Eastport South Manor officials contemplate green energy savings measures for new construction

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With Eastport South Manor School District officials contemplating between $35 million and $84 million in building expansion projects over the next five years, Board of Education members want to make sure that the plans incorporate state-of-the-art energy savings technologies to keep heating, cooling and electrical costs at a minimum.

Board members have asked the district’s architects, Wiedersum Associates of Hauppauge, to scope out environmentally friendly technologies that would be coupled with energy-saving measures in what is known as an Energy Performance Contract.

Architect Rick Wiedersum said the energy-saving measures could also be incorporated into existing buildings throughout the district. He noted that improving the district’s energy performance would come at no cost to taxpayers.

“Basically, there is no downside to this,” Mr. Wiedersum said, noting that because the Eastport and South Manor school districts merged five years ago, 95 percent of the proposed building projects would be covered by New York State building aid. However, the district has only until the 2013-14 school year to take advantage of the hefty building incentive.

Among the suggestions the architects made to board members during a public meeting last Wednesday, January 7, was to build cogeneration power plants in the district. Cogeneration facilities are energy plants that simultaneously generate electricity by burning natural gas and capturing the heat that results from that process to heat district buildings.

The William Floyd School District has had a cogeneration plant in operation since 2005. William Floyd’s plant facilities manager, Herb Hodge, noted that during its first full year of operation, the total savings to the district amounted to $470,000. The district also has a contract with New York Installed Capacity (ICAP) to sell excess electricity generated with its three massive 18-cylinder, 1,800-horsepower natural gas generators.

By selling excess electricity , William Floyd sees an annual profit of roughly $122,500, according to Mr. Hodge. In the past three years, the district has saved more than $1.2 million with all of William Floyd’s cogeneration processes, Mr. Hodge said.

Wiedersum Associates is proposing the construction of two cogeneration plants, one that could accommodate the junior-senior high school, and another cogeneration plant at Eastport Elementary School. The second plant could power the current school, as well as a proposed kindergarten through second grade building at the campus.

Other energy performance upgrades suggested by Wiedersum Associates included wind turbines and photo-voltaic or solar panels at the junior-senior high school. School Board President Karen Kesnig expressed concern that wind turbines would be too noisy and could distract students. Mr. Wiedersum said the turbines made little to no sound.

“Cogeneration is something we will absolutely do,” said Richard Snyder, assistant superintendent for business. “Solar and wind or turbine is something we’re looking at seriously because the technology in these areas have matured. They all offer the district the opportunity to reduce costs and increase cash flow because the projects are eligible for our 95-percent aid.”

District officials also hope to receive certification for the energy-saving projects from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as a rating system for green buildings.

According to the council’s website, LEED certification promotes design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings. LEED certification would also allow the district to take advantage of a growing number of state and local government incentives, which would be helpful as the School Board considers expansion options.

Wiedersum architect Mike Herzog explained the firm’s Phase III proposals for the elementary school updates during last Wednesday’s meeting. Under the Wiedersum plan, South Street Elementary School would continue as a kindergarten through second grade facility, with current temporary, modular kindergarten classrooms being replaced with new permanent classrooms. The South Street School would also see a new library/media center, as well as new art and music rooms and additional special education space.

The Dayton Avenue School would continue as a third to sixth grade facility under the proposal, with a new classroom wing being added on. The district’s central administration offices would also be relocated into the west wing of the existing Dayton Avenue School.

The board is also looking to alleviate Eastport Elementary School’s severe overcrowding problems with a new, separate kindergarten to second grade school. The current Wiedersum plan has single-story structures for kindergarten classrooms and attached two-story buildings for first and second grade classrooms.

Mr. Herzog said the proposal also calls for demolishing the existing modular buildings located behind Eastport Elementary School. The site would also be reorganized to improve traffic circulations and accommodate recreational fields.

“Of course, we have a long way to go before we decide on what plan we’re going to go with,” said Board Vice President Vincent Sweeney. “But [Wiedersum Associates] seems to understand what we’re looking to do, and are going in the right direction.”

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