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Bowling Green, Kentcuky School Has International Visit

Oct 29, 2010

When Jean-Philippe Gagnaux walked into Richardsville Elementary School on Friday, he had never seen anything like it.

“It’s magnificent,” he said. “You cannot find this type of school in France. It’s impossible.” Gagnaux was one of about 14 French business owners, architects and leaders who traveled to Warren County to tour two energy-efficient school buildings: Richardsville and South Warren Middle and High School.

One of the companies that helped construct those schools also works with French leaders and architects,
who are pushing for enhanced sustainability in their buildings. Nudura Corp., which has an office in Louisville, specializes in insulated concrete forms – recent technology that provides triple the insulation
in buildings.

South Warren is the biggest building in the nation that’s insulated with concrete. It’s designed to be very
energy efficient, using an insulated roof system, geothermal pumps and light and air sensors among other features, according to Warren County Public Schools.

But, for many French citizens who took the tour, Richardsville Elementary is a model for how they hope
to build their schools and other structures.

Richardsville Elementary will be the first net-zero school in the nation, producing more energy than it uses. With solar panels, geothermal pumps, solar tubes, concrete walls and efficient floors, it’s designed
to use 75 percent less energy than a normal school building.

“Every country we’re in is interested in this school,” said Murray Snider, president and CEO of Nudura. “We have (a presence in) Saudi Arabia to the top of Ireland, and different countries are interested in this product ... what Warren County has done here, it’s really commendable.”

French tourists were led through the school as workers prepare for its opening day Monday. They snapped photos of everything from the walls to the floors. They inspected bamboo flooring in the gym, the outdoor classroom and the exposed geothermal pipe in the hallway. They even climbed on top of the roof to see the solar panels at work.

“It’s very interesting because we cannot do the same in France,” said Mariek Reynes, a French architect. “In three or four years, we will do the same (things), but it is a good thing to see that now.”

Companies and government officials are beginning to move toward energy-efficient buildings. Gagnaux, president and general manager of a French construction company that focuses on green techniques, recently designed four apartment buildings to be energy efficient.

High energy costs are an issue in France, where utility payments double or triple the amount of such costs in the United States, Gagnaux said.

Still, green building is an even newer concept in France than in the United States, which can cause delays in green construction, he said.

“During the last 50 years, the system of construction in France hasn’t progressed too much to build that
kind of building,” Gagnaux said. “It’s complicated for us to change the minds of the workers of old ... our objective is to introduce in France this new idea, this new thinking.”

Other issues, such as financing, also arise. France has many old buildings that need refurbishing, but that costs too much for many companies and agencies. Also, when looking at energy-efficient school buildings, there’s a small population of school-age children in France compared with the U.S. So, there’s low demand for new schools, said Alain de Horsey, of Neobat, a French construction company that also specializes in green building.

“We don’t have so many schools to build, but a lot to refurbish,” he said.

Still, the company is looking to build three net-zero elementary schools in France and would like to partner with Warren County Public Schools, sharing ideas and allowing students to communicate with one another, said Guillaume de Horsey, of Neobat.

But, constructing a net-zero building isn’t simple – especially for a school system that’s breaking barriers and constructing some of the first net-zero schools, architects said.

“All you have to do is rethink everything you thought you knew,” said Kenny Stanfield, a Louisville architect whose firm is behind the newest county schools. “To get that energy consumption down, we had to look at every decision we made and rethink and ask ourselves how can that affect energy. It was literally hundreds of small decisions to beat those energy numbers down.”

Source: Daily News
Report by - Jenna Mink.



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