Letters to the Editor: ‘Zero Energy’ School Will Save Money in Long Run


Letters to the Editor: December 7 – 13, 2017


‘Zero Energy’ School Will Save Money in Long Run


Kudos to Falls Church City Public Schools for incorporating environmental sustainability into the George Mason High School RFQ, envisioning a George Mason that is LEED Gold certified, includes a geothermal system and can attain Zero Energy status.

I’d like to contextualize a statement on Zero Energy in last week’s News-Press article, “F.C. School Board Kicks Off New High School Construction Effort.” The article notes Zero Energy design will add 10-15 percent to building costs.

Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) analyzed the financial and greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of a Zero Energy George Mason. Zero Energy buildings consume very little energy, often using geothermal systems. The energy these buildings consume is produced by on-site sustainable sources, typically solar panels.

While Zero Energy design will involve higher upfront costs, it will lower the lifetime cost of the building. ORNL estimates incremental costs of $375,00–$720,000 to install a geothermal system, which will yield annual energy cost savings of $49,000 and annual operations and maintenance costs savings of $108,000. With these savings, FCCPS will recoup its upfront costs in 3-5 years, after which we will continue saving for the lifetime of the building. The study can be found on the Falls Church Environmental Sustainability Council’s web site.

Considering Falls Church will own this building for 50 years or more, we must think beyond upfront costs and consider the lifetime cost of ownership, which will be substantially lower with a Zero Energy design.

As will the building’s GHG emissions. As stewards of our City’s youth, FCCPS must consider its long-term legacy and do its part to reduce GHG emissions, leaving our children a habitable planet.

Arlington planned Discovery Elementary School as LEED Silver, and within the same budget and time constraints achieved Zero Energy status. With thoughtful upfront planning, we can achieve the same.

Cory Weiss, Chair

Environmental Sustainability Council


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