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Sandy Creek District earn Energy Star award for efficiency

In 2005-06, the Sandy Creek Central School District Board of Education set policy for the district that opened opportunities for Sandy Creek’s Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, Chris Ouderkirk, and the facilities department to pursue initiatives to reduce energy consumption and make their facility more efficient.

Chris Ouderkirk, left, and Andy Ridgeway  hold a plaque that designates the district as an Energy Star, and a new energy efficient replacement light bulb that allowed the district to replace standard fluorescent bulbs with the highly efficient ones. The new T-5 bulbs include a ballast that makes them compatible with existing fluorescent fixtures. Sandy Creek is one of the first facilities to use this highly efficient bulb in their buildings.
Chris Ouderkirk, left, and Andy Ridgeway hold a plaque that designates the district as an Energy Star, and a new energy efficient replacement light bulb that allowed the district to replace standard fluorescent bulbs with the highly efficient ones. The new T-5 bulbs include a ballast that makes them compatible with existing fluorescent fixtures. Sandy Creek is one of the first facilities to use this highly efficient bulb in their buildings.

Since then, they have begun a myriad of energy saving initiatives that have earned the district the designation of one of the top five Energy Star schools in Central New York and most recently a rebate of more than $33,000 from National Grid for their energy saving measures.

Among the energy efficiencies implemented in the district for which they were recognized are: lighting and controls, occupancy sensors, daylight controls and hallway sensors which determine the amount of energy used by assessing the amount of natural light available and powering down energy use to maximize natural light.

There are currently 15 different areas where these sensors are in use in the district buildings, most notably the gymnasium, media center and hallways.

Changes to lighting in the gymnasium and media center included more efficient fixtures that maintain luminescence and are instant on and instant off, replacing older type fixtures which needed to warm up to full luminosity. This type of lighting is a big advantage and allows the district to use occupancy sensors in these areas to light them only when they are occupied. Older versions of lighting required the lights to remain on, even if not occupied because the fixtures took more than 15 minutes to “warm up” and cast enough light for use.

Other state of the art devices in use include carbon dioxide sensors that detect CO2 levels and adjust air intake to maintain clean air levels, while maximizing heating efficiency in larger occupied areas.

Ouderkirk, has also kept apprised of energy efficient breakthroughs including a new T-5 adapter that allows the use of the T-5 energy efficient light bulbs to be used in existing fixtures. Sandy Creek is one of the first facilities to use this highly efficient bulb in their buildings. The bulb boasts 50% less energy usage over standard fluorescent bulbs, but the district has tracked their savings at closer to 57%.

The District has also qualified as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star building since the 2005-06 school year. The EPA compares and scores the facility on its energy efficiency, and in order to receive the designation, they must receive a score of 75 or greater. In 05-06, the district received a score of 76, this year the district has improved to a score of 92. Ouderkirk, admitted, “We have done a lot to meet the EPA benchmarks,” he said, “and we are progressively getting better.”

How do they afford all of these energy upgrades? Ouderkirk explained that the Sandy Creek District has an energy master plan, and most of the projects are what he calls net zero projects. They utilize money from rebates, and earlier energy cost savings, as well as previous year capital expenditure reimbursement from NYS. By utilizing these reimbursements and continuing to upgrade and improve energy efficiencies, the district qualifies for continued project reimbursement and receives an ever-growing energy savings benefit. The end result is that out of pocket costs to the district and its residents are near or at zero.

Ouderkirk is quick to share the recognition with his crew, who he says continue to pursue avenues of opportunity to cut energy costs and conserve energy. The rebate means a great deal to Ouderkirk, who pointed out that a savings of nearly $34,000 is equivalent to saving a job, “Save energy, save a job,” he said. “That savings is incredible.”