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GHS board looks at energy efficiency

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Building Committee, told Tuesday it had some budgetary wiggle room in the high school construction project, brought back three items that had been temporarily cut from the original design — including extra roof and wall insulation that will improve the building’s energy efficiency.

The Building Committee and construction manager Shawmut Design and Construction have now agreed on a $52.9 million construction budget — and project manager Jim Byrne told committee members they had just under $590,000 to spend on some project “alternates” that had been temporarily set aside.

So, the committee purchased three of those items: 3 inches of additional roof insulation for $214,000, 3.5 inches of mineral wool insulation in exterior walls for $43,000 and sheet linoleum instead of vinyl composition tile on the floors for $352,200.

The first two items make the building more energy-efficient because insulation reduces carbon dioxide emissions and lowers heating and cooling costs.

And the flooring swap will save the school department time and money on custodial maintenance each summer.

To complete the three purchases, the committee had to dip slightly ($20,000) into its contingency money. There is still $2.9 million of contingency money left. The town keeps all money it does not have to use.

The committee elected not to buy three other alternates: a “rooftop light monitor” that would improve the day lighting and aesthetics of the school’s main lobby ($144,000), a roof garden ($82,500) and seventh and eighth lanes on the running track ($107,000).

These items can never be added back into the project, although outside groups could still make them happen after the fact — like in the case of the running track, where alumni are working to raise money for the extra lanes.

Residents: State could have done more

But for two Greenfield residents — Louise Amyot and building committee member Nancy Hazard — the high school project could have been much more energy-efficient had it received more support from the state.

In separate letters sent last month to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which pays for most of the new high school, Amyot and Hazard stressed that new schools should be built to “zero-net-energy” standards — so that the building produces only as much energy as it needs. The new high school project will likely reduce energy emissions by 20 percent.

The residents thanked the MSBA for its support, but argued that state funding needs to increase in the future. They expressed their disappointment that in a world of depleting fossil fuels, buildings like the new high school are not held to higher energy standards.

The MSBA — a quasi-independent state organization that works with towns to build schools and is funded by one penny of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax — is paying $42 million of the school’s $66 million budget. It asked the local building committee to respond to Amyot and Hazard.

Spokesman Matt Donovan said he asked the local building committee to address the letters, arguing that since the financial decisions were made on a local level, a response would “be more beneficial from the local level than from the state.”

He added that the MSBA would review the building committee’s response and then assess if it would send its own response to the residents.

The MSBA is always looking at ways to improve its energy efficiency standards, he said, but has to work with a limited funding supply.

Hazard, the former director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, argued that it would only cost 5 to 10 percent more to build a “zero-net-energy-ready” building — which essentially provides a structure for a building to achieve zero-net-energy when the money to purchase renewable energy sources, like solar or wind, becomes available in the future.

And although she’s happy that the extra insulation was added back in, she believes the building could have been designed differently from the beginning, such as incorporating a more efficient heating and air conditioning system. She plans to appeal to state legislators so that future state projects receive more support for energy initiatives.

School Building Committee Chairman Keith McCormic sent letters to both Amyot and Hazard.

“I would like to assure you that the HS Building Committee is working to build the most efficient building possible within our budget,” wrote McCormic.

“Given the generous support that MSBA provided to our project, it even might seem ungracious of us to ask for more,” he wrote. “Not staying within our budget could also convince businesses, charitable foundations, and other important future partners that Greenfield is a bad investment. The Committee does not want to send that message.”

The letter to Hazard also asks her to not identify herself as a member of the committee in private citizen letters, so as to not confuse anyone whose opinion the letter represents.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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