Document Sample
    Donna Taylor
    Marketing Manager
                                                                           POWERS LEARNING
    Di Cara Rubino Architects

    It is not often that you can introduce
    savings into the district while at the
    same time enhance the curriculum.
    However, that is exactly what the new
    Discovery Classroom in River Edge’s
    Cherry Hill Elementary does. Its
    design not only addresses rising
    energy costs, but also puts global
    warming at the forefront of the
    curriculum with its integrated solar
    panel system.

    The new Discovery Classroom is
    actually the next generation of River
    Edge’s award-winning Discovery
    Room at Roosevelt School designed
    by Joseph A. Di Cara, AIA, Firm
    Principal of Di Cara | Rubino
    Architects. The original Discovery          curriculum in this Kindergarten         solar panels. Students are able to
    Room, constructed in 1996,                  through grade 6 district where the      watch as the amount of energy
    converted a storage area into a             concept of “green” energy is being      produced by the solar panels
    hands-on learning center that               explored throughout all grade levels.   increases as the sun’s intensity gets
    featured exposed mechanical                                                         stronger throughout the day.
    systems in the room so that students         “The students in River Edge are
    could see how a building operates.          getting a unique education at the       This real time data is then used to
                                                elementary level as part of the         calculate exactly how much energy is
    Fast-forward to 2008 when energy            science curriculum thanks to the        being produced by the solar panels
    costs soar and electricity costs            addition of solar panels on the roof    and to answer questions such as, “Is
    increase annually by double digits and      of the school,” Kristen Crawford,       this enough to power my iPod?”
    the River Edge school district seized       science teacher said.                   Other classes calculate how far one
    the opportunity to address these issues                                             can travel by car with the amount of
    in its science curriculum.                                                          energy that is produced, as well as
                                                                                        the amount of CO2 that is not being
    This next generation classroom has                  “This real time                 released into our atmosphere as a
    been designed and constructed to be                                                 result of the solar energy.
    completely self-sufficient through the
                                                       data is then used
    use of photovoltaic cells; a renewable        to calculate exactly how              “This curriculum gets the students
    energy system. While the classroom                                                  excited, they run to the computers to
                                                    much energy is being                retrieve the data!” Ms. Crawford
    is still “connected” to the school, the
    solar energy that it harnesses is                    produced by                    exclaimed.
    distributed back into the grid, resulting         the solar panels.”
    in an educational space that                                                        Business Administrator Debbie
    technically stands alone and remains                                                Trainor said the district has already
    carbon neutral. Additionally, the eco-                                              experienced tangible savings. The
    conscious classroom features                                                        district previously bused its students
    environmentally-friendly finishes           Computer stations monitor the solar     for learning opportunities at the
    including paint with low VOC content        panels and are integrated into the      Discovery Room at Roosevelt School
    and carpet and ceiling tiles                classroom to allow students to see      but now students have the same
    manufactured from recycled materials.       for themselves how much clean           opportunity at both district elementary
                                                energy is produced. From the            schools, with lower district
    More importantly, the room is               computer read out that feeds into the   transportation costs.
    designed to foster hands-on science         Discovery Classroom, students
    learning. The solar panels have             complete assignments and labs           The district is also tracking the cost
    greatly enhanced the science                based on real time data from the        savings this year so that in March the

results can be reported at              cannot wait any longer to
budget time. In fact, the               explore alternative energy
calculation of the cost savings         sources, and with the financial
will be part of the lesson plan         incentives in place for school
for the fifth and sixth grades.         districts, it really is a win-win
“I would like other business
administrators to know that             What better place to start this
these types of projects are             movement than at our schools,
financially viable and could,           where we can educate the
with today’s economy, be an             next generation on energy
important facet of presenting           conservation.
your next budget to your
community,” Ms. Trainor added.          If you would like to implement
                                        alternative energy saving
Yet Trainor believes its greater        solutions in your district
success story is in its                 consider the following projects:
intangible benefits.
                                        1. Go Solar. Recent changes in
“Not only do we teach our               the clean energy rebate program
students about renewable                allow districts to take advantage
energy, hopefully it becomes            of Solar Renewable Energy
part of a way of life for them          Certificates (SRECs), New
as a more conservative                  Jersey Department of Education
generation,” Trainor said.              debt service aid, and Clean
                                        Renewable Energy Bonds
Based on the success of the             (CREBs) to install solar panels.
Discovery Classroom at                  Together with the energy
Cherry Hill, the district is            savings of the new panels,
looking forward to hopefully            districts have the opportunity to
include solar panels at                 provide these systems at a 0%
Roosevelt School next year to           tax increase. Annual savings
expand the science curriculum           can be used to offset additional
and produce further energy              energy saving projects.
savings for the district.
                                        2. Upgrade your mechanical
Mr. Di Cara feels strongly that         and lighting systems. The
classrooms, such as this one,           systems available today
can be an important part of the         greatly reduce demand on
solution to today’s climate crisis.     your energy consumption.

“We are now at a tipping point          3. Select materials carefully.
with solar energy, whereas in the       School districts should
past it felt good and was the           consider the “cradle to cradle”
‘right’ thing to do, now it is almost   concept in which interior
a necessity in order to address         finishes, such as ceiling tiles
energy costs in a school district,”     and flooring, are derived from
Mr. Di Cara said.                       other recycled materials.

Di Cara | Rubino Architects is          4. Solar is just one way to go.
currently working with several          Other districts have been very
New Jersey school districts             successful reducing energy
that would like to install solar        costs with the use of geothermal
panels as a means of                    systems. Newer, smaller wind
offsetting energy costs.                turbines are also becoming
Projects, such as this one, are         more readily available.
now easier to implement
because solar panels have
become more affordable,
offering a greater rate of return
on a district’s investment.

“The timing is right now,” Mr.
Di Cara explained. “We simply