The Lenawee County Intermediate School District opened the first net-zero energy K-12 school building in Michigan in June 2013.
The Center for a Sustainable Future, 4260 Tipton Hwy., continues to be a teaching tool for students in the county, Science Consultant Leslie Coates said.
Around 140 high school students who attend classes at the building daily.
“It’s used by our students for all different aspects of agriculture and horticulture and natural resources,” Principal Shelley Jusick said. “We’re constantly evolving our program to meet the need of students in the agricultural (career) pathway.”
Year-round, adult education classes are taught in the evenings and career camps are hosted there for second- through 10th-graders in the summer, Coates said.
No millage or loan was used to build the $3.9 million center, Community Relations Coordinator Ann Knisel said.
The 8,700-square-foot building is designed to be as energy efficient as possible.
“The building is situated a certain way to capture the sun from morning to afternoon,” Jusick said. “There are solar tubes from the roof into the classrooms that open up, so if there’s a lot of light during the day, we don’t even have to use the electricity for the lights.”
When electric lights are needed, the building has LED lights on motion sensors.
In the first year, the building produced 30 percent more energy than it needed, a trend that continues today, Director of Facilities and Management Tom Kasefang said.
The extra energy is sold to Consumers Energy.
“We’re tied into their distribution grid and we actually dump energy out onto the grid and Consumers Energy pays for that,” Kasefang said. “It’s almost 20 cents a kilowatt hour that they pay us, so it’s a good gig.”
The center, situated on 75 acres of land, features a 68-kilowatt photovoltaic array which generates electricity using the sun’s rays.
A green roof — one with plants that extend the life of the roof and helps regulate the temperature of the building — allows students to practice propagating plants.
When it rains, the green roof uses the water it needs and the run-off is collected in an underground 10,000-gallon water cistern. The water is used for drip irrigation and grey water, career and technology education teacher Johanna Lentz said.
The building also features a ground source heat pump which regulates the ground temperature to 55 degrees. This means air conditioning and heat only have to change the temperature by 22 degrees, Coates said.
Recognized as a Green Ribbon School and having received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum Certification, the center’s sustainable efforts have paid off, Coates said.
The center is also certified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program in cropping systems and forest, wetlands and habitat systems. They are working to become certified in farmstead and livestock, Lentz said.
Overall, the sustainable model is a great teaching tool for students, Jusick said.
“It’s not there just to save energy, it’s there to teach students about those kinds of options,” Jusick said. “I think that’s the best benefit to the students and what they’re experiencing.”