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APS leader in efficient building

Over the last 10 years or so, Albuquerque Public Schools has emerged as one of the leaders within the large-school system community in the United States for building state-of-the-art and energy-efficient schools.

Based on other successful programs across the country, it has also actively pursued, and is developing, a maintenance and building management program which will greatly reduce the cost to operate its schools in the years to come.

As a long-time proponent of building a sustainable and energy-efficient built environment, our foundation has looked favorably on the leadership APS has demonstrated in the construction, and now the management, of its facilities.

Over the years, this challenging effort has the potential to significantly reduce its utility costs while at the same time helping preserve our natural resources – resources that, in the future, will become increasingly important to its students’ generation.

Beyond that, the standards APS is employing to build and manage its schools has had the side benefit of having created a much healthier environment for the students.

The investment in new schools to relieve overcrowding, while at the same time improving existing schools, is a given in serving the district’s students, and meeting that need economically over the long-term just makes good business sense. According to Managing for Results in America’s Great City Schools’ 2015 survey results, APS placed first in the nation for building green-certified schools as well as for the success of its recycling programs.

In addition, APS was the recipient of the 2015 Renewable Innovator award presented by the New Mexico Association of Energy Engineers for outstanding achievement in adopting renewable and energy-efficient technologies in its projects.

Most importantly, APS’s Energy Conservation Program has aggressively pursued the reduction of its utility costs and that, too, has not gone unnoticed. In May, 2015 APS was invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge.

Nevertheless, and in spite of its many innovative conservation programs, APS spends over $20 million annually on gas, electric and water, a daunting price tag in our estimation. As a result of this fact, APS formed the Water and Energy Conservation Committee, which is a collaboration composed of APS leadership, business leaders from the Community Capital Advisory Commission, representatives from public utilities and the New Mexico State Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

The committee set ambitious goals to reduce APS’s water and energy consumption by 20 percent by 2024 and is off to an excellent start. The district saved 13.5 percent in water consumption, 3 percent in electricity usage, and 11.4 percent in natural gas in the 2014-15 fiscal year, but there is more work to be done.

The committee has completely revamped the district’s energy-conservation program, steadily realizing many gains in its conservation efforts by employing a unique holistic approach. This required developing a program that not only included its facilities, staff, teachers and students, but also a change in the culture of APS.

Initiatives have ranged from retrofitting lighting systems to upgrading computer labs to be more energy efficient; from optimizing HVAC systems to installing diagnostic equipment to reduce costs and maximize efficiency.

While APS should be applauded for its award-winning and innovative sustainability programs, the more important issue is the substantial and growing cost savings these programs represent. It is unusual for a public school system to tackle energy savings and class room health as comprehensively as APS, and I believe it should be supported in that important effort.

Supporting APS’s upcoming bond issue will help insure this work will continue and ultimately result in substantial savings for both APS and taxpayers, while at the same time providing a better learning environment for our greatest natural resource, our children.

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