According to SchoolFacilities.com, when administrators at Tonganoxie Unified School District (USD) 464 embarked on a $2.1 million energy and infrastructure improvement effort last year, they took the project into the classroom, coupling upgrades to buildings with an energy efficiency curriculum. The recently completed infrastructure upgrades are expected to save $217,000 a year in operations, maintenance and utilities costs.

As a result of these upgrades, administrators at Tonganoxie USD 464 will receive the Trane “Energy Efficiency Leader in Education Award” for their sustainable energy and operational efficiency improvements. The award recognizes the importance of the upgrades and the administrators’ commitment to optimizing the teaching and learning environment while increasing energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Upgrades were needed throughout district buildings to improve thermal, visual and acoustic comfort, indoor air quality and aging infrastructure while reducing energy, operational and maintenance expenses. Improvements to the elementary school, the middle school and the district’s two high schools as well as to an automated bus route optimization program were launched in February 2009 and completed in August 2009.

Students conducted the preliminary energy audit of their school, analyzed the results and got the community involved, writing letters to local legislators. The letters resulted in a visit with Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson and were attached to a state energy bill signed the same day. Because of the students’ efforts, the district received the Governor’s Energy Achievement Recognition award in 2009.

The project is funded with a performance contract supported by the Kansas statutory fiscal tool K.S.A. 75-37, 125 and the Facility Conservation Improvement Program. A performance contract is an option for funding energy-saving improvements in buildings that provides a method for schools to manage and optimize their energy use, allowing them to leverage the energy use and operational savings to support strategic educational objectives.

“It’s been gratifying to complete energy saving improvements that benefit students and teachers while providing our students with a hands-on learning experience,” said Hayden. “We’ve sent a powerful message to our students about the importance of sustainability.”

Prior to selecting appropriate energy conservation measures for the district, administrators conducted a formal energy audit and building assessment. Based on the findings, administrators selected the energy conservation measures that best met the district’s needs for improved energy and operational efficiency.

Upgrades included high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that improved indoor air quality, increased ventilation and made classroom temperatures more comfortable. Also installed were high-performance lighting systems and low-flow plumbing fixtures to conserve water and reduce sewage.

Administrators added more cameras, monitors and digital video recorders to enhance safety, while still reducing energy usage. They installed new software to automate bus route planning to increase bus transportation efficiency and student safety. A district-wide building automation system was incorporated, giving operations staff centralized control of the HVAC systems. Administrators are also working with an educational consultant to develop a long-range master plan for the district.