Gold standard for Aspen Middle School |

Gold standard for Aspen Middle School

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen Middle School had reason to celebrate Friday.

After learning of its status as the first school in the country to receive the new Gold LEED for Schools rating, school officials decided to ring in the honor with apple cider and a band performance.

The new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating, designed especially to create healthy, green schools, was created a year-and-a-half ago and offers four levels: platinum, gold, silver and certified.

The new middle school, completed last year, earned the rating with a number of environmental features. A transpired solar collector heats the gym in the winter. An automatic light system with motion detectors cuts down on energy use. Healthier carpets and tiles fill the building. And preliminary findings show the school uses 50 percent less energy than the previous building, even with a 30 percent increase in size.

But even as it celebrated the accomplishment, the school was already looking ahead to a greener future.

Paul Hutton, principal of Hutton Architecture Studio, explained the school is prepped for the installation of a 90-kilowatt solar array. That’s enough to meet its goal of keeping one million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually “the equivalent of nearly 12,000 round trips from Glenwood to Aspen.

“We still have a mission to accomplish,” he said.

In the meantime, according to Tom Heald, Aspen Middle School principal, the new learning environment ” full of daylight and views of Aspen’s mountains ” has made a huge difference. Since moving out of the old building, code of conduct referrals are down by 40 or 50 percent, he said. The old middle school was a partly sub-grade structure with insufficient windows.

Students have jumped on board with the new environmental theme at the school, Heald said. This year, for example, several students started a recycling committee to distribute recycling containers throughout the school.

But many of Friday’s speakers looked back.

Former principal Paula Canning explained that, from the very beginning, the teachers were a major driver in the greening process, insisting that materials be reused wherever possible.

“The contractors said we can’t reuse the cabinets,” said Canning. “And the teachers said, yes we can.”

The teachers also insisted every piece of furniture be reused ” right down to the orange chairs. The only new furniture in the building is in the library, said Canning.

Hutton said he remembered going to the Community Office of Resource Efficiency to ask for a grant, and hoping they might give $100,000 toward energy-efficient elements. But Randy Udall, then director, emboldened him to ask for even more, he said.

He went back with a request for $250,000 and received every penny. And the energy-efficient elements purchased with that $250,000, said Hutton, were likely the “tipping point” that earned the gold rating.

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