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Energy and Global Climate Change in New England

Plainfield Elementary School, Plainfield, NH

Plainfield Elementary School, Plainfield, NH

Plainfield Elementary School

Pop. 2444
Select Board /Town Administrator government
Joined CEC 2008

Make a Commitment
The Plainfield, New Hampshire, Elementary School is a K-8 school with 250 students. The school is the largest municipal facility in the small town of Plainfield, and is the educational and activity center of the town. The school was constructed in 1972-73 with additions in 1989 and 2000. Like many schools, there were problems at the facility, including air exchange systems used beyond their normal expected life, poor heating and ventilation, and a decaying building envelope. In 2008 the Facilities Committee of the school board decided to address these issues in a holistic manner by creating an energy efficient school.

Assess Performance, Set Goals
The Facilities Committee completed building energy surveys and analyzed usage data. They did energy modeling of the building that included infrared thermal imaging, blower door testing, working with the local utility on rebate options, and engaging a mechanical design firm to evaluate existing HVAC systems. The school was benchmarked with ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager Software and obtained an initial rating of 21. Using all the information gathered during the assessment, the committee set a goal of reducing energy use by 70% over the baseline year of 2005.

Create Action Plan
A plan was created by the Local Energy Committee to achieve this goal through behavior, lighting and HVAC changes that could happen immediately, with paybacks of less than one year, followed by implementation of a long term deep energy retrofit for the school.

Implement Action Plan
Efforts to reduce energy within the school included:

  • Reducing the size of the boiler's burner nozzle,
  • Reducing heating system water temperature by 40 degrees,
  • Setting back all thermostats when school is not in session,
  • Air sealing and adding insulation to the 1989 addition roof,
  • Upgrading lighting to higher efficiency fixtures and installing occupancy sensors.

As a deep energy retrofit is an expensive project, the committee decided to try a prototype classroom, and measure its success before moving on to the rest of the school. The prototype classroom was remodeled and included:

  • 28 inches of ceiling insulation
  • 13.5 inches of wall insulation
  • New windows with an R value of 7, R-9 center of glass,
  • An 81% efficient heat recovery ventilator and air source heat pump.

Evaluate Progress
These steps and the prototype classroom resulted in a 30% reduction in the amount of energy used compared to the 2005 baseline.  This translated to a reduction of $30,000 in fuel oil costs,$6,000 in electricity costs, and more than 78 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to taking 15 cars off the road. The prototype classroom also became the most popular room in the school because of the increased air quality, decreased noise from HVAC, and comfortable temperature.

Recognize Achievements
The prototype classroom was put on display during Plainfield Energy Expos in 2009 and 2011. The technology has been shared with other organizations in New Hampshire, including the NH Department of Education. The prototype classroom was the subject of presentations at several building conferences including Build Boston 2010. At that conference, vendors stepped forward and offered to donate windows and energy recovery ventilators for the next step of the project.

Continue to Assess Performance and Set New Goals
With the success of the prototype classroom behind them, the Facilities Committee embarked on the next step: to implement a deep energy retrofit to the 9000 sq. ft 1989 wing of the school. This was funded through a taxpayer bond of $330,000.00 approved at the 2010 town meeting. This resulted in a renovation of 30% of the school, reducing the school’s energy use intensity in kBTU/square foot by 40% and increasing their ENERGY STAR rating to an 83.

The next phase covers a retrofit of the original 1972 building with a $257,000 grant from the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning.  This was completed during the summer of 2011, and is expected to result in an overall 90% reduction in energy use and pave the way for renewable energy projects. 

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