It's not easy being 'green'

Meeting to focus on environmental school design, cost

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— Schools are for education, so Steamboat Springs School Board member Jeff Troeger thinks the construction of a new Soda Creek Elementary School is an opportunity to teach students about responsible energy consumption.

Michael Holtz of Architectural Energy Corporation will give the School Board a presentation about "green" buildings and pursuing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The meeting is at the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street.

"I'm interested because we are at the end of one era and the beginning of another era in terms of energy efficiency," Troeger said. "Schools are in the education business, and there isn't a more appropriate group I can think of to show a new way."

Troeger has been vocal about wanting the district to explore the benefits of obtaining LEED certification for the new Soda Creek building.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by rating performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Several Steamboat community members also have expressed a desire to see the district seek a LEED certification or at least follow LEED guidelines.

"I've been hearing those questions," Superintendent Donna Howell said. "They are looking long-term. There is a resurgence of focus on the environment and conservation."

A full ventilation system is slated for installation at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park Elementary School. Such systems will increase utility costs. Troeger said he would like to see what savings a "green" building may have for the district.

"As the owner, you are looking at the total cost of ownership," Troeger said. District facilities director Rick Denney "was talking about a spike in utility bills, and what I'm trying to figure out is how do you minimize that? How do you design a building that's healthy for people who are in it?"

The LEED certification is projected to cost between $40,000 and $50,000, which was not budgeted into the initial cost of the building projects. Much of the LEED certification process is dictated on how the building is built, so the district needs to decide a direction it wants to take before final drawings are complete, Howell said.

"Is it worth going for LEED certification?" Troeger asked. "I say yes. We are supposed to be educating people. Here is a way to be out front. Five years from now it will be so accepted."

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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