Boulder Valley School District Pursues Net-Zero Energy Consumption

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) in Boulder is working on a sustainable energy program with a goal of net-zero energy consumption in 11 school facilities. The school district is teaming up with McKinstry, a design-build firm in Denver, to complete the project.

Voters approved a $576.5 million bond issue in 2014 to fund the sustainable energy program, which will include five deep energy retrofits, five new construction projects and one re-commissioning retrofit. These energy-saving projects combined are projected to reduce the district’s utility costs by $307,000 annually, with a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and reduction in the district’s carbon footprint.

Last summer, Broomfield Heights Middle School in Broomfield became the first school to undergo McKinstry’s deep energy retrofit. The 107,750-square-foot, two-story building underwent improvement measures including building envelope upgrades, LED lighting upgrades and an entire mechanical system retrofit. A new HVAC system was installed, integrating chilled beams with heat recovery systems. McKinstry has since been implementing an energy management and verification phase to monitor the school’s energy performance against the project’s energy model. This phase will enable the project team to correct any irregularities that could impact performance, and will be the norm for any future school retrofits moving forward.

“These improvements will help move BVSD toward our goal of becoming a zero net energy district, will reduce our energy expenses, and will provide a healthier, more comfortable learning and working environment for all school occupants,” said Jeff Medwetz, BVSD project manager of energy systems. BVSD’s goal is to reduce the energy usage of each facility by half in order to reach net-zero levels.

BSVD is one of six school districts nationwide participating in the U.S. Energy Department’s (DOE) Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator, aimed at helping net-zero schools go mainstream. Not only do net-zero schools use 65 to 80 percent less energy than conventionally built schools, according to the DOE — they also help to improve learning environments.