TOWNSEND -- Reducing energy costs and promoting sustainability are top priorities for the proposed North Middlesex Regional High School building plan, project representatives said last week.
The building committee held a public work session Monday to discuss efforts to reduce energy consumption and maximize the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursement.
Chairman Robert Templeton said the committee will be making specific decisions over the coming weeks as to which features the building will have.
"Long-term savings and expenses are really going to help us make our decisions quicker," Templeton said.
The plan for the new building could feature improved insulation, more efficient air-ventilation systems, low-flow water fixtures and sensors to reduce energy and water consumption.
The design will also incorporate natural light to reduce the need for electricity, according to project architect Alex Pitkin of Symmes, Maini and McKee Associates.
Although the sustainability efforts may cost more, the reduction in energy costs and the potential for a higher MSBA reimbursement from incorporating environmentally friendly elements into the design could lower the cost in the long run, said Martine Dion, also of SMMA.
"We need to be mindful of the long-term effects of our decisions in the building project," Dion said. "There may be some things that have a higher up-front cost, but they will actually save you money throughout the life of the project.
The MSBA requires new buildings to be LEED-certified to ensure a base level of environmental efficiency, LEED standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The North Middlesex project will aim to receive LEED silver certification, a higher level of efficiency that would qualify the school for an additional 2 percent in state reimbursement. Dion said this could amount to about $750,000 in reimbursement.
Dion said the project will also incorporate recycled materials from the old building.
Ideas to reduce the environmental impact of the building have come not just from the architects, but from the school community. North Middlesex senior Gabrielle Borsini spoke about the efforts students and teachers have taken to make the school environmentally friendly, as well as the projects they are hoping to incorporate into the new building.
"We have our own little garden system going right in the courtyard and so far we have donated about 900 pounds of food that goes to other communities, so we've really been good at helping other communities in our area," Borsini said. "To keep that going we're planning on installing a composting program into the cafeteria."
Borsini urged committee members and residents to look beyond the higher initial costs that may be associated with the building project in order to ensure sustainability.
"I really understand how it might be kind of counter efficient to spend a lot of money, but if we're getting all that money back I think that's a really good choice," she said.
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