By: Robbie Ferris AIA, REFP, LEED AP
CEO – SfL+a Architects/Firstfloor
Be the change you want to see in the world. What change do you want to see? How will you implement extraordinary change in your society? How will your changes effect people?
During a county board of commissioners meeting on March 12, 2018, Commissioner Sig Hutchinson and other County officials resolved to move Wake county from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050. The resolution made during the meeting stated its goals were to “avoid climate catastrophe, to promote job creation and economic growth and protect the Earth for current and future generations from climate catastrophe. ” This move toward clean energy will be monumental for the county and it will affect everyone for the better.
So, the question is how can Wake County become carbon neutral? Wake County should start with its schools. The Wake County Public School System has approximately 171 school buildings in operation. The opportunity to be 100% clean resides in every new school built between now and 2050. Think about the future tax dollars spent on energy for each of these buildings and the possible savings. Several school districts in the Carolinas are taking the necessary steps to reduce their overall building costs and save taxpayers money. Three schools in North Carolina produce more energy than they consume. All three have an Energy Star rating of 100, which is a perfect score. Sandy Grove Middle School, in Hoke County, generates 40% more energy than it consumes and will save the taxpayers approximately $16,000,000 in electrical costs over the next 40 years. Horry County Schools in South Carolina leads the nation with five recently opened schools which promise to produce more energy than they consume.
It is an irrefutable fact that strong schools create vibrant communities, and vibrant communities create an economically sustainable future. Dr. Erik Hanushek of Stanford University has dedicated his career to the relationship between student performance and economic growth and the results are staggering . Also, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE), there is a direct link between student performance and net-zero schools. “Zero energy… in the hands of creative, innovative educators it provides abundant opportunities for authentic, problem and project-based learning.” Harvard University’s School of Public Health cites, school buildings as the foundation for student success.
Wake County already is one of the most sought-after communities in the country and going carbon neutral will make it the gold standard for communities around the world. Going carbon neutral will not only be good for the environment but it will produce healthier, better educated students who will make an already thriving community even better. This type of innovation will take Wake County to the next level in its ability to attract the most innovative people and companies in the world.
Undoubtedly, a carbon neutral city is better functioning, economically more thriving, and physically safer. So, as Wake county ventures into becoming carbon-neutral, the question is how do we make it happen? After all, ideas without action are worthless. Starting with our schools will promote economic growth, it will be the catalyst for dramatic cultural change, it will save millions of dollars in electrical costs and it will be a powerful hedge against the uncertainties of inflation in electrical costs. Carbon neutrality is Wake County’s ticket to success.
Johnson, Anna (2018 March 18) Wake looks at shift from fossil fuels http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODN/NewsandObserver/shared/ShowArtcle.aspx?doc=NAO%2F2018%2F03%2F14&entity=Ar00400&sk=E0B41AA0&mode=text
Hanushek, Eric (Winter 2017) Economic Gains from Educational Reform by US States http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/economic-gains-educational-reform-us-states
ASHRAE (2018 January 22) New Advanced Energy Design Guide Available to Help K-12 Schools Achieve Zero Energy https://www.ashrae.org/about/news/2018/new-advanced-energy-design-guide-available-to-help-k-12-schools-achieve-zero-energy
Allen, Joseph G. Schools for Health: Foundations for Student Success http://schools.forhealth.org/