and installing battery-operated photo-voltaic energy cell lighting.

During the discussion, board members made references to sustainable practices they had experienced in their travels abroad. Ruth Alexander said she visited a school in Vietnam with no windows, but an entirely open floor plan. Heidi Parker described the "massive" green roof she saw in Shanghai and the key-card system in Chinese hotel rooms that insured lights were only on while the rooms were occupied.

"If China can do it, we should be able to," Parker said.

Just before board members voted on their top priorities, Ashland parent and long-time district volunteer Rick Barth addressed the board.

"I would advocate not engaging in enviromental tokenism," he said. "PV batteries make no economic sense when you have a grid system sitting right there. And with the rain patterns we have around here, trying to collect rainwater makes absolutely no sense unless you have something the size of Emigrant Lake to put it in."

The PV cells and rainwater collection dropped out of the top considerations after the vote, in which each member chose their top five features out of the 13 available. The top vote-getters were green roofs, ground source heat pumps, solar water heating systems, radiant floor heating and daylight controls on the east and west sides of new buildings. These considerations will be sent back to the architects for analysis of initial and life-cycle costs.

Then the job for the school board will be "trying to figure out what's going to give us the most bang for our long-term buck," said board member Amy Patton.

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