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Energy-saving kitchen equipment, energy management systems and zero-waste strategies are helping accumulate the points necessary for this elementary school to obtain LEED Platinum certification.
When Arthur W. Ferguson Elementary School in York City, Pa., was first built in 1957, the modular-type building was designed to be a temporary facility until a new one could be built. This "temporary" facility lasted 54 years, until the School District of the City of York had the money to build a new school. In August 2010, the new Ferguson Elementary School, a $25 million, 93,000-square-foot facility, opened to educate 650 students every year. Ferguson is one of six elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school and an education center in York.
"We are in the process of going for LEED Platinum for this school," says Brad Harman, director of facilities for the School District of the City of York. Prior to joining the district six years ago, Harman worked in the hotel business. "Now I have 12 'hotels,' but they are in a centralized area."
When Harman and other administrators started looking into building a new Ferguson in 2007, they contacted EI Associates, an architectural firm, to do a feasibility study for the district. Some of the information gathered came from two other, much smaller, green projects in the district — an alternative school and administration building, completed in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The alternative school earned LEED Gold certification; the administration building earned LEED Silver certification.
As part of the feasibility study, several sources of support were identified that made going green possible. For example, the York Community Foundation, which has an energy program, offered the district a $5,000 grant for a green building project and provided much-needed education about green building to Harman, the administration and the school board, Harman says. He also admits that when this project began, he was a green building novice. "We liked the idea and discovered that we'd receive an additional 10 percent from the state if we went green," he says.
Further along in the process toward going green, the district received a $500,000 Energy Harvest grant from the state's Department of Environmental Protection to be used toward a geothermal well system following tests to determine its possibilities and feasibility. EI wrote the grant and brought into the project other consultants, including Advanced Foodservice Systems for foodservice design and the 7 Group for advice on sustainability and LEED certification.
The new school contains "everything we wanted," Harman says. Features include bright classrooms painted with low-VOC paint; sunshades on all classroom windows that reduce the building's energy consumption; carpet tiles made from recycled truck tires; interactive screens in the classrooms that show what students and teachers write on their laptops; and a vegetative green roof that sits over the media center. The pre-engineered roofing system, which utilizes sedum, a plant that doesn't grow over six to eight inches, cuts down on storm water drainage and provides more insulation than a typical roof. The school also contains a feature not often found at schools, a secure playground in a courtyard for prekindergarten and kindergarten students.
In April 2011, the project received the 2011 Overall Design award from the Green Building Association of Central Pennsylvania.
Building Ferguson presented notable challenges for the team of architects to maximize open space. "In general, designing and constructing a green building requires more effort than a non-green building," says Arlan Hollinger, project manager at EI Associates.
The school site comprises more than four acres. "The old one-story building took up the majority of the school site," says Leah Shiley, EI's director of business development. "The new three-story building maximized the use of the site and allowed us to increase parking space and playfields." The students occupied the old building while the new one was built. Once the new building was ready for occupancy, construction crews tore down the old building.
One of the most important—and cost-effective—decisions Harman and the administrators had to make was which type of heating to bring into the school. "We looked at four or five different heating approaches," he says. "We went with geothermal because it was the most efficient and had the quickest payback." Harman estimates that the geothermal system will pay for itself in seven years.
Despite more than doubling the size of Ferguson—from 47,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet—the utility costs were cut in half. "Everything in the building is electric, and we figured that if we didn't have to bring in gas—even with the rate caps—we'd save money on energy," Harman says. "We also received incentives of more than $100,000 from our local utility company to offer special lighting, energy-efficient heat pumps and energy-efficient kitchen equipment."
To recommend appropriate equipment and design the kitchen, EI brought in Justin Silverthorn, FCSI, MSC, CEC, principal of Advanced Foodservice Systems. Silverthorn worked closely with James Brady Jr., the foodservice director with the school district's foodservice provider, Aramark. Brady has worked for Aramark for 24 years and came to the York school district in 1989 as assistant foodservice director.
"We wanted the kitchen to be efficient so the staff of five can produce meals for students and serve them quickly as they come into the cafeteria," Brady says. Breakfast is served during one shift; lunch is served at intervals for different grades. Students at lunch have approximately 30 minutes to eat. Each day, Ferguson serves approximately 600 students at lunch and 200 at breakfast.
"High-speed equipment that would offer savings in energy, power and space was top priority when designing the kitchen," Brady says.
"The district's desire to go for LEED certification required my firm to contact manufacturers to obtain information about equipment such as its BTU footprint and other facts about energy modeling," Silverthorn adds. "In 2008 when we started researching equipment for this project, this information wasn't readily available. We found equipment that is as energy efficient as possible."
Deliveries come into the school's back dock. Staff place them into dry storage or the walk-in cooler and freezer (containing six-inch walk-in panels that contribute to the LEED accreditation), which are connected to a remote system that is located just outside the building on a cement pad where it can be maintained. When needed, staff move ingredients in storage to a nearby prep area containing a worktable. "This table contains many undershelves to hold pans so staff have everything that they need within easy reach," Silverthorn says. Staff pull trolleys up to the end of the table where they load and unload food and can then quickly transport food to appropriate cooking areas. A two-compartment sink and slicer are also within easy reach.
The table and all custom-fabricated stainless steel equipment contain 75 percent post-consumer recycled steel.
In one section of the kitchen, three steamers cook scrambled eggs, vegetables and some of the meat for tacos. Staff use adjacent induction ranges for heating menu items such as oatmeal, cheese sauce, mini pancakes and thick-cut cinnamon toast. "We placed the three-compartment sink nearby to support the steamers and induction ranges so staff can transport pans from the cooking equipment to the sink and easily clean up," Silverthorn says.
On the reverse side of the wall containing the steamers and induction ranges, two 60-gallon tilting kettles cook spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken and bowtie noodles, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, soups and Asian stir-fry. "A convenient draw-off valve allows staff to take liquid from the kettles into service containers," Silverthorn says.
The adjacent convection ovens heat pizzas, nachos, hot dogs, french fries, sandwich bread, hamburgers, corn dog nuggets, pancakes, waffles and biscuits.
In a wall in between the two cooking stations, a custom-built hose reel allows staff to easily clean the kitchen.
Energy savings were also realized with the installation of an energy management system. In the system that controls ventilation, an infrared beam measures changes in the cooking surface temperature of each piece of equipment and automatically adjusts the airflow. This system's design ensures the safe removal of heat and contaminants while maximizing savings and comfort. This is the third such piece of energy management equipment to be installed in the United States, Silverthorn says.
In addition, a utility distribution system in the stainless steel wall has both gas and electric plumbing, which allows the foodservice team to change out various pieces of equipment on demand. A built-in filtration system sends filtered water to the kettles and steamers to help improve the quality of food processed in these pieces of equipment and to eliminate erosion of the equipment.
Once staff prepares food, they bring it to the hot- and cold-holding cabinets and then to the serving line, which includes a four-well steam table, a frost top for vegetables and salads, and a beverage cooler that holds milk and juice.
Kitchen lighting also contributes to the sustainable environment. Motion sensors regulate the on/off functions of lights in the areas containing dry storage, lockers, scullery and extraction equipment.
One of the strongest environmentally friendly features is the waste management system. "This model employs high energy efficiency matched with a zero-waste organic maceration system," Silverthorn says. In one year, savings realized include up to 40,000 gallons of fresh water, $163,000 in electricity costs and 1,775 tons of carbon dioxide.
When plate and tray scraping begins, cooking waste goes into a trough where a six-inch-deep flume of gray water carries away the waste to the pulper and extractor. The Ferguson system uses gray water directly from the dishmachine to fill the waste slurry system. This primes and fills the pulping system, which saves about 40 to 60 gallons of fresh potable water on each initial fill. The gray water pumps automatically feed the system to maintain the correct water levels. Once the system reaches the proper water level, the system starts. "The gray water, which already has latent detergents, has a cleansing effect on the entire system and minimizes the possibility of odors and disease," Silverthorn says.
"We have cut the quantity of our trash pickup by two-thirds," Harman says. "We make compost from some of our waste. It has been totally amazing!"
Venturing into sustainable, green build projects is a time-consuming process that requires hours of research. Harman recommends assembling a team to investigate all the possibilities and procedures needed to obtain LEED certification and not underestimating the amount of time required to plan and build such a project. He is extremely pleased with the results at Ferguson and advises others who are looking to take this path to realize that building green is not only good for the environment but also offers excellent teaching tools for students. "You may have to spend a lot up front to save a lot of money later," Harman says. "For us the investment has been extremely worthwhile." The district is furthering its commitment to building green by renovating three more elementary schools and applying for LEED Silver certification.
Opened in August 2010, Arthur W. Ferguson Elementary School is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification later this year. The Green Building Central Pennsylvania Association awarded the project its 2011 Overall Design Sustainable Sites and Innovation in Design honor. Built for 650 students, the 93,000-square-foot school houses a 2,500-square-foot kitchen serving 600 lunches and 200 breakfasts daily. The dining room contains 160 seats at 20 eight-top tables. Nearly 80 percent of the students eating breakfast and/or lunch at the school receive free or reduced-price meals. Aramark is the foodservice contractor. The school cost $25 million to build, and the foodservice equipment investment was $435,000.