June 16, 2018 Facilities

Sioux City school district buildings recognized by Energy Star

The Sioux City school district now consumes less than half of the electricity that it once did, thanks to an energy-conserving program that has saved an estimated $3.27 million over the last several years.

In the last four years, the Sioux City public schools have stayed in the top 10 in the nation (among cities with fewer than 100,000 residents) in terms of energy efficiency.

How did the district achieve such a feat?

Jeremy Taylor, an energy specialist for the district, said the energy efficiency efforts didn’t involve anything flashy.

“In our case, it’s primarily through the changed behavior of staff, students and users,” Taylor said.

Around the time Taylor became the energy specialist in 2013, the district started to review where energy was being used, and whether there was any way to cut power usage without significant drawbacks.

“There are ways to save energy inappropriately,” he said, stressing that “indoor air quality, comfort and classroom environment” must still be maintained despite trying to conserve energy.

So the district got creative. Taylor cited a few techniques that have been used to cut energy usage, including “co-location,” in which classrooms are consolidated to the same floor of a multi-floor school as much as possible.

“If I have two classrooms down on the lower level, and 20 classrooms on the upper level but capacity for 40 classrooms, it only makes sense to consolidate,” he said, and thus save money on heating or cooling the lower level. “That’s an example of trying to pull administrators, staff together, and modifying how we use energy.”

More energy saving ideas: turn off the cafeteria refrigerators in the summer, and regulate the use of engine block heaters for school buses so that they’re only drawing power when they’re really needed.

And then there’s the “staggering” tactic, in which the buildings run their air-handlers at different times to avoid being charged a premium utility rate for excessive simultaneous energy usage. While this might not inherently conserve energy, it does save money.

The recently-built Perry Creek Elementary School touts LED lighting and skylights (the sun is free after all, and readily available during the day), as well as motion-sensing hallway lights. In a bid to have a more-independent water supply, the district now has uses wells for 70 percent of its irrigation, and tries to not irrigate at all during rainy times.

View the full article from the Sioux City Journal
by Mason Dockter