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Sustainability will be key in awarding 9-R bond projects

Durango school board gets overview of green practices that will accompany new buildings
The Durango School District 9-R Board of Education on Tuesday heard how new buildings and building repair projects financed by the issuance of $114 million in bonds will take into account sustainable practices. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Environmental, social and economic sustainability will be examined as part of the planning and design of projects financed by $114 million in bonds issued by Durango School District 9-R in March.

School board members, at their meeting Tuesday, heard about how sustainability will play a role as projects move from the planning stages to occupancy from Robert Bush with Jacobs, a project management company.

Jacobs has been hired by 9-R to oversee management and mobilization of bond construction projects.

“How to build sustainably is not an afterthought,” Bush said. “The mission statement (for the bonds) specifically states sustainability as a guiding principle.”

Sustainability will encompass examination of not only the environmental impacts of any particular project but also the social and economic impacts of projects, Bush said.

The district and Jacobs plan to survey residents about their priorities in sustainability. Residents will be asked where they would rank items such as energy efficiency and carbon reduction versus other aspects of sustainability, such as preference for local firms, in awarding contracts to keep money flowing locally.

The survey also will gauge how much community members are willing to spend to enhance sustainability in projects.

Cost estimates used in awarding projects will be based on the life-cycle cost of operating a building and not just at the immediate construction cost, Bush said.

By taking into account life-cycle costs, he said, energy savings that would be expected to accompany use of sustainable building practices would be factored into the awarding of contracts – even if initial building costs were higher using sustainable practices.

“We’re in a world where energy use is at the center of everything we do,” Bush said.

One metric in awarding contracts will be to measure the energy cost of the building per square foot for the span of the expected life cycle.

Bush also said maintenance repairs, such as upgrades of HVAC systems and roof repairs, will inherently lower energy costs and improve sustainability in existing buildings.

Other sustainability factors that will be considered in projects will include on-site construction efforts at dust mitigation, erosion protection and minimizing stormwater pollution.

School board member Erika Brown asked if more stringent commitment to sustainability might make sense in the biggest projects the bonds will finance, a complete rebuild of Miller Middle School and the building of a new career and technical education center on the Durango High School campus.

Brown suggested requiring the use of design principles such as passive solar when bonds are financing completely new buildings.

When the district is building from the ground up, she said, the district was in a position to be more ambitious in setting higher sustainability standards.

Samantha Gallagher, 9-R’s chief financial officer, cautioned that maximizing sustainability efforts eventually would lead to a reduction in the scope of an overall building’s design, and eventually that would hurt the educational mission of the new building.

“I just don’t want things to fall through the cracks because we weren’t proactive about it,” Brown said.


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