Q. WHY AM I ASKED TO KEEP WINDOWS CLOSED IN MY AREA? ISN’T FRESH AIR GOOD FOR US?
A. Windows in all GCS buildings are to remain closed anytime the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is operating unless there is an emergency reason for them to be open. The building’s HVAC comes on/off according to the school schedule and activities. Unlike a home furnace or air-conditioner, the HVAC in our buildings are large systems that operate with huge fans and ductwork with dampers that open and close with set outdoor/indoor temperatures.
When someone opens a window while the system is running, this, in effect, messages the system that another damper has been opened and the powerful fans pull in outside air from that window, mixing it in an environment that cannot be safely monitored for humidity, CO2 and other pollutants. While it may feel like the open window is cooling the room, likely, looking at the big picture, more harm than good is taking place. In most cases, conditioned air flows through air-ducts that are located over the classrooms in the ceiling. These ducts provide air for classrooms in a chain. When one classroom suddenly changes to a cooler temperature, the thermostat reacts, and more heat is brought in, not only to that classroom but all the other classrooms in that chain. Rooms on either side of the classroom (with the open window) will become warmer and more uncomfortable. Yes, fresh air is good for us, but the GCS classroom indoor air quality consistently tests better than outside air regarding CO2 levels and other pollutants. If your room is uncomfortable, it matters. Contact your custodian or fill out a work ticket as your first course of action. Your custodian will take room temperature and they will then escalate the work ticket for an HVAC technician if there’s a technical problem.
Q. WHY AM I ASKED TO KEEP CLASSROOM DOORS CLOSED? HOW DOES THAT SAVE ENERGY?
A. Keeping classroom doors closed in today’s world has become a safety precaution to which we all need to adhere. For years before that was an issue, CLOSED DOORS has been 1 of 3 GCS Energy Conservation procedures. Open doors waste energy and increase heating/cooling costs. The energy savings aspect relates to the explanation above. Rooms are cooled and heated in a “chain” which makes one room’s temperature relate to other classrooms on the same side of that hallway. Having a door open to the hallway causes the conditioned air to mix with hallway air, which then makes the thermostat react accordingly, and as above effecting the other classrooms on your side of the hallway negatively. Air quality depends on a closed system that we can monitor. If your room is uncomfortable, it matters. Contact your custodian or fill out a work ticket as your first course of action. Your custodian will take room temperature and they will then escalate the work ticket for an HVAC technician if there’s a technical problem.
Q. WHY AM I ASKED TO NOT USE A ROOM FRESHENER IN GCS BUILDINGS?
A. The use of air fresheners alters the air we breathe with chemicals. Plug-in air fresheners do the same but with the added fact that they are against the Indiana Fire Code for school buildings. Air fresheners are allergen/asthma triggers for many staff members and students. Compounding the risks posed by formaldehyde, most major brands of plug-in air fresheners contain a chemical known as naphthalene. Naphthalene has been shown to cause tissue damage and cancer in the lungs of rodents in laboratory studies. It’s plausible to assume that it causes similar effects in humans. Do not bring air fresheners to school.
Q. WHY AM I ASKED TO NOT USE A PORTABLE HEATER IN GCS BUILDINGS?
A. The use of portable heaters is not allowed in school buildings according to the Indiana Fire Code for school buildings. Any electrical device that creates heat, including the use of old incandescent light bulbs in a lamp, should be considered a fire risk. Please make certain all lamps that are brought into your space have energy-saving/cool to the touch bulbs, such as, CFL or LED.
Q. DOES RECYCLING SAVE OUR SCHOOL CORPORATION MONEY?
A. GCS has a growing recycling program in each of our buildings. Keeping recyclable materials out of the landfill helps the environment. While it’s everyone’s responsibility in every department to help with this effort, recycling in most of our school buildings has some student involvement. Curriculum regarding civic responsibility and earth care has hands-on experience in our recycling programs. GCS will offset recycling costs with reduced garbage content and less frequent garbage pickups. It is possible to increase our savings with increased recycling focus and oversight.
Q. WHO ARE THE GREEN TEAM MEMBERS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
A. Green Team Members are staff members who agree to be the contact person in their school. Comprised of mostly teachers, but also a nurse and school councilor serve on this team and represent their building in the task of recycling and other sustainability issues. The Green Team is led by Judy Miller and they meet as needed. This team is open to any GCS employee who would like to join.
Q. WHAT DOES THE DEPT. OF EDUCATION GREEN RIBBON AWARD MEAN FOR GCS?
A. The Green Team collaborated with the GCS Coordinated School Health Committee to work on the elements that, if met could qualify GCS as a DOE GREEN RIBBON SCHOOL. Every department was scrutinized for sustainable practices in this application. Health and wellness for students, and staff, community outreach, and energy savings were all integral parts of this application. GCS was chosen as a 2019 DOE GREEN RIBBON SCHOOL. The only school in Indiana to achieve this award in 2019. E-mail Judy Miller to receive a copy to read the details, if interested.
Q. HOW MUCH MONEY HAS GCS SAVED SINCE THE INCEPTION OF OUR ENERGY CONSERVATION IN 2009? WHERE IS THAT MONEY?
A. GCS Board of Directors voted to initiate an Energy Conservation Program at GCS in 2008 to save energy and money on utility bills—money that could be used elsewhere for education purposes. At that time, they entered into an energy savings contract with a company called Energy Education, which later changed their name to Cenergistic. The year between July 2008 and July 2009 was a year of recording data and of utility usage and expenses. Cenergistic provided training and oversight to the program. Over 100 hundred training visits were made by various engineers and other experts who traveled to GCS to teach us how to oversee all our buildings’ energy usage and help us find areas where we could save energy and money. As of the beginning of the 2019 school year our “cost avoidance” is close to 4.8 million dollars. The utility usage of water, electricity, and gas is entered a formula of comparison with that base year. The equation considers daily temperatures and weather data that is recorded. This is calculated and measured against that base year of when we did not have an Energy Conservation Program. Where is that 4.8 million dollars? Every year we have been able to decrease our budgeting for utilities and then spread the savings over all other budget items. The money has been and continues to be used for the daily operation of our district. This savings is applied to educational expenses such as teacher’s salaries, laptops, iPads and supporting the general fund. All cost avoidance is calculated by a third party by the name of EnergyCap. The GCS Energy Education Specialist uploads all utility costs and usage to their company for the calculation and tracking of our energy savings.