If you ask Pritchardville Elementary School students what makes their school energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, they won't tell you about its heat-repellant roof or its motion-activated lights.
They'll talk about the bathrooms.
The toilets have two flushing options, which saves water. They will talk about this without a trace of the smirk you might expect from 9-year-olds when talking about a restroom. Saving water helps the May River, fourth-grader Colson Janke says. He knows that's important.
Pritchardville Elementary has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. It's the third school in the district and sixth in the state to earn the distinction, which recognizes energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design. Bluffton and Michael C. Riley early childhood centers also are certified.
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The certification process at Pritchardville Elementary began several years ago with its design, Beaufort County School District facilities director Robert Oetting said.
The school includes design and construction features that diminish its environmental impact. Those dual-flush toilets, for example, reduce water use by about 35 percent, along with low-flow sinks, shower and kitchen fixtures. Lights turn off when motion hasn't been detected in an area for about 20 minutes. The parking lot is made of pervious concrete that naturally filters storm water to reduce pollutants entering the river. The many windows allow teachers to dim lights in their classrooms when it's sunny.
Any schools built in the future also will be designed to be environmentally friendly, district chief of operations Phyllis White said. And when schools are remodeled, more energy-efficient options will be installed.
For example, in gymnasiums across the district, high-pressure sodium-vapor lights, which had to be kept on constantly because they take at least 15 minutes to warm up, have been replaced with more energy-effiecent bulbs that turn on and off with the flick of a switch, according to Jack Thompson, the district's energy manager. Energy-conscious changes like those have saved the district about $10 million since 2006, Thompson said. "Our community and (Board of Education) are focused on energy efficiency and saving money," Oetting said. "It all goes hand in hand."