Statesman Journal – Lighting project gives Silverton a bright future

Walk in the gym of any high school and inevitably there will be lights not functioning. Between fixtures being difficult to reach and the sheer number of bulbs in an average school, lighting is a constant challenge for all school districts. The Silverton School District has undertaken the massive task of replacing all of its estimated 7,745 lighting fixtures with LED fixtures and bulbs in its 15 buildings, including 12 schools, in a $1.8 million project.

Though the Pine Street campus of Silverton High School was completed in 2009 some lighting is already out of date and some areas were in need of attention, such as the foyer of the auditorium where seven of 14 lights are out. Compared with an average home, where there are 25 fixtures and 45 bulbs, it’s a big task to keep a school lighted. When Lorin Stanley was hired by the district to be its maintenance and facility director three years ago from the Woodburn School District, he saw the pressing need for something to be done.

“To be quite honest, we were getting behind on things,” Stanley said. “We had a lot of really old T12 fluorescent bulbs. That’s when I really started pushing this lighting project.” The Silverton School District has over 4,000 students at its 12 schools. There also is a district office, bus barn and the building the Bethany Charter School occupies. “It is a combination – some fixtures are being replaced with new LED fixtures and some are being retrofitted with tube LED lamps,” said Louis Maltezos, Executive Vice President at Ameresco.

The district partnered with Ameresco, an energy efficiency and renewable energy company based out of MA, for management of the project. Replacement of the bulbs and fixtures started in July, and Stanley estimates the project to be 90 to 95 percent completed – most left to replace is at the high school – with completion expected by the end of the year. The district took on a 15-year loan to pay for the project and will pay it off with the $87,000 it expects to save in energy each year, a rebate from Energy Trust of Oregon and reimbursement through the Oregon Department of Energy.

Stanley said it was helpful to have Ameresco coordinate the LED work – including bringing in contractors and electricians – as he had his hands full elsewhere. Over the past few years, Silverton’s school district has undertaken seismic projects at five schools, including work at Mark Twain Elementary School and Silverton Middle School last summer. “You have the old, original 1938 brick building that’s two and in some cases three story,” Stanley said of Silverton Middle School.

Big gymnasiums a big challenge

Gyms are often the most difficult spaces in schools for lighting. Maltezos said since gyms are frequently used year-round and late into evenings, coordinating installers can be challenging. Another challenge is there are often items like the rope batting cage in Silverton High School’s auxiliary gym. Stanley said a challenge was to figure out how to drop the batting cages to the floor to change the fixtures to LED.

“We were set up and we had a schedule to do it, and then we ran into a glitch that we have a very complicated digital lighting system in the gym,” Stanley said. Stanley said the first fixtures delivered were not compatible with the digital system. Anthony Marinello, a foreman for contractor Northwest Edison, said they are waiting for a test LED for the main gym to arrive to try it and make sure it will work with the digital fixture. With thousands of bulbs in fixtures from different time periods in use, there inevitably were some surprisingly hard-to-find bulbs, such as in the aisle lighting in the auditorium.

“There’s three different types of bulbs in those throughout the whole place,” Marinello said. “You get in there and you start changing them and you’re like well, we ordered 150 of this one style, but now there’s other styles and we have to open every single one up. We had to go through and open every single one and get a count. They’re coming.” Maltezos said Ameresco has done similar projects at 400 school districts across the country. “We have experience helping several Oregon school districts with their upgrades, including Portland Public Schools and Junction City School District, to name a few,” he said.

Stanley said with construction booming, it has made it hard to find maintenance employees for the district with the certification to do much of the lighting work on a regular basis. Though the new fluorescent and incandescent bulbs that were in Silverton’s schools are rated the same as the more efficient LED bulbs that are replacing them, the new lighting often appears brighter. Stanley said the difference with the new LED lighting has been noticed in the schools in Silverton: he has seen joke emails of people having to wear sunglasses or a welding hood as everything seems brighter.

“There’s a definite improvement in almost everywhere we’ve been,” Stanley said. “The light levels are equal to or much better than they have been. Everything is sharper.”


Statesman Journal