Poudre School District

Poudre School District created a Green Team to design buildings that:

  • teach
  • are energy efficient
  • good for student health and learning
  • cost effective

Bacon Elementary Teaching Wall

Teaching walls, like this one at Bacon Elementary, are used to educate students about green construction features.


In most public school districts, utility costs are the second largest expense following salaries (Governor’s Energy Office 2009). The Poudre School District (PSD) has saved over $2 million since it began focusing in energy management in 1993. In 2009, we studied the practices at PSD that have led them to be a leader in the country in energy efficiency.

Existing Buildings

In existing buildings, PSD reduces energy consumption through a combination of active energy management, building retrofits, and engaging building occupants. Staff from PSD's Operations Services have shared data with a dozen other school districts across the state of Colorado, and found that among these 13 school districts, PSD is one of the most energy efficient.

In 2011, PSD buildings used 20% less energy (kBtu/square foot/year) and 34% less electricity (kWh/square foot/year) and spend 43% less than other districts. In 2011, PSD spent only $0.62/square foot/year, whereas the other districts spent an average of $1.10/square foot/year on electricity and natural gas. In 2010, over two-thirds of their buildings earned the ENERGY STAR® label, indicating that they are more efficient than 75% of other K-12 schools.

“Now, a student and teacher in a high performance building really doesn’t say every day, ‘Oh we’re saving energy, we’re saving dollars.’ What students and people suddenly understand is that, ‘I like being here. I’ll stay longer. This is a good place to be. I’m not getting as sick as much as I used to. I don’t have as much stress as I used to have.’”  --Green Team member

Designing New Buildings

Between 2000 and 2008, PSD designed and built seven high performance buildings, including two LEED certified buildings. Fossil Ridge High School is the first LEED certified high school in Colorado and Bethke Elementary was the first school in the nation to earn LEED for Schools Gold Certification

Two of the other newly constructed schools have consistently demonstrated superior energy efficiency. Rice Elementary, one of the newly constructed buildings earned a perfect ENERGY STAR® score of 100 and Kinard Middle School has consistently been one of the most energy efficient schools in the district.

PSD Learning Network Image

Learning through Social Networks

The Green Team was able to build innovative, high performance buildings because they made a commitment to sustainable design and adopted processes dedicated to learning and group decision-making. The Green Team brought together a diverse group of people to learn about green buildings. The Green Team included staff from Facilities and Operations inside the district and professional partners from private, governmental, and non-profit organizations who contributed to their learning.The image (above) shows how members of PSD facilities department (blue circles) learned from dozens of other professionals from utility providers (green diamods) to construction industry (pink diamonds) and teachers (yellow circles).

The Green Team's success in designing and building efficient buildings resulted from BOTH  a structure (the team) and a process (information-based and group decision-making) that focued on bringing new information into the design process, thus encouraging creativity and innovation. 


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