BOZEMAN, Mont. — A vote by the Bozeman school board on Jan. 9 now requires any new construction project to meet Montana state government standards for green buildings. The vote does not require new buildings to meet LEED certification, but instead allows new buildings to seek certification on a case-by-case basis.
The overall goal of adopting new energy conservation standards is to reduce the district’s operating costs and budget, as the official district policy has not been updated since 1991, according to Todd Swinehart, director of facilities for the school district. “This can help shift savings into other district needs,” he added.
One major challenge the district faces is working with taxpayers who believe that the only way to ensure accountability is to require new construction projects to meet LEED criteria. School officials have responded to those critical of the district’s energy performance standards by saying that new buildings will meet Montana state government standards for green building without the added $150,000 it generally costs to be officially LEED-certified.
“Whenever we do a new building, we hire a third-party commissioning agent to validate the mechanical engineer’s design and make sure all updated mechanical systems are running to optimum performance,” said Swinehart.
Since the vote only applies to new construction projects taking place in the district, the school board intends to keep using the federal Energy Star system to rate its buildings for energy efficiency. Additionally, buildings may be built to LEED-certification standards, but will not seek certification.
The state’s high-performance building standards will include a list of requirements that new buildings would have to meet in order to be considered sustainable by the Bozeman School District. The checklist will prevent soil erosion during construction, avoid excess light pollution, protect local habitats, reduce the district’s water consumption by about 20 percent, use water-efficient landscaping, reduce overall energy consumption, use recycled and local materials for construction projects and eliminate the use of VOCs for paints, fibers and adhesives.
Swinehart also said that any new buildings would be designed with the health of occupants in mind by using design components like natural light and proper ventilation.
In May of this year, the district will ask voters to approve a $144 million bond measure to break ground on a new high school and start renovations on the current one. If the bond is approved, construction will begin in spring 2018 with an expected completion date in fall 2020. Renovations to the current facility will take place between 2020 and 2022, according to the district’s website.