Practicing Stewardship at Carolina Friends School
Practicing Stewardship at Carolina Friends School
by John McGovern, email@example.com, Carolina Friends School
As an institution, Carolina Friends School is quietly employing many environmentally sound practices. Since the founding of the school, we have always placed importance on protecting the environment and being good stewards of the land. We have welcomed students’ ideas and initiatives in promoting good environmental practices.
For over thirty years, the Carolina Friends School has had solar collectors on the roofs of the Center building and the Middle School. These units assist in the heating of the buildings and preheating the hot water. These collectors are able to heat the water in the collectors to a temperature of about 180 degrees (and help reduce our energy usage).
Recently, we have added photovoltaic collectors on the roofs of the Forest classroom in the Lower School. We do not use the electricity generated by these units but it is put back on the electrical grid. Piedmont Electric, our energy supplier, was very helpful in the installation. Piedmont and Green Power of North Carolina pay us for the power we generate. Are we getting rich? Definitely not, but, hopefully, it is an example and inspiration for our students.
Our newest building, the Upper School meeting hall has solar collectors that heat the floor in the meeting area. The floor does not get hot but remains comfortable throughout the day. Once again, it’s hard to know the exact savings but certainly the additional heat in the floor is a great benefit.
We have replaced all the toilets in the school, with new toilets using less water. Clearly that has had a tremendous impact on the water usage at the school. We have also replaced all urinals and they are now waterless. Those two actions have greatly reduced our water consumption. The state of North Carolina assumes that students in schools without a cafeteria use about ten gallons a day. We currently monitoring our water usage daily and we are using about 2.5-3 gallons per student a day. The water monitoring enables us to know if we have a leak or a toilet that is not functioning properly. A high -pressure flush toilet that gets stuck can use thousands of gallons in a very short period. We are on a well and must conserve our ground water.
Painting is never ending in schools. Some heavily used interior buildings need to be paint yearly. We are now using paint with no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). On our building exteriors, we now use paint that is supposed to last 20 years. Will we get 20 years? Maybe not, but it’s certainly better than the cheaper paints that last only seven or eight years. We’re saving labor and paint costs with the better quality paints.
Carpets are another cost that is never ending. That horrible spill right in the middle of the room is a common nightmare. We are now using Mannington carpets and glue. These products have the LEED certificate for being very green. We are once again saving money by being able to replace just the badly soiled areas instead of the whole carpet.
Many years ago, we met with our heating contractor and replaced all the thermostats in the buildings with ones that have the energy star label. They are much more efficient by automatically bringing the building up to proper temperature without using the heat strips for our heat pumps. We have also put lock outs on the heat pumps, lowering the temperature at which the heat strips will come on. We are generally able to do this without compromising the inside temperature in the winter.
Our gymnasium is currently the big energy consumer on campus. The temperature is computer controlled so that we can keep our demand as low as possible. The program will shut off units when we reach our set demand. Hindsight is great, and we now know the importance of our roofs being reflective. Regrettably our gym roof is dark green and in the summer makes the building much more difficult to cool. In the future our new buildings will have reflective roofs for the summer sun.
Our gym is beautiful and has a great deal of glass. The windows in the lobby face the west. The cardinal rule of solar houses is not to have western windows. Given the location of the building, we had no choice and have a garden in front with a number of butterfly bushes that grow well in the summer to cut some of the suns rays and then are cut down in the winter to let the suns warmth in. This year we added large sun screening blinds that add to the butterfly bushes and repel the sun. Light passes through the shades and the view from the inside is not blocked. The temperature difference in the inside is amazing.
In the recent past, we have had an environmental science class in the Upper School that has been action oriented. The early classes replaced many incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient compact fluorescents. We went through all the buildings and exchanged as many as we could. Regrettably some fixtures would not accept the new bulbs. As we replace worn out fixtures we always choose the most efficient available. We are currently replacing old exit fixtures with new led models. As in all schools, there are many meetings at night, requiring outside lighting for safety. We are working to put the outside building lights on timers so that don’t remain on and burn all night.
Another environmental class project was to insulate hot water pipes. The students were able to do this work when the pipes were exposed in the buildings. We did not have students do the work where the pipes were in crawl spaces with insulation. That was left for the employees at the school to do with proper protection.
The environmental class has constructed a number of solar collectors to help heat the building where we have the class. We have been able to produce water temperatures in the collectors approaching 150 degrees. This water is then pumped into the building with a photovoltaic pump and heats containers of water to help with the heating costs in the winter. We have experimented with the southern wall of the building and are collecting heat into the building. Every few years, the students will redo the wall, hopefully doing a better job to produce more warmth.
The environmental class recently constructed a greenhouse next to the gym to support the Middle School garden. We are currently working on solar collectors to heat the greenhouse so that we can keep the greenhouse from falling below 40 degrees on some of the long winter nights. We have not yet reached that goal so this fall’s class will continue to modify the collectors. The class has also collected the water from the Forest class roof in the Lower School and with the help of a photovoltaic pump will provide water for the Lower School Garden. This also is a work in progress and will be completed this fall.
In all these projects that the students have built or worked on there are some rough edges. Are their some small gaps in the collectors? You bet there are. Our school-built collectors are producing water 30 degrees cooler than the store-bought units. Is the pipe insulation cut exactly? Not really. It’s hard to figure how to cut the insulation around those angles. These are students being exposed to these things for the first time. Have we been able to do these projects without cuts and scrapes? There have been a few, but the scrapes have been minor. We are empowering our students to make a real difference at school. Will this make a difference in their future? I bet it will.
We routinely recycle at CFS. It’s something that we take for granted at school. As I travel around to other schools in the state, I’m shocked by the lack of recycling. We of course recycle paper, plastic, glass and cardboard. We also recycle all metal. Our service classes are often taking chairs and tables apart. We have a large pile of metal at the far end of our campus and once a year we take these items to a metal recycling site and use the money for the end of year trips in the Upper School. It’s not an enormous amount of money, but every bit helps and we are actively keeping these items out of our landfill. Just recently, Orange County has started to accept rigid plastic, and now we are able to recycle old chairs and other types of plastic furniture and storage crates. Certainly there are other recycling efforts going on throughout the school. This is just a sampling!
As you can see from these efforts, CFS works hard to be “green” on many different levels and has been doing so for a long time.