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Going Green with Morningside Elementary


By Michael Waldbillig, V.P. of Mechanical Engineering at Southern A&E   

Southern A&E congratulates Morningside Elementary School of the Atlanta Public School System for being named a 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School award honoree. Morningside Elementary is one of 45 schools, nine districts, and nine postsecondary institutions across the country that have been honored for their innovative efforts to ensure effective sustainability education by reducing their environmental impact and utility costs, and improving the overall health and wellness of their students, faculty, and staff.

As part of the green initiatives recognized by this national distinction, Southern A&E worked with Atlanta Public Schools on the design of a $5 million dollar HVAC renovation completed in two phases over the 2016 and 2017 summers. The design consisted of variable refrigerant heat pump systems to provide heating and cooling for each individual space. Variable refrigerant technology achieves extremely high efficiencies by varying the flow of refrigerant to the indoor units based on the exact demands of the individual areas. This allows for precise temperature control and resulting zone comfort. In addition, a well-designed variable refrigerant system will serve areas known to have opposing heating and cooling loads, therefore redistributing excess heat from areas that require cooling to those that require heating.

In addition to the variable refrigerant systems used for space temperature control, dedicated outside air units were installed to pretreat and dehumidify the outside air delivered to the classrooms and other occupied spaces. These units help to maintain the overall comfort levels throughout the facility while delivering the ASHRAE recommended quantities of outside air into the building to promote a healthy and productive environment for the students, faculty, and staff.

Southern A&E also worked closely with Atlanta Public Schools and their commissioning agent, Total Systems Commissioning, in developing control sequences for the HVAC equipment that focus on user friendly operation, sophisticated system monitoring capabilities, and standardization in the school system. The HVAC controls allow for optimization of system operation and energy consumption, while allowing teachers control over their local environment with no adverse impact on other areas served by the same system.

Other initiatives taken by Morningside Elementary that contributed to their national recognition include:

  • Partnering with Trees Atlanta
  • Utilizing the on-site gardens for an interactive learning environment
  • Providing effective environmental and sustainability education for students and staff
  • Incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways
  • The establishment of a school wide recycling program
  • Utilizing turf fields to conserve water

Southern A&E applauds the Morningside Elementary faculty, students, and community, along with the Atlanta Public School System, for their commitment to green initiatives.