Center aims for ‘Net Zero Energy’

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LISD construction site tiff — Crews prepared to pour walls at the project site on Sept. 18. Photo by Deb Wuethrich.

Construction crews were preparing to pour concrete walls on Tuesday, Sept. 18, for a new $3.8 million facility on Tipton Highway that will be known as the LISD Center for a Sustainable Future, or CSF. Clark Construction is the construction manager and will be utilizing approximately 22 contractors for various portions of the project. Excavation began approximately three weeks ago with Brady Sand and Gravel currently working on site.

LISD Superintendent Jim Philp said the building, designed by The Collaborative from Toledo, is intended to be a Net Zero Energy Building, designed to produce as much energy as it consumes. The approximately 8,800-square-foot building will house the LISD TECH Center Agri-Tech program, the Ornamental Horticulture program, an evening class in Natural Science, as well as adult education and post-secondary classes through Jackson Community College (JCC).

LISD purchased 65 acres approximately 12 years ago, and later added another 10 acres, and shortly after that, a pole-building was constructed for the Agri-Tech program. The present site also includes a greenhouse used by horticulture students. Philp said construction of a permanent facility for the programs has long been in the works, with monies being set aside over that time span.

“It’s taxpayer dollars, and the LISD has appreciated the way residents have supported the TECH Center and Special Education over the years,” Philp said. “The thing about this building is it’s great to have this be a Net Zero building with alternative energy for the future, but for me, the exciting part is the opportunity that it’s going to give to the students of Lenawee County. On the agriculture and alternative energy side, there are going to be many, many opportunities.”

Philp added that the LISD Board of Education and school district believe it’s the right time to enhance the programs offered while preparing for the future.
“We sold a few acres of the LISD TECH Center property to JCC a number of years ago, and after they reached capacity in that building, they purchased some additional property from LISD,” said Philp. “That included space where our ornamental horticulture program was housed, and since our Agri-Tech program was out here, it seemed a natural place for the Horticulture program to go.” Agri-Tech Instructor Andy Stahl and Horticulture Instructor Don Fowler are currently modifying curriculum to include a unit on organic farming.

Philp said the school district’s Master Plan, completed three years ago, included removing the pole barn that has served as a makeshift classroom, once the construction was completed.

“But it’s too good of a structure; it’s too valuable and would be expensive to remove it, so we now plan to keep it and discussions are taking place as to how best to use it,” he said. “Half the building is heated where the classroom is, and half is cold storage, just a pole barn. There is room out here for students to do test plots, and there might even be a company who wants to test a product or something like that and want to rent space.” The existing greenhouse structure will also remain.

The new facility is also poised to benefit other LISD TECH programs, Philps said.
“Even though our Alternative Energy and Robotics programs will not physically move out here, students will be doing a lot of data collecting from here,” he said. “It’s more or less an energy dashboard and the students will be able to work through the Internet and study the solar photovoltaic usage and gather geothermal information and compare it to traditional energy usage.”

The building’s electric will be photovoltaic, and have solar hot water, geothermal heating and cooling, natural lighting and LED lights. The structure is an earth-bermed building and will have a vegetative roof that will include open classroom space where students will plant and grow.

“Our environmental education field trips will also take place out here and we will be able to hold our STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] camps and environmental education camps out here,” Philp said. There is also potential for creating a community garden in the future. “In our opinion, this is a community resource and we would love to have people use it and be able to walk the trails or cross country ski into the woods.”

Philp said the LISD Board of Education is very excited about the project, and it is an addition to what he calls “educated risks” that the board has taken in the past.

“Forty-two years ago, the TECH Center was built, and that was an educated risk,” he said, noting that the facility has been an educational center used by the entire Lenawee Community. “Seventeen years ago, we started the Lenawee Prep Academy [an alternative school for pregnant and parenting teens], and we have since had 218 graduates from that program. The board approved a partnership with JCC, selling land for that building. That was an educated risk but look what it has done for our students in Lenawee County. Adults, too.”

He added that the board approved beginning a Middle College three years ago, another “educated risk,” along with many ventures it has undertaken in looking toward the future.

“I’m sure someone 20 or 30 years from now will look at what the board did in taking an educated risk in adding this facility and saying, ‘look what positive things it’s done for our students in Lenawee County.’”

An Open House will be scheduled in the spring so the public will be able to tour the new facility, once completed.




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