How green is that building? Not very.

This building project misses many opportunities to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.  It barely makes the relatively low threshold of LEED silver certification, and offers no environmental benefits over renovation.  It also adds significant environmental costs in increased transportation miles and fuel because of the increased busing and parent traffic created by the split grade configuration.

 

LEED SILVER CERTIFICATION

The District and the project developers have touted the fact that the proposed building meets the requirements for LEED silver certification. In fact, LEED silver is the second lowest certification possible, and the proposed building barely meets these criteria.

 

leed-status

The proposal does best in points from innovation of design (4 of 4).  But it falls off significantly in water efficiency (7 of 12), indoor environmental quality (10 of 16), and sustainable sites (8 of 12).

It does poorly in terms of Location and Transportation (3 of 15), Energy and Atmosphere (12 of 31), and Materials and Resources (5 of 13).  Let’s look at each of these categories to see what this project is NOT doing.

 

Location and Transportation (Neighborhood Development Location)

Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses (5 potential points)

Intent

  • To avoid development on inappropriate sites
  • To reduce vehicle distance traveled
  • To enhance livability & improve human health by encouraging daily physical activity

Points for this project: 0

 

Access to Quality Transit (4 potential points)

Intent

  • To encourage development in locations shown to have multimodal transportation choices or otherwise reduced motor vehicle use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and other environmental and public health harms associated with motor vehicle use

Points for this project: 0

 

Reduced Parking Footprint (1 potential point)

Intent

  • To minimize the environmental harms associated with parking facilities, including automobile dependence, land consumption, and rainwater runoff.

Points for this project: 0

 

 

Energy and Atmosphere

Optimize Energy Performance  (16 potential points)

Intent

  • To achieve increasing levels of energy performance beyond the prerequisite standard to reduce environmental and economic harms associated with excessive energy use.

Points for this project: 6

 

Renewable Energy Production (3 potential points)

Intent

  • To reduce the environmental and economic harms associated with fossil fuel energy by increasing self-supply of renewable energy.

Points for this project: 0

This project calls for 3 oil-fired boilers for heating.  There is no natural gas supply at the Wildwood site and the design includes no ground or air sourced heat pumps.

The building is only “solar ready”, meaning that it could have photovoltaics installed at some point.  The school administration has stated that the plan is to use the contingency budget to pay for panels, but the contingency budget is established to pay for all the unforeseen costs that are a part of any construction project.  With a building of this size and complexity, assuming that there will be money left over and that it will be used for solar power is purely theoretical and hopeful.

 

 

Material and Resources

Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction (5 potential points)

Intent

  • To encourage adaptive reuse and optimize the environmental performance of products and material

Achievable through either (a) Building and Material Reuse Reuse or salvage building materials from off site or on site    OR   (b) Conducting a Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment for new construction by demonstrating >=10% reductions in 3 0f the following:

  • global warming potential (greenhouse gases) – must be included
  • depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer
  • acidification of land and water sources
  • eutrophication
  • formation of tropospheric ozone
  • depletion of nonrenewable energy resources

Points for this project: 0

 

Benefits of Greening Available with Virtually Any Plan (Including Renovation)

Many of the improvements over the current structure would occur no matter which way we choose to address the problems of these buildings

All of the building options (renovation and new construction) would have included a more efficient envelope (windows, doors, roof), improvements in air quality, energy efficient HVAC, and water efficiency. Renovation has the additional benefit of having less carbon impact because it doesn’t involve demolishing two large structures and hauling them off to a landfill. A design with different priorities could also incorporate alternative energy sources, with other possible funding sources to help foot the bill.

 

The implications for transportation increase the environmental impact of the proposal significantly

Whatever the benefits gained by a more efficient building would be greatly offset by the dramatic increase in fuel use and green house gas emissions from a 21% larger bus fleet traveling much farther distances (over 100 extra miles every day).  In addition, parent/guardians will be driving more to get to two different schools every day for pick-up and drop-off.

SUMMARY

This project and this building design did not prioritize environmental concerns.  Arguably, the most important thing we could provide to our children is deep attention to and action with regard to our climate.  This plan fails to do that.

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