Green School Buildings for Massachusetts Students:
The People Who Make It Work
Heading toward a green school infrastructure
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Massachusetts schools are at the forefront of our state’s transition to renewable energy. The schools not only embody sustainability goals in their design and construction, but also showcase the way communities come together around these goals.
On May 25, 2022 the MSBA was proud to showcase the transitions within two Massachusetts communities, Saugus and Worcester, to achieve environmental goals. Our online program also featured speakers addressing the necessary skills required for staff or service providers in order to achieve successful building management and energy management. Finally, two Massachusetts utilities, Eversource and National Grid, discussed the evolution of the electric grid to support Massachusetts’ climate goals, and representatives from MassSave discussed incentives available to schools for electrification of their buildings while achieving high energy efficiency.
Saugus Middle High School is the first MSBA school, and first high school in Massachusetts, to achieve LEED Platinum, the highest level of LEED certification. Yet, it wasn’t evident from the outset of the school project that such an accomplishment was achievable. Working together, town and school leadership, the designers, the Owner’s Project Management, and the contractor built upon existing Saugus practices and values, as well as innovative approaches to design, to achieve this milestone for Massachusetts schools.
Features of the Saugus project which contributed to the Platinum certification include energy efficiency though a tri-generation system producing energy on site, water conservation through enormous underground cisterns, air quality and ventilation, while achieving educational equity through a welcoming, accessible, and inclusive environment. The Saugus team demonstrated how a team approach toward embracing change throughout the process of design and construction allowed the community to achieve the LEED Platinum goal which at the outset may have seemed out of reach.
The Doherty School in Worcester underwent a considerable redesign during the design process in order to achieve greater electrification of the school building. As in Saugus, this achievement was made possible only by the design team and city and district representatives responding actively to change, since midstream in the design the city adopted its Worcester Green Plan calling for the city to move expeditiously toward electrification of its building stock.
As the second largest school district in New England, Worcester places an emphasis on ease of maintenance and operation of its many school buildings. Worcester also is able to purchase natural gas at a favorable rate. Thus, to redesign the school toward a largely electrified building required preserving the ease of maintenance of the HVAC system, such as by continuing to utilize chilled-beam displacement ventilation. It also required looking for solutions that would not significantly increase the cost. In the end, Worcester was able to design a school that embodied its community values and the city’s transition to a sustainable future by being largely electrified, depending on natural gas only during periods of peak demand or during power outages.
It takes the right people to operate school buildings at their highest efficiency. We were joined by a representative from the general contractor, Consigli, and two other experts in building maintenance, to look at how each building has a personality of its own, reflecting the personality of its occupants. Over time, many buildings will drift from their designed operation and begin to operate less efficiently, and the extent and cause of this drift may not be understood by the building operators. Thus, good energy management is required to analyze trends and data in order to understand whether buildings are operating less efficiently than designed, and how to fix them. Such analysis may need be no more than quarterly, and can be undertaken by service vendors or qualified district personnel. Energy management is a necessary feature of successful building operation, distinct from building management.
Our program also addressed building management personnel. Many factors may lead districts to employ under-qualified building management personnel, from budgetary constraints to lack of awareness of the need for such personnel. In our seminar, we discussed qualifications ranging from electrical, plumbing, and computer-software skills, to time management and the people-skills needed to interact with building occupants and the community as a whole. The Owner’s Project Manager from Saugus described the changes necessary in the hiring process in order to attain such an individual, including accurately wording the job description and seeking personnel through engagement with Massachusetts Maritime Academy and other academic institutions.
Representatives of Eversource and National Grid answered the question: will the electrical grid be able to support Massachusetts and its schools during the transition to sustainable energy. The answer: a resounding Yes. Other representatives of each utility, in their role as representatives of MassSave, explained how incentives to electrify school buildings have significantly increased since last fall. As more and more buildings are electrified, and as the electric grid itself transitions to power from renewable, non-fossil-fuel sources, Massachusetts will move toward meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals. Massachusetts schools which achieve net zero are ahead of the grid, already producing 100% of the energy they consume onsite from renewable sources.
Massachusetts schools interact with the electric grid in two distinct ways. Electric buildings purchase energy, but net zero buildings and other buildings which generate power onsite additionally direct energy back into the grid. While the utilities are confident in their ability to distribute electricity, some modifications to the grid may be necessary in areas where there are high-capacity concentrations of customers who are producing energy to direct back into the grid. For this reason, any school districts seeking to achieve net zero, or to install a solar array or wind turbine, are encouraged to enter discussions with the utilities as early in the planning process as possible.
Massachusetts as a whole has legislated significant greenhouse gas reduction goals, and Massachusetts schools are leading the way toward accomplishing these goals.
- PDF - Agenda - Green School Buildings for Massachusetts Students
- PDF - Speaker Bios - Green School Buildings for Massachusetts Students
- PDF - Speaker Contact List - Green School Buildings for Massachusetts Students
- PDF - Building Operator Job Description Example
- Distributed Generation [B. Jacobson - Eversource]
- Distributed Generation and Electrification [M. Porcaro - National Grid]
- It May Not Be Your Building [K. Viswanathan - Facilities]
- Its Not the Buildings Fault [P. Anastasi - Facilities]
- New Buildings and Major Renovations [K. Cullinane and D. Rouleau - Mass Save]
- Saugus Middle High School [HMFH]
- System Planning for Electrification [J. Lucas - Eversource]
- Worcester Doherty High School [LPAA]