Ask an Engineering Expert: How Do You Design For Energy Efficiency in Schools?
In this installment of our Ask an Engineering Expert series, April Halling, P.E., Project Manager at RTM Engineering Consultants, answers the question: How do you design for energy efficiency in schools?
When designing K-12 education projects, it’s important to keep the different primary audiences in mind: the students, teachers, administrators, and facility staff. Each space has its own specific requirements; for instance, a third-grade classroom and a high school chemistry lab will have their own distinct priorities.
RTM designs mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection services for a wide range of public and private schools, and a common concern is energy efficiency. Schools want to design spaces to minimize their energy consumption and maximize their budgets.
But changing energy codes can increase initial construction costs and make systems increasingly complicated to maintain and commission. Even if code requirements add only a small fee to each space, this incremental cost builds up to a substantial amount when applied to multiple classrooms or recreation. Organizations must weigh these expenses with the potential benefits for students, moving forward only if there is a clear return on investment.
To increase building efficiency, RTM often utilizes separate controls systems for each system operation. By implementing automatic daylighting controls, RTM can reduce a school’s overall power usage. And central building management systems allows building scheduling that ensures equipment is only operating while the facility is occupied.
Metering systems are able to isolate different types of loads, based on function. For example, kitchen, mechanical, lighting, and general power loads can have separate metering to allow for accurate analysis. In one example, isolating different load systems helped a school determine when mechanical equipment was powering up outside of occupied hours and change the scheduling to operate only when needed.