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Oregon School District’s Forest Edge Elementary is First Net Zero School in Wisconsin

OREGON, WI — The Oregon School District joins a group of forward-looking national organizations with their new Forest Edge Elementary School. Completed in 2020, the 126,580-square-foot facility has officially become the first Net Zero Energy (NZE) school in Wisconsin.

“Our board and district has a long-standing commitment to being leaders in education and environmental stewardship,” said Dr. Leslie Bergstrom, Oregon School District Superintendent. “With that in mind, we focused on creating the best design for student learning that also incorporated technologies to efficiently use and conserve energy.”

Making Forest Edge a net zero facility was possible based on innovative approaches for several systems:

  • Ninety-nine geothermal wells extend 406 feet into the ground and feed electric water-source heat pumps that heat and cool the building very efficiently. By reducing the building’s heating, cooling, and electrical demands, the overall energy intensity is greatly reduced.
  • Installation of a solar array that includes 1,704 solar panels producing 646 kW on the school’s roof.
  • Electrochromic glass automatically tints exterior windows to manage solar gains and improve occupant comfort.
  • A 125kW battery was installed to store some of the energy when the panels produce more than the school needs. This excess energy can be deployed back into the school strategically to manage other energy demands. Even more impressive is that when there is excess energy the school will not need, they are able to sell the energy back to the utilities and add it to the grid.
  • No natural gas serves the building.

“It has been a privilege to lead a project that will offer great learning opportunities for students and have such a positive impact on the environment,” said Business Manager, Andy Weiland. “In addition, our investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability will save the district approximately $60,000 annually.”

The school includes a variety of learning tools to help students learn about sustainability. Viewing areas showcase the green roof and solar arrays, educational environmental graphics describe elements of the school, and monitors display a real-time energy dashboard with ongoing energy performance compared to the net zero energy target.

“This project is a testament of what’s possible with dedication and innovation,” said Michael Barrett, Engineering Project Manager at HGA. “It’s proof that a net-zero-ready design is cost-comparable to a traditional school. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Oregon School District to help them envision and achieve a sustainable future.”

HGA's design and construction partners were Bray Architects and J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., who helped support the district throughout the planning, design, and construction process.

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