New Commercial Conversation Podcast on Education

The Commercial Building Products editors have added a new Commercial Conversation podcast. The new discussion is with architect Amy Stein, MGA Partners Architects, Philadelphia, and focuses on education-facility design, how it’s being affected by technology, the demand for “green” facilities, security, power delivery, and several other factors that affect new and renovated school facilities. Stein is a talented and experienced architect who specializes in education and historical structures.
   In addition, Commercial Conversation offers four other podcasts related to commercial-building design and construction. Look for a new podcast approximately every two weeks. Be sure to subscribe to Commercial Conversation so you’ll be notified when a new podcast is made available.

GE, Lithonia Lighting want better school lighting

GE Lighting, Cleveland and Lithonia Lighting, Atlanta, have combined efforts to help schools improve their classroom lighting quality and cut energy costs by as much as 50%. The information-delivery vehicle for this new effort is a website at
   According to the press release: “Better quality, more controllable and efficient lighting is an investment that ought to be on the radar screens of school districts across the U.S. this year. Superintendents, business managers, and school boards can take a meaningful step toward extraordinary, lasting lighting energy savings—and improved, more flexible learning environments—by visiting”

GE and Lithonia's website is a new resource aimed at helping schools improve lighting and cut energy costs.

   The site provides a spectrum of information about how schools can improve lighting energy efficiency. It features a lighting audit request form tied to the introduction of energy-efficient Class Pack Lighting Systems from GE Lighting and Lithonia Lighting. By installing Class Pack Lighting Systems, schools can reduce annual lighting-related energy costs as much as 50%.
   “We want to help school districts across the country understand the significant opportunity that today’s energy-efficient lighting systems can provide,” said Jason Raak, a marketing manager with GE’s lighting business. “Recent new product advancements make current high-performance lighting far superior to systems installed just five years ago, and payback periods are shorter than ever.”
   Qualified school representatives can use to request a school or district-wide energy audit (restrictions apply). Visitors to the site will see a host of supporting statistics and details on how school executives can reduce the cost to renovate facilities by using NEMA premium ballasts and CEE qualified HPT8 lamps which, in many regions, can defray initial costs through utility rebate eligibility.
   The Class Pack Lighting Systems combine high-light-output, full-spectrum fluorescent lighting with a ballast system that delivers customized lighting levels on a two-lamp platform. With fewer, longer-life components, it minimizes maintenance and lamp replacement costs. It’s designed for fast, easy installation after school is out for the day or during summer renovations.
   “We think provides school districts with many of the resources needed to make smart financial decisions about lighting and energy savings,” said Monik Mehra, director of marketing, Lithonia Lighting. “It’s a vital tool at a time when school districts have to do more with less, while striving to improve the quality of their students’ learning experience.”—Gary L. Parr

Reduced rate for education security

As the current school year comes to an end, educational institutions across the country are ramping up those summer  repair, remodel, and upgrade programs. One of the critical areas for all educators is building/campus security and, no doubt, security systems are at the top of the list for most institutions. But, for virtually all schools, budget difficulties are working against the very pressing need to install effective security systems.
   To help with this, On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI), Pearl River, NY, is offering an OnSSI Education Stimulus Package, now through the end of September 2010.  The promotion offers a significant discount on all Ocularis ES and DS Base and camera licenses. Discounts also apply for additional cameras licenses to existing Ocularis system.
   In addition, educational facilities with a current OnSSI Software Upgrade Plan (SUP) can register their facilities under this program and receive the applicable discount for their SUP renewals.
   “We are proud to work with our school systems to provide a safer learning environment,” said Gadi Piran, OnSSI’s president and chief technology officer. “This special offer will help schools reconcile their needs with the realities of their budgets and allow them to meet their security objectives.”
   Details for the program can be found on the OnSSI Education Solutions page. The education stimulus discount is available to all K-12 schools, colleges, and universities with a minimum $1,000 product order.
   OnSSI’s Video Management System (VMS) provides vendor independent camera management, recording and archiving, control-room video-wall management, virtual matrix functionality, and automated video alerts through integration with video-content analytics and access-control and physical-security systems.—Gary L. Parr

Learn green construction in Eng. Soc. of Detroit courses

Need to learn more about green building construction? Maybe a trip to Detroit is in order? In Aug. and Sept. the Engineering Society of Detroit is offering two new classes on sustainable construction. The classes will focus on how to design or redesign buildings so they are more energy efficient and structurally relevant. “Introduction to Sustainable Construction” will be held on Aug. 12 and 13 and Sept. 9 and 10. An HVAC and Integrated Design course will be offered Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. Both will be held at the Engineering Society of Detroit’s newly-constructed, energy-efficient headquarters in Southfield, MI.
   “We’ve been getting more and more into green construction,” said Ron Smith, director of education and community outreach for the Engineering Society of Detroit. “We’re in a great position to bring this education to our engineers.”
   The courses will cover the history and background of the green building movement, the impact of green/sustainable building practices on traditional construction and design, and the certification process for LEED accreditation.
   For information, call 248-353-0735.—Gary L. Parr

“Green” a school, make a difference

I attended an event this week sponsored by the Grainger (Lake Forest, IL) organization. One of the seminars involved discussion of work done to inject “green” into the facilities operated by the Scottsdale (AZ) Unified School District. The overall effort involved the usual lighting changes, white roofs, better HVAC, recycling, etc. While telling the story, the presenter offered some rather startling general statistics about the savings that can be realized when schools implement “green” policies. According to the presenter,  when compared with conventional education facilities, green schools:

  • use 50% less energy
  • use 32% less water
  • produce 74% less solid waste

Note that the terms conventional schools and green schools involve use of some rather broad brushes, but, by any definition, those are some significant numbers. My personal test for these kinds of loose statements is, if we cut the numbers in half, are we still talking about making a significant difference? In this case, the answer is yes. The trick to realizing these kinds of savings is to get enough money into the hands of school districts and then to effectively spend that money.—Gary L. Parr

H.R. 2187 a drop in the bucket?

In a May 14 blog item, I discussed legislation H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which, that day, was passed by the House of Representatives. The bill, should it be enacted, would authorize $6.4 billion for school districts to do green-oriented renovation work in 2010. To me, $6.4 billion seemed like a ton of money that would make a significant difference.
   It became obvious to me that I have absolutely no concept of how far a billion dollars will go when I received a press release a few days ago for the Green California Schools Summit (Dec. 9 to 11, Pasadena). That release refers to H.R. 2187 and then states, “There’s lots of work to be done. The American Federation of Teachers estimates it would cost just short of $225 billion to fully renovate and repair schools across the country.”
   If my calculator is accurate, that puts us $218.6 billion short of the needed funds! H.R. 2187 doesn’t even get us in the parking lot with the heavy equipment.
   Who is going to provide the rest of the funding? I’ve not recently heard of any states being flush with cash, particularly California, so that’s not a source. I don’t know of one U.S. citizen who will vote for anything that resembles a tax increase and any legislator who supports a tax increase is likely signing his/her own political death warrant.
   I still hope that H.R. 2187 gets enacted, but it’s going to take a few more of those $6.4-million payouts to truly make a difference.—Gary L. Parr

U.S. House passes H.R. 2187

According to a CNN report late today, bill H.R. 2187, described in an earlier blog post, has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is now moving onto the Senate. Click here to read the CNN story.—Gary L. Parr

H.R. 2187 to feed “green” in schools?

The funding river flowing out of Washington these days is wide and deep. It still remains to be seen how much of that water will nourish the commercial-construction industry. One indicator of this potential nourishment is H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which just passed out of the House Education and Labor Committee. The bill would authorize $6.4 billion in 2010 for school districts to take “measures designed to reduce or eliminate human exposure to classroom noise and environmental noise pollution.” The bill was introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA).
   The funding can be used to repair, replace, or install roofs, wiring, plumbing, lighting, windows, doors, floors, and/or ceilings. It also can be used for HVAC systems, to bring schools into compliance with various building codes and ADA requirements, for removal of hazardous materials, and to reduce or eliminate classroom noise. In other words, this is funding to improve the overall educational environment and to cut energy costs for school districts.
   I live in the Chicago area and can assure you that there is a mountain of schools here that can use this type of funding. The number of such schools across the country has to be enough to make a large mountain range. Needless to say, this bill will also put a lot of people back to work, either producing building products or installing them. Let’s hope it passes for the sake of our industry.—Gary L. Parr