ADRIAN — The Lenawee Intermediate School District is going greener by developing a zero-energy-use school and testing hybrid and propane-powered buses.

The district hopes to break ground in April on a 9,000-square-foot classroom and laboratory building on Tipton Highway in Adrian Township.

The building will use solar photovoltaic arrays for electricity, geothermal and solar thermal systems for heat, and a “significant emphasis on the building envelope” to achieve zero net energy use, Lenawee ISD superintendent Jim Philp said. Examples of that emphasis: Earth berms on two sides of the building and limited use of windows.

During the day, the building will house two of the ISD’s career and technical education programs, horticulture and agricultural technology, for high school students. At other times, the building will be used for environmental education programs, exploration camps in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and various adult and college education programs.

The building will also be a living laboratory of sustainable technologies — for example, the district hopes to power tractors used at the 75-acre site with biofuels produced in the building.

The ISD hopes to complete the roughly $4 million building by the fall.

“It’s not just about the building, it’s about the students,” Philp said. “We’ve owned the property about 12 years. When we first purchased the property we didn’t have this in mind. We had students involved in our master plan process and in architecturally designing the building, as well as a lot of community partners. Students will be involved in monitoring energy usage and monitoring energy output.”

Philp also said the district would like to include a wind power system of some sort in the project, but only if it can be added “as an in-kind donation or at a substantially reduced cost.”

An analysis of the building as designed shows that the excess costs associated with the sustainable technologies in the building will pay for themselves within 18 months, and would in fact save the district more than $840,000 in utility costs over a 30-year building life.

Also, through two grants from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the ISD has purchased a 2010 propane-powered school bus and two 2011 diesel-electric hybrid powered buses. All three have been integrated into the regular ISD fleet, which otherwise consists of conventional diesel-engine buses.

Now, the ISD is undertaking a longitudinal study on the performance of the different types of buses under similar conditions. Specifically, officials are assessing the operating costs associated with each type of school bus, which will be compared against initial acquisition costs. Operating costs which will be closely monitored include fuel and vehicle maintenance costs, which will be compared against vehicle performance (miles per gallon of fuel used). Vehicle costs will be coupled with vehicle emissions data to assess the overall value of each vehicle.

The district says it intends to share results from the study with local, state, and national public transportation officials and publications — as well as to help drive future LISD school bus purchasing decisions.


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