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June 20, 2011  |   Comments (1)   |   Post a comment

Building a Greener Future

Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ new transportation facility is expected to save $50,000 to $55,000 per month in energy costs with its many green features, which include wind turbines, solar panels and natural light.

by Brittany-Marie Swanson

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Constructed in 1936, Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools’ outdated transportation facility had in recent years left the district struggling to adapt it to fit the needs of its ever-expanding fleet.

The facility had begun to dictate the types of vehicles the district could purchase, and space had become an issue — despite the addition of three bays in 1956 and the construction of a butler-type building in 1977.

“[The facility] is so old and the bays are so small that we couldn’t buy transit-style buses because we couldn’t get them into the garage bay,” explains David Pace, director of transportation services for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “It is just a tremendously old building, so we needed to replace it.”

In April, the district opened a brand new, state-of-the-art transportation center, the Pupil Transportation Maintenance Facility. Dills Architects, a firm based in Virginia Beach, won the bid for the project. The $21.8 million dollar facility will serve not only the 761 buses owned by the district, but also 790 other vehicles, including maintenance trucks, motor pool vehicles and other pupil transportation vehicles.

Going green, saving money
Beyond meeting basic capacity needs of the district, the Pupil Transportation Maintenance Facility has achieved the LEED Platinum rating, the highest awarded in LEED certification.

Through energy modeling, the architecture firm has determined that the district will save $50,000 to $55,000 per month in energy costs through use of the facility’s many green features.

“The [LEED certification process] requires a certain level of energy efficiency. We’re beating that by 60 percent,” says Clay Dills, the project’s architect. “So you figure that if you were at an efficiency required by code, we’ve dropped the bill down to only 40 percent of that.”

The facility is the first in Virginia Beach to be equipped with wind turbines (pictured on the cover of this issue), which are expected to counteract a minimum of 5 percent of the total onsite energy usage. The four onsite turbines are fed directly into the site’s meter, and the energy output can slow down the meter or even spin it backward if the buildings are not using any energy at the time. This helps the district keep track of energy gained through wind power and also provides a viable teaching tool for the district’s students.

“All the data from the windmills is fed into the school system,” Dills says. “So if you’re a student in a middle school somewhere, you can actually monitor on your computer how the windmills out at the transportation site are doing.”

“I thought that was one of the big pluses with this: Everything is open to the kids,” Pace says. “They can come and look at it; they can actually see how it works and how it operates. It’s a great teaching tool.”

The facility also saves energy by heating the service bays through radiant floor heating that is fed by onsite solar panels. The energy from the solar panels creates hot water, which then circulates in the floors.

“I don’t know of any other facilities that have done that in the floor of a bus facility, but it actually has cut the heating and cooling bill in half for the whole facility,” Dills explains. “The premise of this is that if you’re in the space and you’re 6 feet tall, you only need to heat 6 feet of the airspace. So you heat the floor with solar panels and then that heat rises up through your body or where you need the temperature and then it’s ventilated out the top.”

Dills adds that this process also brings fresh air into the building, which allows for natural ventilation and efficiency.

The facility also saves energy by incorporating natural light and outside views into 98 percent of spaces, which is 8 percent higher than what is required for LEED certification. Solar screens and building orientation prevent solar gain so that bringing natural light into the building will not increase cooling costs. Similarly, the paving on the site is white and highly reflective to reduce heat island effects.

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Read more about: cutting costs

What an amazing project. Congratulations to Mr. Pace and the district for incorporating these technologies. We talk about how much pollution could be eliminated by children riding school buses instead of cars to school. How much pollution and petroleum/energy use could be eliminated by building all our bus garages to these standards? To the operators who say they can’t afford it, revisit the $50,000 a month they are saving in utilities.

Ted Finlayson-Schueler    |    Jun 21, 2011 08:57 AM

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