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School district will pay for 'green' certification

New Richmond's new high school is on the fast track to becoming one of the nation's few LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified schools.

The currently-under-construction high school has already been registered with the United States Green Building Council for inclusion in their LEED program.

The School District's architectural design firm, Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen (ATS&R), is going ahead with the LEED process in hopes that they can reach an agreement with the School District on the cost sharing.

Originally ATS&R proposed to pursue the certification at a cost of $75,000 to the School District.

The School Board declined their invitation at that price. The architectural firm returned with an offer to pursue certification at a cost of $50,000 with the condition that if the school is LEED certified they would split the cost with the School District 50/50.

The School Board advised ATS&R that they would be willing to pay between $8,000 and $10,000 for the certification, according to District Administrator Morrie Veilleux.

School Board President Rick Hinz said the Board has tentatively agreed to pay up to $10,000 to support the potential benefits that would come with the certification.

Hinz said that when the Board considered LEED certification early on in the design and building phase, they were not as inclined to pursue it as it seemed more beneficial to ATS&R than the School District.

"But after awhile, we realized as a Board that there could be potential funding benefits to the District if we were to become LEED certified," Hinz said. "Funding is one benefit and the other 'softer benefit' would be the visible accomplishment that we truly took a green approach to building the new schools."

Hinz said the goal of building green schools was foremost in the Board's plan, while the LEED certification was secondary.

According to ATS&R, the new high school will be 30 percent more energy efficient than buildings constructed under the current Wisconsin energy code.

Additionally, the stormwater system is designed to minimize erosion and pollution of nearby wetlands; recycled materials will be used in portions of the building; low-flow restroom fixtures will reduce water consumption saving 650,000 gallons a year; and environmentally-friendly refrigerants will be used in the mechanical system which will result in economic and environmental benefits.

Veilleux said the possibility of LEED certification is the result of the careful planning and design ATS&R and the District worked together to achieve.

"We didn't set out to get any recognition for energy efficiency," Veilleux said. "But the high school has already acquired 29 points toward certification."

This puts the high school in the "certified" category. The highest category is the "platinum" level, which requires between 58-79 points.

"The school will probably have a few more points before it's completed," Veilleux commented. "That would mean it may have a rating of silver or higher."

"We are building the high school to the specifications we planned for energy efficiency and as of right now it appears to qualify for LEED certification at some level," Veilleux said.

The LEED program is based on a point system, which awards points to facilities based on sustainable building design and energy-efficiency.

A total of 79 points is possible in areas such as materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, innovation and design and process and indoor environmental quality.