Key facility upgrades brighten EP Schools, improve energy efficiency


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Jun 11, 2023

Key facility upgrades brighten EP Schools, improve energy efficiency

Freshly sharpened pencils and unmarked notebooks aren’t the only new things Eden Prairie Schools students will enjoy this fall — they will also benefit from several key upgrades to existing school

Freshly sharpened pencils and unmarked notebooks aren’t the only new things Eden Prairie Schools students will enjoy this fall — they will also benefit from several key upgrades to existing school facilities.

With the large Central Middle School (CMS) build now complete, “We’ve been focusing on a lot of smaller projects this summer, maintaining each of our sites,” said Kyle Fisher, director of facilities for EP Schools. “We’ve had a lot of painting projects and refreshing our classrooms, and quite a bit in terms of flooring.”

Fisher, who has been with the district since 2014 and in the director role since 2020, said one of the most exciting projects is the completion of the new aeronautics instruction space at Eden Prairie High School (EPHS). The classroom is in Room 171, near South Commons.

“The flight simulator was just installed. It’s a really exciting location. We put in a glass curtain wall to the hallway so people walking by can actually see that simulator in motion, which is really neat,” Fisher said.

Additional projects completed this summer include:

The most significant facilities project done this summer is expected to bring increased cost savings and energy efficiency for the district, as well as improve student and staff well-being.

A company called SitelogIQ is upgrading existing incandescent and fluorescent lighting in all classrooms and office spaces across the district. The new lighting will be more energy efficient and create more consistent light levels.

The new dimmable lighting systems have tuning capabilities that can imitate natural daylight. The idea is to help pep up students so they feel awake, alert, and motivated to learn.

“The new lights will be a little bit higher on the Kelvin scale,” Fisher said. “The higher the lighting is on the Kelvin scale, the cooler and more white it will appear. Being cooler will allow for our students to maintain focus and to observe.”

In special education classrooms, fluorescent light tubes are being replaced with slightly different dimmable LED lights that also have a color-tuning function. These enable educators to opt for the bright white daylight setting or change to a calming, muted yellow — which is lower on the Kelvin scale — to assist with student needs, Fisher said.

The Kelvin scale is often used to describe the color temperature of a light source.

“I’ve learned a lot about daylight, lighting and the circadian rhythm as we’ve gone through all this. That brighter color is going to trigger brain receptors to say it’s time for energy, and the more muted yellow will have a calming effect,” he said.

The lighting has also been changed in school gymnasiums, although the gym fixtures currently remain the same at EPHS. However, the fluorescent tubing has been replaced with type B light fixtures that contain LED diodes and emit a different kind of light, Fisher said.

In addition to new lighting, SitelogIQ installed high-efficiency, low-flow toilet fixtures and aerators on hand sinks. The aerators are a water-saving initiative that add air bubbles to the water as it flows out of the spigot. “Kind of like foaming hand soap, it makes it feel bigger, so you’re not using as much water,” Fisher said.

The energy savings project also includes sealing the buildings’ envelopes, which involves replacing gaskets and seals on all doors, including access and garage doors, to reduce air leaks and ensure heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

Earlier this year, the school board approved funding for the project, which the district said will come from sources including a capital facilities bond, long-term facilities maintenance revenue, and expected rebates from Xcel Energy upon completion.

“SitelogIQ has guaranteed that we will see a utility savings year over year,” Fisher said. “We’re anticipating that those dollars we save on utility spending will go back into the classroom.”

In a separate initiative, new solar panels were installed this summer on CMS’ roof, and EPHS’ activities center’s newly updated roof will also soon feature solar panels. These have a 25- to 30-year life expectancy, Fisher said.

The district already has solar panels on many other building rooftops.

Fisher said the biggest benefit to the district of these solar panels is that “it eliminates those peaks and valleys when utility prices fluctuate as much as they have in recent years. It allows us to maintain consistency in the forecast.”

The solar panels also help offset the rising costs of natural gas, which EP Schools uses to power boilers at most of the elementary schools, and to heat and partially inflate the sports dome at the high school.

Fisher said he is excited to see the reactions to the projects his team has worked hard on this summer. “Our goals from the facilities side line up with those of our teachers and district leadership,” he said. “We’re here for our students. That’s exactly the reason why we’re doing it.”

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