How green are these local projects?Let’s take a look at what the school and hospital are doing to help protect the environment.
By: Celeste Beam and Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
Editor’s note: The following is part of an Echo Press feature, “You Asked.” Readers are invited to send the newspaper a simple question and we’ll try to get to the bottom of it.
In a “go-green” conscious world, with people recycling, reducing, recovering and reusing, one may wonder with all the construction in the community if those in charge are just as vigilant in their environmental stewardship.
One Echo Press reader wanted to know what is being done with two well-known area projects, which prompted the “You Asked” question: “The caretakers of this community are interested in knowing if the new school and the new hospital are going to be eco-friendly and, if so, how friendly?”
Let’s take a look at what the school and hospital are doing to help protect the environment.
New elementary school
Jill Johnson, communications coordinator for Alexandria School District 206, said the district and school board are committed to green building strategies for the new elementary school, which is set to open next fall.
From the beginning, she said, the goal of the school board and the district was “to minimize the environmental impact of the building by enhancing efficiency in the planning for site development and the selection of energy management systems and materials.”
Johnson said these priorities were reflected in the work of the community task forces and design team.
The school’s site design incorporates several energy efficiency and resource conservation measures, including:
• Positioning the building to take advantage of existing trees and hills.
• Limiting paving to minimize the impact to the site.
• Preserving wetlands.
• Maintaining existing old growth trees.
• Designing rain gardens and nature trails.
Enhanced efficiencies within the building design itself include the following:
• Increased R-value of wall and roof insulation.
• Ground source heating and cooling system.
• Low flow toilets.
• Self-metering water faucets.
• Occupancy sensors to control lights.
• Using natural lighting as much as possible.
• High efficiency windows.
• Energy recovery on air handling units.
• High albedo roof system for cooling energy savings in the summer.
Johnson said these are just some of the highlights of the school board’s and the district’s commitment to green building strategies for the new elementary school.
Hospital building project
Construction of the new addition is already under way at Douglas County Hospital (DCH).
Once it’s completed next March, the $31 million expansion will add four floors and 100,000 square feet to the southeast corner of the hospital campus.
The new facility will increase DCH’s footprint, but officials are taking a number of steps to limit the project’s environmental impact, said Kevin Becker, project manager for Parsons Corporation, a multinational construction and engineering firm and lead builder on the expansion.
Becker said the company is complying with Alexandria’s tree and storm runoff ordinances by replacing torn down trees with “as many as we can fit on the site,” and building a large retention pond to help absorb water and trap sediment.
The new building is designed with energy conservation in mind, he said, boasting energy-efficient windows and a white roof to help reflect light and keep it cooler inside.
Dan Miller, of the Minnesota firm JLG Architects, said plans also call for added insulation, a top-notch ventilation system and thicker than usual east- and west-facing walls, lined with metal panel sun fins that help deflect light.
He said all three features would help cool the building while also conserving energy.
“In a big facility like this, a lot of the major cost is not heating,” he said. “It’s air conditioning.”
Becker said motion-activated lights will be installed to limit electricity use, and officials will continue to use steam from Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management to heat the facility.
“The more we can do that,” he said, “the better it will be for everybody, environmentally.”
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Readers may send their “You Asked” question to Editor Al Edenloff, Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308, fax it to (320) 763-3258, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop it off at our office at 225 7th Avenue East.