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Eco-efficient systems nearly ready to measure building's performance

In a couple of months, the facilities maintenance crew at Sandy High School will be able to measure the building’s performance.

They’ll also have to start weeding the roof.

Since opening its doors last September, the school has kept warm and cool, illuminated and hydrated through a cutting edge climate, lighting and water system.by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Facilities Maintenance technician Tom Newell examines the green roof at Sandy High School on Sept. 23. The 8,000 square-foot surface prepares and then percolates rainwater for consumption in the building.

“The way it was calculated, the green roof and other systems would produce enough water to last just about 11 months each year,” said Oregon Trail School District Facilities Director Jim Seipel.

The green roof, which is more than 8,000 square feet, essentially scrubs the water before sending it to a retention pond.

“The biggest part I think is the weeding,” said Seipel. “The last two years, it’s been the obligation of the vendor to remove the weeds from the green roof, but that obligation will shift to us soon.”

Chores like weeding a green roof are part of the life of the maintenance crew these days, and the shift to the new way has been novel, to say the least.

“We used to use steam and hot water boilers with huge levers,” said Tom Newell, the facilities maintenance technician at the high school. “Pretty much, we use a computer now to run the front end. We’re just throwing in formulas and set points and then allowing the computer to use that data. Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of trouble to get yourself turned upright.”

While the system is new, it is not untried, and Seipel said the district made sure to go with such a system.

“Years ago in the planning stages, we told the architect that we didn’t want to be a guinea pig,” he said. “So this is about as state of the art as it can get.”

The system is so advanced that the district still doesn’t have a way to measure its performance in terms of energy saving or cost saving because it has no benchmark for comparison.

“What’s difficult is that we don’t have an apples to apples comparison, because there’s nothing else like it in the state, if not the region,” Seipel said.

The measuring ability is changing this school year.

Seipel said a company called Deck Monitoring Service is close to delivering a dashboard interface that will let operators watch the output and consumption of all the systems combined. That interface should be in place within the next month.

“We can look at (the dashboard) for a tool to see how all the systems are performing,” Seipel said.