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Learning About Green Building at South Queens Middle School

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Natalie McMaster was invited to South Queens Middle School to chat about energy with students and staff in December 2016. Each of the three grades visited the school common area for an engaging presentation on “Getting Started with Energy”. This year’s grade seven students reviewed the foundations of energy. Natalie had spoken to the group previously about electricity so the engagement was a quick refresher. These students were eager to share some of the Earth-friendly changes they have made since last year.

South Queens Middle School was built to LEED standards. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® and is described on their website

“…a rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 160 countries. Since 2002, the Canada Green Building Council® (CaGBC) and LEED Canada have been redefining the buildings and communities where Canadians live, work and learn.”

The students were very interested in the sustainability of their school since it first opened in 2013. One fact they found particularly interesting was that 98 percent of the occupied space has views of the outdoors which lets in a lot of natural light. Students were also aware of the multiple light controls in each room- they rarely have them all on! You can read the complete LEED Case Study on SQMS here.

Our everyday choices can have a big impact! Behavioural changes of just a few people can cause changes in electrical demand. The group considered the energy use at SQMS since the students moved into the school. Two big changes have occurred and that has impacted the overall energy use at the school. In November 2015, Andy Selig, the South Shore Regional School Board Operations Coordinator, adjusted the Air Handling Units. That means this energy-hungry infrastructure only works when the school is occupied, rather than running constantly, even when the building is empty. There was a decrease in energy use in November and December 2015 which has been attributed to the changes to the Air Handling Unit. In February 2016, lights started to be turned off after Brian, the school Custodian, made a change. Metal-halide lights are used throughout the building and can be turned off when not needed, especially when the school receives so much natural light. Suddenly the monthly energy use dropped by 10,000kWh or $1,500. That is a huge savings, especially over the years! Two people and two small changes significantly reduced school energy waste in one year. Congrats to SQMS, Andy and Brian!

So now the question is: What changes can you make to waste less energy?

Find out more about LEED buildings watching a video and learning about Green Buildings. Other schools are being built with sustainability in mind. Bluenose Academy was built to LEED Gold Standards and Citadel High School was built to LEED Silver Standards.

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