Daylighting is an essential design strategy for zero energy schools. Properly designed daylighting uses sunlight to offset electrical lighting loads, save energy and reduce cooling loads. The benefits of daylighting are especially important for classrooms (particularly special-needs classrooms). When designing a ZNE school, daylighting the majority of all classrooms and other regularly occupied spaces should be a high priority. The top priority should be the classrooms and resource rooms, followed by media centers and administrative spaces. Daylighting in these spaces will have the greatest non-energy benefits for students, teachers, and staff.
Controlling plug loads is a constant struggle in schools. Plug load rise from increased use of information technology and personalized learning devices is inevitable. It can be controlled through careful specification and through training of teachers, staff, and students on how to reduce energy consumption. Plug load from small appliances is much harder to control. Controlling this type of plug load requires culture change. The need for teachers and staff to prepare food and beverages during their short breaks should be recognized and met by providing sufficient, appropriate, energy-efficient appliances in convenient and attractively designed locations. A long-term communications and training strategy should be developed and implemented so teachers and staff remain aware of the effect indiscriminate use of inefficient small appliances will have on energy consumption and energy costs. School administrators should monitor and prohibit the indiscriminate use of small appliances, set an example by not using such appliances themselves and, where appropriate, reinforce prohibition of their use through school district policy.
The essential role of K–12 school food service is to provide healthy, nutritious and appealing food to the students. That goal cannot be compromised, but consideration of energy efficiency can guide menu designers to select certain foods over others. Certain types of cooking are more effective at conveying heat to the food to be cooked, resulting in less heat input to the system and/or a shorter cooking time. Less heat or a shorter heat not only reduces the amount of fuel or electricity required for cooking but may also reduce the amount of exhaust air that must be removed from the kitchen. A zero energy school should engage a nutritionist to design a menu that meets the requirements for variety, nutrition, and appeal while reducing the overall energy consumption for preparation and cooking.
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