Special Education Students Benefit from Energy Efficiency Program

Interior view of Woods Edge Learning Center Special Education Building.

The first beneficiaries of a new energy efficiency program offered by Consumers Energy are special education students in Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency (KRESA) Woods Edge Learning Center Special Education Building received almost $49,000, as part of Consumers Energy’s new construction energy efficiency incentive.  KRESA received more than $36,000 of the total incentive, with the remainder going to the architect, Tower Pinkster of Kalamazoo. 

The new construction incentive program, launched last August, provides rebates to commercial or industrial customers as well as design teams when they build a new facility where energy use is less than code requirements. The program is part of Consumers Energy’s energy optimization program put in place as part of Michigan’s energy reform law.

Holly Norman, deputy superintendent from Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, remarked that the incentive helped put dollars back into programs that directly benefit students. She pointed out that it is part of a larger strategy to reduce energy costs.  

Working in conjunction with their design team from Tower Pinkster, KRESA developed plans to build the new facility with a very high level of energy efficiency.  The building was designed to have energy savings 33 percent better than the new construction program requirements. The annual savings of the building is estimated at more than 167,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 2,740 Mcf of natural gas, enough to supply energy to more than 20 homes.

The new special education building provides “high-touch” and “high-feel” amenities and unique resources for individuals with autism and severe cognitive and physical impairments. With careful thought to mobility challenges, color palettes, lighting, custom learning spaces, and safety, this school creates an environment that fosters educational exploration within “learning villages”. Students can progress from individual classroom learning, to a common village, and a “main street” where they are connected to engaging activities that will ultimately connect them to the world.

“On many projects we are challenged to achieve the most energy-efficient building at the best possible price. Consumers Energy’s new construction program allows us to look at more innovative systems that may have not been in the initial budget,” said Lentz Becraft, electrical engineer at Tower Pinkster.  The design team at Tower Pinkster worked with Consumers Energy’s Business Solutions team to make sure that the design met the energy efficiency requirements of the new construction program.  Some of the unique energy-saving features designed into the building include:  a heat recovery chiller, radiant floor heating, an exhaust air energy recovery, a high-efficiency pool dehumidification unit and heater, high-efficiency condensing boilers, LED site lighting and dimmable lighting.

“We understand the challenges of designing energy efficiency into new buildings,” said Fred Alatalo, energy efficiency program manager for Consumers Energy.  “But we also know that you can achieve the greatest energy savings at the lowest cost when energy efficiency is part of the design, not an afterthought – that’s why we have incentives for new construction.”