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Once Closed Middle School Returns To Glory & Features Energy Efficient Hydronic Hvac System

Jul 20, 2010 | Article

A distinguished Providence, RI middle school, dating from 1929, has been reborn after closing for close to five years because of the original structure’s deterioration and a lack of enrollment caused by too many neighborhood parents opting for private schools instead of what had become a troubled school with low student performance, disruptive students and high staff turnover. Nathan Bishop Middle School, located on Providence’s historic East Side, was entirely gutted and reconstructed in a $36 million renovation project and reopened in the fall of 2009. In committing to rehabbing and reopening Nathan Bishop at the behest of parents who protested the school’s closing, the city and the state of RI wanted a model school that would gain back city students from private schools because of a new commitment to excellence, with advanced course offerings and a learning environment that offered the latest technology.

Making the school CHPS verified was also an objective. CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools), which started in California and now extends nationwide, provides free resources to school districts for attaining high performance school design, construction and operation. CHPS develops tools to make schools energy, water and material efficient, among other objectives. The new Nathan Bishop Middle School is now one of two CHPS verified schools in the capital city of Providence.

Nathan Bishop School, Providence, RI

The new school comes with a new, very quiet HVAC system featuring Taco-supplied advanced hydronic equipment, NuClimate active chilled beams for heating and cooling, Fulton boilers, and custom energy recovery units by MAFNA Air Technologies, among other the equipment suppliers. The system was designed by Griffith & Vary, Inc. of Wareham, MA, a consulting engineering firm with extensive experience in elementary and secondary education school MEP design. The project came in under budget for the mechanical/plumbing work and achieved its design objective of exceeding the requirements of the RI Energy Conservation Code – in fact, the building is 40 percent more efficient than the code requirement.

School's pump room

Nathan Bishop is a three-story, 95,000 sq. ft. brick building with the mechanical room located in a cavernous basement that served as a civil defense shelter in the past. It was originally equipped with steam boilers that were removed during the project, along with all the rest of the old HVAC equipment, through an opening in an exterior wall that was originally used as a coal chute. With the room completely gutted, mechanical contracting firm Delta Mechanical of Warwick, RI installed two Fulton high-efficiency, gas-fired condensing boilers and a Canaris-supplied booster pump for domestic hot water, since the city water supply’s pressure is not sufficient for servicing the school’s top floor. The boilers come with a boiler control system which provides lead/lag and combustion control. Also included are three modular Multistack (80-ton each) chillers along with eight variable speed Taco KV pumps (four for the heat side and four to serve the chillers).

The vertical KV pumps’ small footprint was important in a busy equipment space, comments Wayne Mattson, P.E., a principal with Griffith & Vary and the engineering project manager for the Nathan Bishop project, who also notes that his firm specifies only Taco pumps in its work. “We chose the Taco pumps specifically because of their flexibility. They fit the application – and the mechanical room – very well.” Additional Taco equipment includes multi-purpose valves, an expansion tank and air separator.

“As engineers, we’ve been specifying Taco for years now,” he adds. “Their products are very reliable and we’ve never had a problem with them.” In an area off the mechanical room Griffith & Vary specified two custom MAFNA energy recovery units. The VFD- equipped energy recovery units supply the school’s classrooms, library, workrooms and corridors with tempered primary air via a ductwork system to a total of 300 ceiling mounted chilled beams. Use of active chilled beams helps reduce the school’s overall energy consumption. Each classroom comes with two chilled beams producing even and consistent temperatures (70°F heating – 75°F cooling) throughout the rooms.

“Nathan Bishop was our first-use of chilled beams,” says Wayne Mattson. “They were a perfect application for a project of this kind. They’re very simple and easy to understand, there’s no moving parts, and they’re very quiet in operation. Air and water temperatures are moderate, and the air supply required is a lower quantity than with a typical VAV system. All in all, they make for a very comfortable atmosphere at a lower energy cost.”

Up on the school’s roof are six dedicated air handling units supplied by McQuay to distribute dedicated heat and ventilation to the school’s gymnasium, cafeteria and 400-seat neoclassical-styled auditorium. The air handlers capture heat from the building and reuse it. Space temperature throughout the school is controlled by a Johnson Controls DDC building management system which controls all the air handling units, the boilers and chillers and hot water pumps, and monitors supply and return temperatures for hot and chilled water. To save energy required to heat or cool outside air, carbon dioxide sensors were incorporated to allow the reduction of outside air during periods of low occupancy along with motion sensors to allow closure of outdoor air dampers when high assembly areas are unoccupied.

In addition to an HVAC system that saves energy costs and reduces operating costs, the city and state wanted a water conservation component in Griffith & Vary’s design. As a result, a 10,000 gallon underground storage tank was installed to capture rainwater from the roof. Captured rainwater is fed from the roof through roof leaders down to the tank. After filtering and sanitizing the storm water through a Megatron Ultraviolet Water Disinfection System unit, it is used for flushing toilets and urinals throughout the school as well as in the school’s cooling towers.

“What’s unique about this school,” says Dave Gaudet, Facility Manager for Aramark Education, which holds the contract for the school operations and maintenance, “is its energy efficient equipment and systems, state of the art design, and unconventional alternate energy practices that are leading edge.”

In addition to the reuse of storm water, other alternative energy saving practices incorporated into Nathan Bishop school include solar panels on the roof, recycled materials in the school’s carpeting and flooring, use of Green chemicals for cleaning and snow melt, cast-concrete for masonry, and extensive use of daylighting. Gaudet estimates that use of daylighting has cut the school’s lighting load in half.

Today, with 550 students in grades 6 through 8, the school is rebuilding its enrollment and is led by a dynamic principal, Michael Lazzareschi, named RI’s Outstanding Elementary School Principal of the Year in 2008. Lazzareschi gets to hire his own staff and teacher vacancies no longer get filled based on seniority alone. Former private school students are returning to Nathan Bishop and parents hope that the school will serve as the catalyst for deeper change throughout the Providence school system.

Restored beyond its original glory, Nathan Bishop has been recognized by the RI Preservation Society.

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