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MEA Road Trip to Maryland’s 1st Net Zero Energy School, Wilde Lake Middle School

By Rory Spangler

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The Maryland Energy Administration Director, Mary Beth Tung and her team had the great privilege to visit the nearly completed new Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia, MD in Howard County.  This new school is a Net Zero Energy School meaning that the amount of energy used by the school is about equal to the amount of renewable energy created at the school (annually). Wilde Lake Middle School will be the first Net Zero Energy School in the State of Maryland and is now the largest middle school in Howard County with capacity for over 700 students.

Howard County Public Schools received a grant from the MEA for $2.77M to design and construct the new Net Zero Energy School which will replace the current school.  The Net Zero Energy School was build next to the current school and students will move in January. The Net Zero Energy school construction program was funded through Customer Investment Funds (CIF – PSC Order. No 85187, Case No. 9271).

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The school has two large solar arrays both in the field behind the school and on the roof. Scott Washington, Director of School Construction for Howard County Public School System and Matthew Lurz, Assistant Project Manager of OAK Contractors LLC show our MEA team the roof solar array where typically HVAC systems would be placed.

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The U.S. Department of Energy, recently launched the Better Buildings Zero Energy Schools Accelerator program to develop cost-effective, zero energy design for the educational sector. As the number of K-12 schools continues to increase, the DOE estimates a savings potential between 65% and 80% of energy consumption for Zero Energy schools, depending on regional climate conditions.

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MEA Director Tung and Chief of Staff, Greg Williams look at the meters that monitor all water, energy, solar and geothermal feeds into the building.

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Director Tung stands with one of the four energy centers in the school. The Energy Kiosk here, will display real time readings on the school’s energy production and usage. The energy dashboard and new technology in the school offer teacher tools to engage students in learning more about energy consumption.

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Rory Spangler, Program Manager for MEA’s Net Zero School Grant Program can be seen here in the media center that is centrally located in the school. The media center’s large atrium provides abundant ambient light for both floors of the school thanks to the strategically placed internal windows.

Natural light was key in the overall design of the school due to the substantial energy savings and positive health benefits. A 1999 study found a high correlation between schools that reported improvements in student test scores.

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Howard County Public Schools worked with Wilde Lake’s administration, staff and teachers from the beginning to explain the benefits of net zero and to ensure that the transition just after the new year will be seamless.

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There are two classrooms per heat pump for improved energy efficiency. Here Director Tung gets a chance to see the internal control rooms of the school.

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Program Manager, Rory Spangler tests the sundial in the outdoor classroom.

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Wilde Lake Middle School is on target to get the LEED Platinum certification.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design.

To learn more about the school’s construction and see videos, click here.

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