Propane project of the year nets thousands for school district

Nov. 15, 2019

When Sioux Falls firm TSP was done designing a new high school and renovations to the Andes Central Elementary and Middle School in Lake Andes, the work wasn’t entirely over.

The firm decided to submit the project to the Propane Project of the Year competition, offered through the Propane Education & Research Council of Washington, D.C.

The 2019 competition was open to builders, remodelers, architects, engineers and trade professionals in the United States involved in projects completed after Jan. 1, 2016. It sought outstanding building projects using propane for fuel.

At stake: $10,000 in prize money.

“We said from the beginning that should we win, the Andes Central School District would receive the prize money,” TSP CEO Jared Nesje said.

And they won. Nesje presented the check to Andes Central School Board president Debbie Houseman and other board members at the start of the monthly school board meeting this week.

Superintendent Debera Lucas said the $10,000 prize will be used to purchase new playground equipment. The board’s decision Monday fit perfectly into TSP’s hope that the students would benefit in some way, the firm said.

The school board knew the current playground equipment should be replaced and had asked several teachers to look into it.

“This will be something that will be there for a long time,” Lucas said. “It’s right next to the Little League field, and it’s used all the time. This will be wonderful for our community.”

Renovations on the elementary and middle schools were completed in August 2018. Students moved into the high school in February 2019. All grades now are located on the same campus. A link connects the two buildings and has created an outdoor courtyard space.

In designing Andes Central, TSP’s architects, engineers and interior designers created 12 flexible classrooms that can be used for multiple purposes, including science “classatories” that can be transformed from classrooms into laboratories and back again.

The elementary school’s original gym became a K-12 library that serves as the heart of the campus. The outdoor courtyard can be used as an exterior classroom space. TSP honored the school district’s Native American enrollment with banners extolling the characteristics of good students written in both English and Dakota.

TSP engineers replaced the school’s old propane boilers with new energy-efficient systems that have a 93 percent efficiency rating. The original building had been retrofitted with geothermal heating systems over the years, using propane boilers as a supplemental heating system. TSP’s engineers determined that a new geothermal system would be too costly for Andes Central’s budget and found a propane system that was more suitable.

Adding to the geothermal system also would have restricted Andes Central’s future flexibility in expanding the school campus. Its location would have created a school district that once again found itself landlocked.

Propane boilers also offered advantages from the perspectives of comfort, controllability and maintenance. The propane boilers feed heating systems throughout the school, and air volume boxes control airflow to the rooms. The boilers feed heating coils inside the air handlers to preheat the ventilation air.

Propane units also heat the school’s water. The school district already used propane equipment in the kitchen.

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Propane project of the year nets thousands for school district

The firm designed the project but didn’t stop there. Here’s how TSP won an industry honor that proved to be a big win for this school district.

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