Kick-Starting Whole-School Sustainability Initiatives in Cheyenne

As part of the 2011 K-12 Building Retrofit and Renewable Energy Demonstration grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) was engaged by Laramie County School District #1 (LCSD) to reach beyond the grant’s renewable energy installations in order to influence the integration of whole-school sustainability across the district. Whole-school sustainability is the incorporation of sustainability into all aspects of a school organization, including operations and maintenance, new school design standards, occupant behavior, and educational opportunities. IBE sought to offer recommendations for meaningful changes, provide helpful guidance and resources, and achieve buy-in and ownership with LCSD staff to steward district sustainability into the future.

The final deliverables to LCSD included a Sustainable Operations & Maintenance Manual, Integrated High Performance Design Guidelines, and an Educational Guidebook of teacher and student resources for the integration of sustainability education into classrooms. Reception of these manuals marks a turning point for the school district as they begin to standardize sustainable practices district wide and commit to providing educational opportunities for staff, students, and the community. The development of these resources also reflects a desire from the district to have an integrative approach to building design and operations, one that aligns with their educational mission and evolves to include high performance technologies and strategies. 

Dave Bartlett, Assistant Superintendent of Support Operations for LCSD, shared, “LCSD #1 has been very appreciative of the assistance provided to the District by the Institute for the Built Environment. As a district, we have always had a focus on being stewards of local and state resources with an emphasis toward energy conservation and sustainability. The tools provided to the District will allow us to continue this focus through our routine and major maintenance practices as well as for future capital construction projects. The tools developed for the classroom will also help to educate our students on the topic of sustainability and to emphasize the importance of these practices for a healthy environment today and on into the future.”

Integrated High Performance Design Guidelines 

Triumph High School, Laramie County School District

Drawing upon the experience of the Institute’s experience in sustainable design and construction and the experience of Bill Franzen, consultant and former director of Poudre School District Operations, the team collaborated with LCSD staff to define established best practices and performance standards for design and construction of schools. Stephanie Barr, IBE Green School Specialist, stated; “The purpose of this document is to provide sustainable high performing guidelines for the design, construction and maintenance of energy efficient and environmentally responsible facilities that support the educational mission of the Laramie County School District #1.” The guidelines address a variety of subjects, including Integrated Design Process, Site Planning and Landscape Design, Water Conservation, Renewable and Alternative Energy, Energy Efficient Building Shell, Energy Efficient Systems, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Construction Waste Reduction, Materials and Performance, Safety and Security, Kitchen Operations, and Buildings that Teach. As a living document, these guidelines are intended to evolve as the school district evolves, ever reflecting the communities values for high performance and efficiency.

Sustainable Operations and Maintenance Manual 

To facilitate policy changes and influence decision making in regards to how the individual buildings within the school are operated and maintained, IBE developed a manual which outlines the current operations and maintenance practices used within the school district and identify opportunities for greater efficiency and improved practices. Using the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB: O&M) rating system as a framework, IBE assessed two school buildings, Alta Vista Elementary and Triumph High School. This assessment identified current practices used within the school district and provided side by side gap comparisons for sustainable best management practices. By highlighting the gaps between current and sustainable operations and maintenance strategies, the district was provided quantifiable improvements and actionable steps for implementing changes toward a more sustainable operating paradigm.

Educational Guidebook 

A primary goal for the set of projects was to increase student, teacher and staff awareness of and engagement in sustainability and renewable energy. To outline goals for integrating sustainability into teaching, learning, and culture of schools within LCSD, a workshop was held to engage teachers in sustainability and utilize the building and renewable energy demonstrations as teaching tools. Responding to the teachers needs for resources, a set of free educational resources were compiled. These resources included lesson plans, informative websites, and provided student-focused information about school sustainability. In addition, a guidebook for student engagement in energy efficient operations was created. This document includes roles and responsibilities for program leaders, outlines key activities, and provides activity sheets.

Fully Integrated and Fully Rooted 

Helping organizations see their path and realize the benefits of sustainably built environments are what we do at IBE. Our mission, to foster stewardship and sustainability of the built and natural environments through interdisciplinary educational forums, is met when engaging with organizations and leading through a project that results in innovation and education. Each resource developed for LCSD is intended to be used to facilitate incremental improvements towards a more sustainable school district. The value of these resources lies not only in the finished product, but also in the process taken to develop them. Stakeholder engagement guided the development of tailored resources and laid a platform of support. As stated by April Wackerman, IBE Projects Manager, “This project is only the beginning. LCSD is primed to begin their unique path to a sustainable, high-performing district.”