School district looks to energy efficient buildings upgrades to save ailing system

August 28, 2012

The destruction of much of the infrastructure and many of the buildings in the small, rural community of Vernonia, Oregon, was not extensively documented, but the town has bounced back and serves as an example for how to effectively rebuild a place with an eye on efficiency and sustainability.

According to the Energy.gov blog, two floods in an 11-year period devastated the area, and after much deliberation the local government decided to build energy efficient schools and a community center.

This construction will help the cash-strapped town save on long-term energy and operating costs, due to the use of efficient cooling and heating systems. Estimates have been released for the potential savings, and a reduction of energy use by 43 percent is expected.

According to the blog, this will not only save the taxpayers money, but it will also help to provide children with a healthy environment that is conducive to learning.

Cities and towns across the U.S. would benefit from similar energy efficiency projects, but there is often a lack of public support for programs that have long-term effects. This is why a number of these upgrades have occurred in areas of the country that have seen disaster, such as Vernonia or Joplin, Missouri – after the tornado destroyed much of the property in the region.

However, school systems, government buildings and commercial real estate should go through a transformation in order to avoid incurring unnecessary long-term operating costs. Retrofit projects can help to make significant changes without requiring a completely new structure and massive construction efforts.

This is idea behind the push being made by the U.S. Department of Energy through its innovation Hub, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub).

This effort is based in Philadelphia and relies upon some of the brightest minds in the region to demonstrate to commercial property owners in the city the value of retrofitting buildings for long-term cost benefits and a reduction in energy use.

The EEB Hub often hosts programs that are dedicated to educating the city's residents and businesses about the benefits of energy efficient buildings and the maintenance associated with these structures. Expert instructors are brought in and classes are taught over the course of several months in order to increase the retention of information.