$23M Pettisville school goes green in big way with building project

Facility is environmentally friendly

10/29/2012
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
High school treasurer Chris Lee says he hopes Pettisville becomes the first K-12 school in Ohio to be certified ‘platinum’ through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
High school treasurer Chris Lee says he hopes Pettisville becomes the first K-12 school in Ohio to be certified ‘platinum’ through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

PETTISVILLE, Ohio — Low emission and fuel-efficient cars get premium parking spots outside Pettisville’s new K-12 school building.

Besides the towering 200-foot wind turbine emblazoned with the school logo, the specially marked parking spots are the first hint visitors get that the 1-year-old school west of Wauseon is an environmentally friendly one.

“The basic reason was simply stewardship,” explained longtime Superintendent Stephen Switzer. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Though the project is not complete — the wind turbine is lacking blades and therefore is not yet generating electricity — the Fulton County school district hopes to eventually produce more power than it needs to keep the lights on. The turbine should be operational by year’s end.

“We expect to have no electric bill and to gain $10,000 to $20,000 a year in electricity sales,” Mr. Switzer said.

He’s quick to say those are “projections.”

“Everything is subject to change. About a year and a half ago, I renamed the project ‘Project Lazarus,’ ” he said, referring to the way plans died and were resurrected several times. “The thought is, if this were easy, everyone would have wind turbines.”

Still, the turbine is part of the district’s overall plan to have a green building and to teach students in a practical way about the environment and conservation.

“That’s the exciting thing about it,” Mr. Switzer said. “We hope to be a net-zero site, meaning we generate more energy on this site than we use on this site. Hopefully that’s a nice statement to make.”

In addition to the wind turbine, which was paid for in part with $750,000 in federal stimulus funds, the $23 million school is heated and cooled with a geothermal system that circulates water through underwater pipe loops to provide natural climate control.

The school has special lighting and window features to capitalize on natural light as well as motion sensors that turn lights off when there is no activity in a room, photo sensors that do the same when there is enough sunlight streaming in. Pettisville staff and students recycle everything — from paper to plastic and aluminum.

School Treasurer Chris Lee said when the building project is all said and done, Pettivsille hopes to become the first K-12 school in Ohio to be certified “platinum” through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

“We’ve got gold easy,” he said.

Since 2007, the Ohio School Facilities Commission — which paid 82 percent of the cost of Pettisville’s new school — began requiring participating schools to at least attain silver LEED certification.

Mr. Switzer hesitated before saying whether the extra upfront expenses of going green combined with the extra frustrations are worth it. “Right now, I’m still on board with it,” he said. “It remains to be seen. It’s been a lot of challenges.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.