February - Pflugerville High School

Posted by Marcial Guajardo on 4/6/2016 7:00:00 AM

Dearing demonstrates district’s commitment to reduce energy usage

Dearing Elementary library

The Dearing Elementary library, along with the school’s classrooms,
features large windows that let in large amounts of natural light.
Photo by Mercedes Ezeji


Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared in the February edition of the Pflugerville High School newspaper, the Panther Prowler.

By Dorrian Murphy
Prowler feature editor 

Big windows, glass walls, warm-colored paint and concrete floors give Dearing Elementary a futuristic – while still rustic and homey – aesthetic. A student-maintained garden and rainwater collection system lie between two buildings, and natural light floods every classroom.

One of three net-zero ready schools in the state, Dearing has the capacity to produce as much energy as it consumes.

“The first reason [for building Dearing as a net-zero school] was it was just the right thing to do,” said Bill Clayton, Pflugerville ISD’s Executive Director of Facilities and Support Services. “The second is long-term it’s going to be saving money. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the students. ... We are using as little electricity as possible to run that school. We’re using about half as much as what we’re using in the other schools as far as the amount of electricity per square foot. If we could afford to put solar panels on the roof of the school, we could generate as much electricity as we use in the school.”

Dearing has many other environmentally friendly features. Lights have a timer and a dimmer rather than a switch, and the building’s temperature is regulated by geothermal technology.

“Rather than having a condenser unit to warm and cool the building, our system is utilizing about 360 underground wells beneath the back parking lot,” Dearing Principal Christy Chandler said. “The ground pulls the heat from the water, allowing for the heating or cooling inside.”

An outdoor learning lab and a cistern that pools condensation and rainwater allow students to interact with green technology and care for plants. Herbs are harvested and used by students in the cooking club. Touch screens in the main hall allow students to interactively learn about the building and how much energy is being used in any classroom.

“Overall, our goal remains the same, which is serving our students,” Chandler said. “The gift of such a wonderful building and opportunities to help our environment are both bonuses.”

Dearing is one example of the district’s recent efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. District-wide efforts to reduce energy use began in 2008, and efforts to reduce water use began in 2010.

The district also began a recycling and composting program in the fall of 2013.

Clayton said that all district campuses have some sort of energy-efficient or eco-friendly technology, including either high-efficiency fluorescent or LED lighting. Water conservation measures across the district include low-flow toilets, no-flush urinals and restrictors on faucets.

Over the past six years, Pflugerville ISD has reduced energy use by 30 percent, according to Steve Waldron, the district’s coordinator of energy management.

“The district’s short- and long-term goals consist of perpetually looking for ways to reduce our energy and water use year after year,” Waldron said.