Achieving Net Zero Energy in Schools: What You Need to Know
Your comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about achieving net zero energy in school facilities.
Did you know that, following payroll, the most significant line-item expense for school districts is the operating cost of a school building? Most of your school district's money goes to energy expenses and not your child's education! The typical public school district spends millions of dollars on energy per year.
But, an increasing number of new school buildings are at net-zero energy with their expenditures. To put it simply, they produce as much energy as they use. Net-zero school facilities are the future.
The global education system is going green. But how do we get there from here? Read on to learn how you can bring a solution to the table for renewable energy in your school district.
Lower Energy Costs Mean More Money for Education
The advantage of a net-zero school for the community is evident. The less a district spends on energy costs, the more it can devote to educational needs. Less money required for heating, cooling, and lighting a classroom means more money spent inside that classroom.
Schools can generate as much power as they consume by reducing the building's energy use and generating power on-site. This is possible due to the primary use of photovoltaic solar panels that turn sunshine into electricity.
Also, since a new school building's expected lifespan is decades, the cost savings from zero energy usage covers the cost of constructing a new school. New net-zero schools can be cheaper to build than a standard design. Over time, this means more money in the coffers for our children's educational needs.
Using a Holistic Approach to Energy Consumption
The energy use index (EUI) for a school often ranges from 50,000 to 70,000 BTUs per square foot each year. A net zero school needs only to strive for a EUI under 20,000.
The owners, engineers, and architects must collaborate to reach net-zero through a school's renewable energy. To make the structure as efficient as possible, architects must contribute to the design of the building. The owner must have a dedication to running the facility as effectively as possible.
Engineers in coordination with one another can create systems that promote sustainability. They can also work together to reduce carbon emissions. How can we get there? By taking a holistic approach to developing net-zero carbon school facilities.
There are obvious steps to take. Utilizing LED light bulbs and turning off lights when a space is empty is but one.
There are also daylight controls that dim the lights when a sensor detects that there is enough natural light present. Laptops and tablets consume far less electricity than desktop computers. Thus, making mobile technology more critical in the classroom as well.
Where the Majority of Consumption of Energy Comes From
Energy is most heavily used for heating and cooling. One way to reduce this usage is to increase the top ventilation of the school's HVAC system. You can do this with more robust and diverse flow controls directing warm or cooled air where pupils are.
When not in use, large gathering spaces like gyms, auditoriums, and cafeterias that need expensive temperature control can divert the air and use it for other purposes. Building net-zero energy schools can cost less to construct. Net-zero schools can have insulation in new buildings for no additional cost.
They might even be less expensive. Based on a review of the costs of 88 net-zero energy "ready" schools constructed over the past 15 years across the United States, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reached this conclusion.
The right-sized mechanical systems can use their integrated construction and design process to lower life cycle and initial costs. HVAC systems can be made smaller, resulting in a reduction in equipment costs. Making an upfront investment in high-performance windows, insulation, and a well-designed building envelope, a minor HVAC system will save schools money in the long run.
Ground Source Heating and Cooling
Another part of the equation is ground source or geothermal heating and cooling. Depending on the season, heat pumps use the ground as a heat source to move heat from one location to another. Transferring heat or cooling is always more effective than attempting to create it.
Some people believe that zero energy use involves disconnection from the power grids of the major utilities. Although, net-zero designs do not have this as their primary goal.
The public utilities will still have a connection to these schools. But they will use the energy far more effectively by producing power from solar panels to make up for what they do use.
More Benefits of Net-Zero Energy Schools
A net-zero school helps kids and the community more than a traditional school upgrading project. Since teachers may use the school as a learning lab, students who attend net-zero energy schools have the chance to learn about clean energy solutions. The operational savings produced by net-zero schools may support these increased student opportunities.
When switching to heat pumps, net-zero schools are better able to withstand intense heat. This is due to the technology, air conditioning included! Since they can generate their power, schools that install solar energy are well-positioned to provide continuity of service and act as an emergency refuge in the event of power outages.
Last but not least, schools that meet net-zero emissions positively impact our national target of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050. Not to mention a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 by 2030.
Environmental Social And Corporate Governance (ESG)
"Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria are a set of standards for a company’s behavior used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change, for example. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights. (Source: Investopedia)"
Net-Zero Energy to Net-Plus Energy
It is possible that soon, schools that are built efficiently will produce even more energy than they need. This will create a net favorable profile for their energy usage.
And that's a significant benefit for the planet as well as the financial stability of our educational institutions. The future seems promising if architects, engineers, and owners collaborate using these techniques to create and run net-zero schools.
Net-Zero Is Attainable and Necessary
The idea of net-zero energy school design is crucial worldwide. But, for schools strapped for funds, the savings can add up to a compelling argument for switching to green energy facilities.
You can ensure the cleanest indoor atmosphere for your students. We use the finest technology in our HVAC Induct air purifiers and portable air purification systems to fulfill the IAQ needs while meeting the ESG requirements of any building and industry.
Contact us or check out our Blog section for more helpful information. We can assist you in bringing your school into the net-zero energy zone while providing the cleanest indoor air possible.