Since the Lake Mills Middle School was completed in February of 2010, Lake Mills has been seen by many as one of the leaders in energy efficient school buildings in the U.S.
Now, Lake Mills’ stature is going to get even bigger.
When the Lake Mills Area School District decided to go to referendum in November, 2012, it asked for $18.7 million in funds to build a new Prospect Elementary Building adjacent to the existing building.
Voters approved the referendum by an 84-vote margin and will now be given one of the most energy-efficient public school buildings in the state and the nation.
The Lake Mills Middle School was given platinum certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which consists of a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.
Since the middle school was built, the ratings system has changed.
The new Prospect building will be a beta-test for the new system of LEED. The test is much more stringent and requires builders to push the envelope when putting together designs for new buildings.
“What we care about is taking sustainability to the next level. The new elementary school will be much more efficient than the middle school,” said Theresa Lehman, Director of Sustainability Services for Miron Construction Co., Inc.
Miron Construction and Eppstein Uhen Architects have been the main designers of the elementary school along with the school district.
When many people hear the statement “going green,” they think of solar and wind energy products.
But what the elementary school will be doing to minimize its energy use are extremely simple things.
There will be auto-sensors on the toilets and low-flow toilets. High quality glass will be used on the windows of the school in order to keep glare and heat out of the building. The windows will also be operable so teachers can open and close them.
A geo-thermal heating and cooling system will be used in the building.
“We’re pushing the ground of sustainable energy even more with this project,” said Teresa Wadzinski, the project manager from Eppstein Uhen Architects. “All of the materials going into the school are to some degree, recycled content. That’s becoming more and more normal.”
One of the biggest aspects of the project is the use of natural lighting in nearly all of the classrooms.
The building has been oriented in a way that it will take advantage of the sunlight as much as possible.
“There are also daylight sensors in every classroom. So if there is enough daylight in the classroom, the light in the room will automatically turn off,” Lehman said. “That cuts down on energy costs and it also cuts down on heat and cooling costs.”
When the school district looked at the possibility of either building a new middle school or renovating the current one, it decided to go with the latter option because a renovation was the most cost-effective.
Two new additions were added on to the school and the old addition was renovated.
In 2011, the middle school was the first public school in the entire world to receive a “platinum” rating from LEED, as it scored a 58 out of 80 possible points on the LEED test.
The school was determined to have saved $85,000 a year in energy costs.
Before the middle school was reconstructed, a master plan was devised by the school board and the facilities committee. This plan looked to tackle the renovation of the middle school first and then the elementary school next.
While a renovation was considered for the elementary school, the most cost-effective thing to do would be to build an entirely new school.
Greg Douglas, Vice President of Design Build Services for Miron Construction, said there were a few options considered by the district.
A renovation of the current elementary school was considered. There’s some vacant property the district owns that was considered to have a new school put in there. Re-purposing an existing building for sale in Lake Mills and converting that into a new school was also considered.
“Every potential scenario that anyone could think of got thrown on the table,” Douglas said. “Part of the decision-making wasn’t just the condition or lifecycle analysis of dollars for construction —part of it was 21st-century learning. That’s a big driver for the district. The way students are taught in 21st-century schools is much different than a 1960s school, which was the way (Prospect) was laid out.”
Prospect Elementary Principal Amanda Thompson came to the district two years ago after spending time as a principal in the Kettle Moraine School District.
Having previously lived in Lake Mills for four years, Thompson saw how supportive the community was of its schools and its children. The thoughts were re-affirmed last fall when the referendum to build the new school was passed.
“This is such a supportive community when it comes to many different aspects of our community — like passing the referendum for the middle school and now the elementary school,” Thompson said. “It’s a testament to how much support our community has for our children and education.”