UConn and Bridgeport Partner for Greener Schools

'A great opportunity to strengthen our green energy and climate change research' while supporting Connecticut communities

A education and school concept little student girl studying at school

Backed by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Connecticut will assist two K-12 schools in Bridgeport with designing and implementing smart control systems to achieve energy savings and promote healthy learning environments. (Adobe Stock)

The University of Connecticut School of Engineering and Bridgeport Connecticut Public Schools have joined together to implement comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable projects at two Bridgeport schools through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs.

The project was one of only 24 projects selected nationwide after over 1,000 concept papers were submitted early in 2023.

“Connecticut’s flagship state university is honored to be part of this effort,” George M. Bollas, Director of UConn’s Pratt & Whitney Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering, says. “The design of smart, healthy, and resilient schools for the low-income Connecticut environmental justice community in Bridgeport is well aligned with the mission of the University to support the growth and prosperity of the state.”

Professor Amy Thompson, IASE Associate Director of Academic Programs and Director of its SmartBuildings CT program, led this effort.

“It is a great opportunity to strengthen our green energy and climate change research portfolio, and engage with and support communities of the state by translating systems engineering methods to practices that have direct impact on Connecticut’s smart and energy efficient schools effort,” Thompson says.

The DOE funding will support an effort to design and implement equipment retrofits and upgrades for two Bridgeport K-12 schools that will serve as demonstration sites for all 39 Bridgeport schools, and for thousands statewide and nationally. The projects focus on the use of renewables and smart control systems to achieve deep energy savings and create healthy learning environments.

The total award for two projects and support for the energy efficiency workforce development and training is $3.6 million, of which over $3 million is expected to be invested in technology and upgrades for the schools.

“Bridgeport Public Schools is enthused to have been chosen to be a part of such innovative, groundbreaking work,” says Bridgeport Public Schools Superintendent Alyshia Perrin. “The opportunity to conserve energy while improving the classroom setting with air quality controls and saving much needed dollars to support other educational initiatives, creates a blueprint for other schools in the district to do the same.”

The ENERGIZE CT programs administered by United Illuminating, an Avangrid Company, is a partner in the grant and will provide incentives and rebates to support the project.

The two schools will receive deep energy retrofits by installing Siemens controls and building management systems, new condensing boilers, heat pump water heaters, VFD’s, and energy efficient lighting with controls. The schools will also receive retro commissioning of heating and cooling systems to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality. BPS will install solar and battery systems where possible to lower GHG emissions and electricity costs, and to provide resiliency to these schools that serve disadvantaged communities as emergency shelters.

When implemented, the planned projects are expected to lower energy usage by 1,000 megawatt hours and 32,000 CCF per year resulting in an expected minimum of $200,000 per year savings in energy costs for the two schools.

The project will also support workforce development by funding students in apprenticeship programs with scholarships at the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System and provide internships for engineering students at Housatonic Community College (HCC) and UConn who will work with Loureiro Engineering to support engineering design, construction management, and measurement and verification activities.

The workforce development programs will invest over $150,000 in scholarships, education, and training programs for construction trades, technicians, and engineers in Connecticut. K-12 learning modules will be developed and delivered to BPS students by UConn’s Vergnano Institute for Inclusion, led by its Executive Director Stephany Santos, on energy efficient technologies for schools and their impacts on student health and learning. UConn will partner with local government agencies and Sustainable CT to disseminate project lessons learned and results to other school systems in Connecticut.

This competitive grant is a part of the $500 million Renew America’s Schools program, which aims to help K-12 public schools across the country make energy improvements that: improves air quality and occupant comfort in schools; reduces energy use and energy costs; lowers emissions; promotes STEM education, career and technical education and workforce development.

“As we move into the future, we must make a concerted effort to sustain energy, reduce pollutants and increase levels of comfortability in our school for all stakeholders,” Perrin says. “Being chosen to be a part of the Renew America’s Schools program will allow us to support our school communities while having a greater impact on our community blueprint as well.”