Maxwell Public Schools is a rural school district located in Western Nebraska. The district consists of a single interconnected K-12 facility that has served the Maxwell, Nebraska community for many generations. The facility consists of an elementary school, junior/senior high school, administration offices, and a shop/bus barn. Due to space constraints and chronic maintenance and operational issues, the district embarked on an approximately $9 million project to provide a new competition gymnasium with a wrestling practice area, full prep kitchen, metal/wood shops, and commons/cafeteria area. The area of new construction was approximately 35,000 SF. The project also included the replacement of the existing building’s HVAC and lighting systems. The area of the renovation was approximately 55,000 SF.
The HVAC renovation consisted of removing all existing HVAC equipment and distribution for the entire facility and installing a heat recovery variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system. VRF systems are similar to traditional fan coil systems with the main difference of utilizing refrigerant as an energy medium in lieu of water. VRF systems use heat pumps that require much less maintenance than the boilers and chillers that are required for traditional fan coil systems. VRF systems are extremely useful for renovation projects because they require far less above-ceiling space than traditional HVAC systems. Duct sizes are drastically reduced because the air handling systems are only responsible for providing ventilation which reduces the total amount of airflow. Additionally, refrigerant pipe sizes are much smaller than water pipe sizes and the overall number of pipes is reduced to three versus a traditional 4-pipe fan coil system. Heat recovery VRF systems allow simultaneous heating and cooling which maximizes occupant comfort without sacrificing energy efficiency.
In order to accommodate the building addition as well as the renovation phasing of the project, a new phased electrical service was brought into the building which provided flexibility in maintaining existing portions of the building operational while also allowing the building additions to take place simultaneously. A major concern of the school district was to address the existing lighting systems as they utilized primarily T12 technology with minimal ability to control. The result was a system that utilized near double the electricity of similar buildings designed today. The solution provided included a complete LED lighting package for both the new and renovation portions of the building along with a fully automated lighting control system. The total power usage for the new lighting system should operate at less than half the cost of the existing system.
Overall, the school district has been provided with mechanical and electrical infrastructure that did a great job of accommodating existing conditions while also improving comfort and the overall learning environment.