The Poudre School District (PSD) in Fort Collins, CO, has focused on energy conservation and sustainability since 1994. In fact, Bethke Elementary School is the third school in the district to achieve Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR and go on to earn the ENERGY STAR label.
Stu Reeve, PSD's Energy Manager, credits the district's success to its commitment to setting performance targets and evaluating the performance of existing schools.
PSD used the online Target Finder tool, a component of EPA's energy performance rating, to set energy efficiency goals for Bethke. Reeve said the district prefers the EPA rating because, "it's the only one that can score your design and then score your building a year after it's been operating." That comparison is important, Reeve said, because it enables him to see if the building has, in fact, met its energy efficiency goals.
Energy modeling also plays a big role in the design process. Reeve said PSD uses energy modeling to make design decisions and measure results both before and after the school is completed.
The district's secret to success is its use of a design prototype, which is continually refined from one school to the next, so that each new school improves on the one that came before it.
PSD began planning for Bethke around the same time that students and teachers moved into Rice Elementary School, which had achieved Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR in 2006. Reeve and the PSD Green Team studied Rice as an operating building to decide which energy-efficient design elements were functioning as intended and which could be enhanced.
Bethke has the same footprint as Rice, and employs a similar indirect/direct evaporative cooling system—which uses cooling towers instead of air-cooled chillers—and a thermal storage system.
The Bethke design team also made use of Solatube® skylights, which harness natural daylight without exposing rooms to Colorado's intense direct sunlight, in classrooms and Kalwall® daylighting, which filters direct sunlight, in the gym.
The PSD Green Team measured the effectiveness of insulation at other PSD schools using infrared cameras. They found that applying spray foam to a building's exterior was more effective (and much less costly) than building thicker walls with more insulation. This information factored into the design of the Bethke building envelope.
The Bethke design also placed heat wheels and solar panels on the roof, both of which will help the school reduce its energy use without compromising aesthetics.
"As long as we've done research, we're not afraid to try new things," Reeve said.
Architect of Record
Fort Collins, CO
Poudre School District
% Energy and CO2 Reduction*
2007 / 2008
Estimated Site Energy Use Intensity
Estimated Annual Site Energy Use
Estimated Annual Energy Cost
Energy recovery wheels; ground source heat pumps; recycled carpeting; tower indirect cooling and direct evaporative cooling; CO2 and CO monitors; smart controls for airflow, temperature, and lighting; wheat board; natural lighting; spray foam
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Poudre School District