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Construction projects in BSD have students seeing, living green

Kyle McLeod stands in front of one of the rain gardens. The large rocks act as an overflow protection, ensuring water will run in the areas it has been channeled.  - Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
Kyle McLeod stands in front of one of the rain gardens. The large rocks act as an overflow protection, ensuring water will run in the areas it has been channeled.
— image credit: Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter

When the Bellevue School District approached Kyle McLeod about serving as project manager for the new Interlake High School concession stand and restrooms, which burned down, he knew it sounded like an exciting opportunity.

But he also knew he wanted to do more than reconstruct the outdated, inefficient facility.

The result was modest in scale but with a grand vision and execution.

Dual flush toilets in the restrooms, a solar-panel covered roof and even an underground geothermal water heating system make it the only LEED certified building in the Bellevue School District; one that has served as a prototype for larger scale green construction projects over the past several years.

The success of the project and the seemingly endless potential for more like it led McLeod to move from the information technology department to project management, where he has managed six major construction projects with more already in the works.

Armed nearly $1 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2002, 2008 and 2010, the BSD has used green technology in its new construction to modernize its aesthetic, integrate sustainable energy practices into curriculum and give students a firsthand look at resource consumption.

No school in the district is more representative of the push for interactive green facilities than the new Cherry Crest Elementary, which opened just in time for the 2012-13 school year.

Cherry Crest has a pair of rain gardens that turn naturally depressed areas of the landscape into a filter for rainwater that runs back into city streams and also act as a conduit into the neighboring wooded area and city trail system.

It also features several green roofs and while not the first school in the BSD with them, it has the first one that is accessible to students. And when it rains, students can watch from an open-air plaza as rain water that isn't absorbed by the rooftop garden trickles down a suspended chain, into a cobblestone spillway below a grate under their feet in yet another innovation to keep rainwater on-site and utilized by the landscape.

"The challenge is, how do we get kids engaged?" McLeod asked. "They have to see it, live it and love it."

But it is more than just the look that has been impacted.

Hot water for washing hands is warmed by a geothermal system buried 300 feet below the multi-purpose field and LED lights in classrooms and common areas are armed with sensors that dim or even shut off according to natural light. Even the air breathed inside Cherry Crest is a nod to efficiency, with an airtight building envelop recycling 90 percent through an air return and filtration system that also provides above average ratings for heat retention. Even the parking lot, which is graded for water runoff and paved with a pervious rock for drainage, is designed with the environment in mind.

"We want to make the most energy efficient building we can," McLeod said.

Despite swelling enrollment at all levels, figures show the shift to green makes both dollars and sense.

Ardmore Elementary used less than one-third of the energy in 2011 that it did pre-construction and Eastgate Elementary bettered that, reducing its energy consumption by 75 percent. Both gas and electric consumption were down across the district in the past three years as well, with gas consumption dropping more than six percent.

Since costs associated with water, electric and gas (no fossil fuels are burned on-site at Cherry Crest) come from the same general fund as teacher salaries and classroom supplies, reducing those bills means more money that can be applied directly to students. McLeod said green technology can carry higher short term costs, but undoubtedly pays off in the long term and also ensures the district is using the funds from bonds to reduce future general fund expenditures for facilities maintenance and improvements.

Reducing consumption also makes the district a candidate for rebates and incentives, like the $20,000 check it received from Puget Sound Energy in recognition of the $200,000 it saved on utilities.

"The amount of money saved with energy consumption is offsetting half a teacher's salary for a year," he said. "It's a big savings when you add it up over all the buildings."

While the data on Cherry Crest will not be usable until the end of the coming summer when the building has a full year to evaluate, McLeod said the district estimates 10 percent of the total electric cost will be offset by the solar panels, geothermal system and other green technologies in the infrastructure.

As the BSD continues to rebuild itself through capital projects, the emphasis and integration of green technology will continue as well, McLeod said. He has pushed for the district to set a goal of replacing all interior and exterior lights with LED bulbs, a practice that will begin with the new Sammamish High School.

McLeod said the success of the completed projects and the ability to offset some of the growth the district will undoubtedly see in coming years through green technology is as exiting today as it was when he took on the Interlake concession stand project.

Timeline of Bellevue School District Capital Improvements

Completed projects:

Phantom Lake, Stevenson, Sunset (2003)

Somerset, International, Highland, Tyee, Tillicum (2004)

Sammamish, Interlake, Lake Hills, Chinook, Odle (2005)

Medina (2006)

Newport, Woodridge (2007)

Sherwood Forest, Newport Heights (2008)

Eastgate (2009)

Ardmore (2010)

Spiritridge (2011)

Cherry Crest (2012)

Future projects:

Chinook (2014)

Sammamish, Odle (2015)

Cherry Crest's 434 solar panels are capable of producing 230 KW each and are equipped with individual sensors to ensure one panel going offline will not impact the entire system. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

Kyle McLeod picks up the top layer of growth on one of the green roofs to display the soil located below. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

One of the green roofs at Cherry Crest, which features thick foliage. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

Two kinds of paving material used at Cherry Crest. The lighter colored material is pervious and allows water to flow directly into the ground in areas where cars do not drive. The black material keeps oil that mixes with water from leeching into the ground. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

One of two rain gardens, which take storm water back into the neighboring city streams. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

Harvested wood from the construction site was repurposed as benches inside and outside the school. The only wood that was taken off-site was diseased an unusable. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

Contact and submissions: jsuman@bellevuereporter.com

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