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McCandless career center earns 'green' accolade

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
A.W. Beattie Career Center culinary instructor Aaron Yurek (left) and senior Dennis Matthew (right) tend the covered container gardens on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, at the school in McCandless. A.W. Beattie was among the 78 schools throughout the nation last year to receive a Department of Education’s inaugural Green Ribbon award, which is given in recognition of the school's sustained environmental awareness in all aspects of school operations. James Knox | Tribune-Review
A.W. Beattie Career Center HVAC instructor Scott Miller (left) helps senior Jesse Mueller, 18 use a digital combustion analyzer on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, to test a high-efficiency oil furnace in the school in McCandless. James Knox | Tribune-Review
A.W. Beattie Career Center HVAC instructor Scott Miller (left) shows seniors (from left) Shane Seamon, David Watson and Tim Muehlbauer the solar-powered water heater setup on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, in the McCandless school. James Knox | Tribune-Revie
A.W. Beattie Career Center senior Dennis Matthew tends the covered container gardens on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, at the school in McCandless. James Knox | Tribune-Review

Scott Miller has a motto that resonates throughout A.W. Beattie Career Center in McCandless.

“I tell the students that there are two types of green,” said Miller, who teaches heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, to students from nine North Hills school districts at the career preparatory center on Babcock Boulevard.

“One is the environment and the other is in your wallet, so if something is cost-efficient to run, it's also better for the environment.”

A.W. Beattie was among 78 schools throughout the nation last year to receive the Department of Education's inaugural Green Ribbon award, which is given to acknowledge schools that sustained environmental awareness in classrooms and other aspects of operations.

The school received the award after the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the school a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, gold certification for a $20 million renovation and remodeling project that was completed in 2010.

Beattie was the first career center in Pennsylvania to receive a gold certificate, second only to platinum certification, said Eric C. Heasley, the school's executive director.

Miller, a 1979 graduate of Beattie's old appliance repair program, and other staff members are committed to offering 21st century skills to 625 students, most of whom hail from Avonworth, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel Area, Hampton, North Allegheny, North Hills, Northgate, Pine-Richland, and Shaler Area school districts.

“I tie the efficiency of energy into everything we teach,” Miller said.

“If you have a 10-year-old furnace with 75 percent efficiency and you can replace it with a furnace with 95 percent efficiency, it will (eventually) cover the costs (of replacement). Natural gas is pretty cheap, but other (energy sources) are expensive.”

Miller wants to make sure his students become proficient in installation and maintenance of solar energy panels, such as one the school placed at the former Nike missile site on a hillside overlooking the building.

“Seventy-five percent of (the nation's) heating costs could be covered by just the sun,” Miller said.

The school's commitment to energy efficiency and the environment is not limited to HVAC classes, Heasley said.

He said students and staff recycle everything they can. Even the automotive and auto body courses “are using green chemicals to help protect the environment and train the students,” Heasley said.

The efforts extend to the culinary department, where students prepare and serve breakfasts and lunches to the public three days a week. Science students grow herbs and vegetables in the greenhouse, and carpentry and culinary students built four grow boxes for plants.

“I helped measure it out and build the frames,” said Dennis Matthews, 18, a culinary student from Hampton. “We used redwood lumber so it doesn't deteriorate. I helped plant peppers, tomatoes, spices and herbs from seed. I'm learning how to care for the plants and how to cook.”

Heasley said everything from the garden is served in the restaurant, fresh in season or frozen for use as needed.

Nothing goes to waste.

A composter in the school courtyard will help turn this year's plants into fertilizer.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at

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