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Park City School Board Talks Green Building Options, Costs

Michelle Deininger


The Park City Board of Education held a special work meeting Tuesday to discuss incorporating green building initiatives into the $150 million master plan facilities expansions planned for six schools.

Park City School Board members explored the costs of green building practices when implementing the school facilities expansions in the Master Plan. The goal is to expand six Park City schools by 2024.


The plan will bring 9th grade from Treasure Mountain Junior High School into the high school.  Ecker Hill will house the 8th grade, becoming a sixth through 8th-grade middle school. And each of Park City's elementary schools will expand to accommodate universal pre-K programs. Two elementary schools will also add space for wrap-around services, meaning before and after-school care.


Park City students have asked the board to include sustainability and green building practices in the master planning priorities. 


Green building elements include sustainable design measures, net-zero energy plans, LEED Certification, and purchasing renewable energy through the Rocky Mountain Power grid. 


The cost to use comprehensive green building measures is estimated at $24 million. However, MOCA Systems Representative Paul Ernst, hired to guide the school district in selecting architects and contractors, thinks the price tag is too high and green building practices can be achieved without that level of expense. 


"You can have a site-specific goal of net-zero which means you provide all the power you're using, which is not- we're talking about these power purchase agreements- but there is also the net zero where you use more than you create," Ernst said. "But you buy into these purchase groups, and that brings the net to zero. But everything we're talking about doing for the new additions benefits every conversation we're having. It just becomes a matter of okay, how do you demonstrate a level of benefit, or are you paying $24 million worth? Again, we know there's a premium for designing as high-efficiency space as you can design. Is that worth $24 million? Probably not."


School board member Andrew Caplan said the district should do all it can to make the building as efficient as possible but felt a $24 million price tag is high. 


"There's no carbon emissions, other than the use of power to power our schools, and presumably our car fleet and our buses," Caplan said. "If we purchase all clean energy, that will be the vast majority of our emissions to get us to net zero. And then it's just transportation. As long as we're doing everything we can and we combine that with committing to purchase only clean energy, then we're probably 80% of the way there." 


Park City Board of Education Vice President Wendy Crossland will work with school operations to write a resolution adding LEEDS Silver level building guidelines and the district’s intent to purchase renewable energy from the Rocky Mountain Power grid. District officials said they didn’t think it prudent to replace all the diesel-powered vehicles at once. Still, as technology becomes more available, they'll replace gas and diesel-fueled vehicles with electric.



"I do think that at some stage it's going to be important for us to sell this thing, to get any money to sell it, that we somehow, even if it's optics, the LEEDS thing is a good example," Crossland said. "We have to wrap our mind around some resolution or some certification we're aiming for. Or something other than we are going to be as sustainable and green as we can. That's just not a soundbite somebody can grab on to." 


Crossland and Chief Operations Officer Mike Tanner are working together to define the energy resolution and will present it to the school board in the August 19 public meeting. 


Tuesday's Energy Planning agenda: 


is on KPCW.org.


The link to the complete discussion is at pcschools.us:



KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.