New England News
6:22 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Going Green Leads To Gold For Berkshire School

Hoosac Valley seniors unveil the LEED Gold Certification plaque in the school's atrium. From left to right: Conor Wotkowicz, Renee Vittone and Ian Hill.
Hoosac Valley seniors unveil the LEED Gold Certification plaque in the school's atrium. From left to right: Conor Wotkowicz, Renee Vittone and Ian Hill.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

School officials and local lawmakers celebrated the dedication of the first LEED Gold Certified school in Berkshire County today.

The new sun-filled atrium of Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School is now home to a LEED Gold Certification plaque. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Francis Waterman was co-chair of the district’s building committee overseeing the five-year, $40 million project.

“We actually built this school for $185 a square foot, give or take a couple of dollars.” Waterman said. “The average school was costing about $250 to $275 a square foot. So we did a major renovation project and the cheapest in the state. Not only did we did do that, but we attained LEED Gold Certification.”

The project reduced the school’s water use by nearly 35 percent, lowered energy consumption by 38 percent and placed a solar panel array generating roughly 500 kilowatt hours of power on-site. Democratic State Senator Ben Downing joined the celebration.

“We’re not only doing the right thing by the environment and future generations, we are also doing the right thing by the economy here today,” said Downing.

The school also placed solar panels on parking lot lamps, designated parking for energy efficient cars and installed automatic lights and facets. Downing says a recent power outage that left nearly 20,000 people in the dark emphasized just how sustainable the school is.

The solar panels at Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School
The solar panels at Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

“Folks were driving by and seeing that the power was on here at the building because of the electricity that had been provided by the panels,” Downing said. “All of a sudden there’s a different conversation going on in the community; ‘Well we knew they were good. We knew they might save us a few dollars here and there. We didn’t realize that they were more resilient.”

The school received high marks for using project improvements as educational tools. Tom Corrigan teaches alternative energy at Hoosac Valley.

“Our students here study the solar array out front,” Corrigan said. “We look at the website daily to see how much energy is actually being produced. We look at all forms of alternative energy. We do solar design. How you should orient your house. How you should make the most out of what’s around you.” 

Senior Ian Hill is one of Corrigan’s students.

“I think now its 36,000 gallons of oil that we’ve saved,” Hill said. “We have a tracker on our website. If we had this much energy and put it into electric car, that’s how much gas other cars would use. So those are pretty astronomical numbers. The school is rather large. There are different things that you don’t even see. We talk about the solar panels, but it’s the rainwater collecting for the toilets. Most students don’t even know about that. It’s all the little things.”

Democratic State Representative Gailanne Cariddi says what the nearly 680 students are able to learn just from being in the energy efficient building will be the real impact.

“It’s not only going to teach the students that we have here today, but will teach thousands of others as we go along in the decades,” Cariddi said. “It will not only teach them and open them up to a new life with different possibilities for jobs, but it will also lead to talking with their families, their friends, their neighbors…it will open up entirely new aspects to our community.”