Throughout the school, staff and students are finding new ways to conserve resources and cut down on waste
As the bell rings and students file out of the conference room in the high school student life center, the lights dim and the air conditioner turns off. The same thing happens when areas of the main room are empty, or when a counselor leaves her office. Thanks to occupancy sensors installed during the student life center's construction last summer, saving energy in unused spaces no longer depends on someone remembering to press a switch.
But does this really save enough energy to make it worthwhile? The answer appears to be a resounding yes: during the first semester, Singapore American School facilities staff measured 73 percent lower energy consumption than the space previously used. This pilot project is proving that installing new technology can indeed save a great deal of energy through improved efficiency, with exciting implications for its wider use on campus.
Today, innovative options for maximizing our use of energy, water, and other resources are proliferating at a rapid pace. Under the leadership of Facilities Director Anthony Wong and Sustainability Manager Prescott Gaylord, a number of pilot projects are underway that we hope will lead to future campus-wide improvements. SAS has a long history of leadership in environmental sustainability, and new technologies, along with growing community awareness, are helping us continue this focus in current and future facilities initiatives.
The occupancy sensors in the student life center are only one of several significant but relatively inexpensive upgrades that we can apply to our current spaces, especially when systems are replaced due to malfunction or obsolescence. As air conditioning accounts for over half of our energy use, greater aircon efficiency is certainly worth our efforts. In addition to piloting occupancy sensors, we are testing the effects of new software and controls on one of our chillers. This upgrade has revealed that these improvements can save 15 to 25 percent of the chiller’s energy use. Our seven chillers are all over 15 years old, and without such replacement, they would be approaching obsolescence. We calculate that replacing all seven school chillers could result in a savings of ten percent of our overall energy bill!
Thermostat reprogramming can also aid our energy conservation. Many of our older thermostats, particularly in the elementary school, control blocks of rooms that must stay at the same temperature or turn on and off at the same time. Giving users more control can eliminate over-cooling and unnecessary use, improve dehumidification, and keep everyone more comfortable. New energy monitoring and aircon analytics systems are helping us to identify best practice settings for our chilled water and pump pressures. Changing traditional AC fans to DC fans in our air-handlers also is worthwhile. One project we recently finished involved retrofitting all 10,000 of our lighting installations with high-efficiency LED bulbs. We forecast that this multi-year project will result in a savings of seven percent of our overall energy costs going forward.
Students can see renewable-energy technology at work in the middle school library’s new solar charging station. Using energy from our own rooftop photovoltaic array, the charging station has room for six devices. Collaboration with the middle school library staff and interested teachers made this project possible and linked it directly to student learning. Besides being a hit with middle schoolers, the charging station allows us to evaluate the benefits of installing such stations in planned classrooms.
In addition to conserving energy, SAS also seeks to conserve water, a precious resource in Singapore. By reducing evaporation and runoff, drip irrigation can save 50 to 70 percent of the water used by traditional sprinklers. We now have three such systems and are planning to expand drip irrigation to all plantings, leading to significant overall savings. A water monitoring system installed last year is also helping our facilities team to find and fix wasteful leaks in campus pipes. As we plan for future campus upgrades and developments, we are also hoping to make better use of captured rainwater in our groundskeeping.
At all levels, students are getting in on the act! Individuals, classes, and whole grades are adding their voices to our environmental efforts. High school students have many opportunities to explore relevant topics through clubs, classes, and projects. A recent Catalyst project, for instance, proposed recycling greywater from school sinks to flush school toilets. Students in the middle and high school SAVE clubs conduct the school’s recycling program and have educated our community about “the three R’s”—Reduce, Reus