January 17th, 2021

Sen. Joyce Fairbairn School earns LEED Gold award

By Kalinowski, Tim on February 5, 2020.

A family walks through the atrium entrance area at Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School has been awarded a gold level rating for environmental footprint and energy efficiency through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

“LEED is an independent program of the building industry, and the Alberta government has instituted policies where the new builds should follow this system,” explains Lethbridge School Division director of Facility Services Daniel Heaton, who received word of the LEED gold award rating about a month ago. “It’s a points rating system, and it starts all the way down from certificate all the way up to Platinum. On each one of those levels you have to reach certain amounts of either energy efficiency or energy harvesting, and so forth. The more points you gather through the whole process will insert you into whatever level you are at.”

“They saw to it to give us gold standard here,” he adds.

Heaton said it was the whole mix of efficiency systems designed into Senator Fairbairn school which led to the gold rating.

“It’s never one thing, it’s a combination of things that you put together to make the building. It’s like baking a cake: you put the best ingredients in, and you put it all together, you get a superior result.”

Some of those ingredients include clerestory lighting and adjustable LED lighting with automatic dimmers so when the natural light level is brighter the artificial dims to use less power. The classrooms also have independent banks of lights each with their own dimmer.

“The lights that are closest to the windows will be at one setting than those farther away,” Heaton explains.

He also points to the state-of-the-art envelope design around the building which adds natural efficiency, but he admits the biggest X-factor in landing the LEED gold rating is the smart building heating system at the structure’s heart.

“If you go into some of our older buildings, our boilers in our older buildings are as big as a car or a pickup truck,” states Heaton. “If you go up to the boiler here, you will see these little boxes up there which are no bigger than your standard refrigerator at home. And yet they are doing the exact same job; they are all sensored, and they share the load so one is at 60 per cent, one is at 40 per cent and other one is sitting in back-up. And they are programmed to switch themselves back and forth so we are getting equal wear on all of them. It’s a smart system, and the insulation around those and the way they burn the gas to keep our building warm is second-to-none.”

Heaton says the school division aimed for LEED gold and obtained it at Senator Fairbairn. He says the new school to be constructed on the southside will go even further in its design innovation, and include solar power generation as part of the building’s design on top of everything Senator Fairbairn has and more.

“We are doing our part to help our environment,” he says, “and as we go forward we’re always looking for ways to do things better.”

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