How a district keeps up with its own energy standards

Bend La-Pine Schools adds energy-efficient insulation, lighting and digital controls
By: | November 6, 2020
The lights in Sky View Middle School were replaced with LEDs to save energy and money, and create a more comfortable environment.The lights in Sky View Middle School were replaced with LEDs to save energy and money, and create a more comfortable environment.

When more energy-efficient new facilities are built in Bend La-Pine Schools, administrators determine where similar energy upgrades can be made to older buildings.

“As we are building new schools, our standards change,” says Anne Birky, the Oregon district’s facilities support supervisor.

In the last few years, for instance, internal and external lighting at Elk Meadow Elementary was replaced with LEDs. The cost of the project—$195,ooo for the interior lighting and $19,000 for the exterior—was fully rebated to the district by the state and the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon program, Birky says.

The $3,000 in annual cost savings aren’t the only benefit of the project.

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“The LEDs are soft light—not that harsh yellow,” Birky says. “They’re a little easier on the eyes when you’re staring at computers and books all day. It makes for a better learning environment for students and better working conditions for the staff.”

One of Birky’s top responsibilities is to identify energy efficiency projects that will qualify for substantial incentives and rebates.

Some projects, such as lighting upgrades at the district’s maintenance building, are eligible for Energy Trust funding but not for state rebates, as that facilities does not server students.

However, she recommended that, before making any purchase, districts in Oregon and elsewhere determine whether it qualifies for rebates.

Bend-La Pine has been replacing old kitchen equipment with energy-efficient ovens, dishwashers and steam traps.

“Anytime somebody says, ‘Hey I have to buy this,’ I ask—I ask on everything,” Birky says.

The district had also focused on digital control upgrades so it can set schedules for when lights go on and off, and when boilers operate—all depending on when school buildings are occupied.

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“We run a very tight schedule, and we’ve realized a lot of savings just by managing the schedules,” Birky says.

The district tends to use savings from energy upgrades to fund the next projects, both large- and small-scale.

The insulation in the roof of a high school is being replaced while low-cost occupancy sensors have been installed in the building’s bathrooms.

Check out the slideshow to view Bend-La Pine’s energy projects: