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Green Technologies in Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Morgan Will

Independent Study Mrs. Graves January 17, 2014

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WHAT I ALREADY KNEW/WANTED TO KNOW My mom is an architect, and she designs schools for the Army Corps of Engineers. Because of this, my family is always talking about the green technology that is being implemented into the new schools. I have always understood the basics, such as solar energy, geothermal heating, and such. But I have never understood the more complicated topics, such as living machines. This is why I chose the research green technologies and where they are found in the Virginia Beach City Public School System for this project. I already knew a bit about this topic because my mom works in this field as an architect for DODEA in the Army Corps of Engineers. Some of the main things that I have learned about from her are Green roves, reusing rainwater, geothermal heating, and solar and wind energy. Green Roof - a roof covered with vegetation, designed for its aesthetic value and to optimize energy conservation Wind Turbine - a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into electrical power Solar Panel - a set of solar photovoltaic modules electrically connected and mounted on a supporting structure. A photovoltaic module is a packaged, connected assembly of solar cells. The solar module can be used as a component of a larger photovoltaic system to generate and supply electricity in commercial and residential applications. Photovoltaic Effect - the creation of voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light. Rain Barrel - a water tank used to collect and store rain water runoff, typically from rooftops via rain gutters.

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Geothermal Heating - the direct use of geothermal energy for heating applications. People take advantage of this by building into the side of a hill. The hill provides the structure with better insulation, as well as allowing the structure to take on the same temperature as the earth. This makes the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Another cool technique that is used in the field of green technology is the positioning of windows and blinds. In sustainable schools, there is generally a lot of glass. This is to allow sunlight to heat the room in the winter. This also allows the teacher to use less light, thereby conserving energy. There are also blinds installed to prevent too much heating in the summer. These are not used as often because there is no school for most of the summer. Some widows are even put at an angle for varying reasons, such as channeling the light in a certain direction. Through this research project, I wanted to delve deeper into some of these technologies and discover some newer ones. I also wanted to learn more about the programs currently in use in Virginia Beach. THE STORY OF MY SEARCH My research was conducted mainly on the computer, using Google and Gale. Gale was a very helpful site, providing me with multiple articles about the basics of green technology and some of the finer details that were totally new to me. Google also got me going on some cool chains of articles that provided me with a lot of new, interesting information. I did extensive research into floating marshes after, my teacher, Mrs. Graves, told me about a new project that is being developed in the area. This would be a really cool idea for my senior research project, so I read a lot of information about these floating shelters.

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Another stem of my research was on projects currently taking place in Virginia Beach. I did some research online but was not able to find out much about them. My mom recommended that I get in touch with Mr. Tim Cole, the Sustainability Officer for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. He got right back to me and I conducted an interview with him. This interview gave me tons of really good information on what is happening in our school system in relation to green technology. THE SEARCH RESULTS One of the really cool new technologies that I discovered was floating marshes. These are small floating platforms covered in plants and floated out onto a lake or pond to provide shelter and to filter the water3. They are just now starting to emerge in school environments as education tools. These floating marshes act a lot like the learning gardens installed in many elementary and middle schools. While they do help the environment, many school systems use them as more of an educational tool to get people involved in helping the environment. Floating marshes can also be used to create new land. One project in Los Angeles entailed making 5 foot by 8 foot floating marshes, each containing as many as 60 plants. These were then strung together to create one large, 1,500 foot structure that was attached to the shore. The hope is that the plants will grow and expand, create new dirt, and eventually expand the land4.

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Another group of people that used this technique were the Aztecs as they expanded their island city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. As their population grew they needed more resources, which required more space. They therefore needed to somehow expand their island because carrying supplies over the mountains and across the massive bridges to the city was too difficult to coordinate and took too long to be effective if an immediate need ever arose. They therefore resorted to making floating landmasses and linking them together with canals. This was a great platform for agricultural endeavors because there was plenty of fresh water for the plants to water themselves. These land masses eventually filled the water underneath with dirt from the dead and decaying plants and became an actual land mass. This is why Mexico City is no longer an island. The years and years of expansion by the Aztecs eventually connected the island to the shore4. Another topic that I studied was the budget and certification information for a green school. To do this I interviewed Mr. Tim Cole, the Sustainability Officer of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. From this interview I learned that to get a LEED certification, there is a checklist of sustainable systems required. As more are added to the school more points are added to the school’s total. The number of points that the school has determines what title the school has, including certified, silver, gold, and platinum5. Mr. Cole and I also talked about the budget and how it affects sustainability efforts. Of course, limited budget limits the amount of sustainable items that can be incorporated into a school. However, another consideration is that sustainable systems such as solar energy and

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geothermal heating will ultimately save the school system money by lowering the energy costs. The electricity usage of the Virginia Beach City Public School System has decreased by about 20%. Many of the sustainable schools actually pay themselves off within 15 years. Water consumption is also drastically downsized. Renaissance Academy saves about 1,000,000 gallons of water per year alone5. To conserve all of this energy and water the school system uses a variety of techniques. Some of the most common are solar energy and geothermal heating. Geothermal heating is implemented by surrounding part of the building with dirt to act as an insulator, thereby keeping the cool air inside the building in the summer and keeping the warm air inside the building in the winter. Wind energy can also be implemented, but only if the site allows it. There cannot be too many other buildings or tall trees around a site using wind energy because this would block the main flow of air and decrease the productivity of wind turbines5. Another thing that is considered in the building of these new schools is student and teacher safety. This is why things such as low VOC paint are used. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. New materials, such as paint, let off fumes that are bad for your respiratory system. Low VOC paint limits the amount of these fumes that are emitted into the air. One great example of this is at Hermitage Elementary School. They used to have quite a few calls to the emergency room per year for respiratory related issues such as asthma in the old building. But with the new building there were no calls at all. Just using something as simple as low VOC paint can drastically change the school environment5, 6. A new technology that was almost used in the new Kellam High School is a living machine. These allow the facility to process waste on site instead of sending it to another

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location for the city to deal with. However, one living machine costs $600,000. Therefore, the school system was forced to hold off on investing in this new technology for now5. As you can see from this, Budget cuts are severely impacting the green technology that can be implemented into the Virginia Beach City Public School system. Our city used to receive $60,000,000 a year for renovations and new buildings, allowing them to complete about 2 projects a year. Now, however, we are only receiving $30,000,000, allowing us to complete 1 project about every 2 years. Also, the number of schools that require renovations or completely new buildings is growing. In the next 5 years, 6-7 schools in Virginia Beach will over 50 years old. Therefore, the cutting edge technology such as the living machines will have to wait to be implemented into our school system. There just are not enough funds to make it happen while renovating all these buildings5. MY GROWTH AS A RESEARCHER Over the course of this semester I have learned some great new research methods. I learned a lot about ethical issues, which is helpful because I was always told to be ethical but had never really learned the guidelines associated with this. This Isearch paper has also taught me some helpful tricks, including the use of Gale. I also learned a method of beginning research on a new topic. When you are not really sure what to research just read a general article about your topic. Then search something from that article that interested you. From this you can create an entire chain of research and learn a lot of the finer details of the field that you are studying. Another helpful tip that I picked up is to always save the URL to the places from which you get your information.

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Cited References 1. Hoyle BD. Environmental biotechnology. http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/suic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?failOverType= &query=&prodId=SUIC&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupN ame=Reference&limiter=&u=va_s_128_0960&currPage=&disableHighlighting=false&displayGro ups=&sortBy=&source=&search_within_results=&p=SUIC&action=e&catId=&activityType=&sca nId=&documentId=GALE%7CXMRKLC888211570 2. Clean energy. http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/ 3. Beneficial aquatic plants. http://www.aquaticbiologists.com/beneficial-plants--floatingislands 4. Trahan T. Floating islands to restore marsh. http://houmaweekly.com/feature/2011/floating_islands_to_restore_marsh.html 5. Cole T. (2014, Jan. 13). Personal Interview [Interviewed by M. Will]. 6. Volatile organic compound. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatile_organic_compound