River Trails School District

Challenge

The relationship between River Trails School District and Trane has grown over the years into a trusted partnership focused on the district’s commitment to its students, faculty, community and the environment. “We learned quickly that Trane had much more to offer than simply helping us improve our air quality,” said Dr. Dane Delli, superintendent, River Trails School District. “Trane had a commitment to our mission. They wanted to make an impact on our students, and could help us become a green school district, one that could be a model for others that take environmental literacy very seriously."

With its mission, 'Inspire to Excel', at the core of its culture, district staff collaborated with the Trane team to strive for additional improvement in the areas of energy efficiency, operational savings, and environmental literacy. “Making a one-time improvement and then sitting back and thinking everything's fine, isn’t how we operate,” said Delli. “We are always looking for ways to make things better."

Solution

Driven by the district's vision of continuous improvement, River Trails School District and the Trane team co-authored an investigation to uncover areas that would have the biggest impact on achieving their objectives.

Increasing environmental literacy
Working in partnership, Trane and the district transformed an existing classroom into a modern STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab to provide a dynamic environment where students can explore new  technologies, while learning important team building and creative problem solving skills.

The STEM Lab turns the school building into an instrument for learning with a Trane custom-built interface that allows students to interact with data obtained from the Trane® Tracer™ SC building automation system (BAS), including set points, temperature levels, and CO2 parameters. Using the web-based interface, students share information on the lab’s Smart Board, LCD screen, or their computer tablet. Students also use data from rooftop solar panels, a weather station, and the HVAC system, tied in through the Tracer™ BAS, to perform experiments and watch trends in energy consumption.

"The interface helps illustrate the things that are happening in the classroom, the things we can't see," said Jeannine Wagner, STEM educator, River Trails Middle School. “It creates an awareness of energy consumption.”

Reducing energy and maintenance costs
Classroom unit ventilators, in use throughout the district, were high consumers of both energy and time, requiring more than fifteen hours of maintenance each week, and an increasing investment each year. Trane retrofitted 126 units with the latest energy saving technologies, including high efficiency electronically commutated fan motors (ECMs). Trane® Tracer™ UC400 single zone variable air volume (VAV) unit controllers
automatically regulate the ventilator fan speeds to deliver only the airflow necessary to address space load, saving energy and eliminating the need for manual adjustments.

Simplifying system control, managing energy use
Trane® Air-Fi™ wireless technology, with self-repairing mesh, provides reliable communication between the Trane® Tracer™ SC building automation system (BAS) and unit controllers.  District staff uses the web-based BAS to remotely adjust the unit ventilators to regulate temperature, and perform daily tasks such as scheduling, troubleshooting, and alarm management. Trane professionals provide 24/7 Active Monitoring and when possible resolve any issues remotely.

Results

Working together, River Trails School District and Trane implemented upgrades to increase energy efficiency, provide comfort to enhance learning conditions, and improve environmental literacy. As a result, energy and maintenance costs have been reduced, nearly twenty hours of weekly labor have been eliminated, and the district has qualified for nearly $64,000 in rebates. “We believe we are going to be able to save half a million dollars over the course of the project, which was one of our strategic plan objectives,” said Dr. Delli.

The improvements are also helping to enhance classroom conditions and learning. “The upgraded systems provide climate consistency in the building,” said Keir Rogers, principal, River Trails Middle School. “If the students and teachers are comfortable, we feel we are going to have better classroom interaction and better results with testing."

At a ceremony in Washington D.C., the district was recognized for its energy conservation efforts with a Green Ribbon Award, the only one awarded in the state that year. “For the Green Ribbon Award you have to show initiative and results in energy efficiencies and cost savings. We were clearly able to do that,” said Dr. Delli. “You also have to demonstrate a commitment toenvironmental literacy, and we pointed to our STEM Lab."

"As a school leader, I am always looking for opportunities to expand the educational experience for our children," Delli added. "I want them to understand that education isn’t just about learning a subject; it's about learning how to be a member of a larger community.”

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