Chartwell School Beats Energy Standards by 60%

chartwell school green building LEED energy front photo

All images from EHDD via AIA

A lot of people were angry when New York Times did their "exposé" about LEED, (see New York Times Behind the Times on LEED) , particularly its focus on LEED certified buildings that are not particularly energy efficient. Rob Watson at Greenerbuildings writes:

For every LEED building that doesn't meet expectations, there are three that do and better. The LEED Platinum, AIA Top-10 Green Project, Chartwell School beat California's nation-leading energy standard by a whopping 60 percent, and whose performance is supported by two years of intensive monitoring.

So what's going on at Chartwell in Seaside, California?

chartwell school green building LEED energy classroom photo

The school was the subject of an extensive case study by the American Institute of Architects, where it is listed as one of the top ten green projects. Goals of the project were ambitious:

  1. to create the best possible learning environment by providing exceptional daylighting, views, indoor air quality, and thermal comfort;
  2. to make the sustainable design strategies a visible part of the students' education by developing the site as a teaching tool with natural drainage and native and food-producing plants;
  3. to inspire and excite the community about the possibilities of sustainable design and in turn generate support and private funding;
  4. to reach net-zero electricity use through exceptional efficiency and adding photovoltaic (PV) capacity to meet the remaining electrical demand; and
  5. to reach these goals with only a modest cost premium.
chartwell school green building LEED energy plan photo

And EHDD Architecture appears to have pulled it off.

Tall, north-facing windows and clerestories provide excellent daylighting, support the net-zero electrical goal and improving student outcomes. Sloping shed roofs for good photovoltaic orientation and an extensive measurement and verification system support optimal function of the building and provide learning opportunities for the students. Radiant heat provides a quiet learning environment and reduces the size of mechanical equipment and mechanical rooms. Framing the structure at two feet on center reduces the amount of material used on the project and also saves on overall construction costs.

chartwell school green building LEED energy graph photo

But as the New York Times failed to notice, buildings perform better when people care about them and monitor what is going on. At Chartwell it is part of their educational program. Douglas Atkins, Chartwell's Executive Director, is quoted in a press release:

"Sustainability requires connecting what was once unconnected in a way that produces surprising achievements. We can review graphs of the electricity we use and compare it to how much is generated by the solar photovoltaic panels. This information can then be used to better manage the building and our behavior. It's been like a game, as we all strive to drive the daily demand for electricity closer to the amount the building's solar panels can produce. When we discovered our overnight outside lamps were causing a spike in electricity use, for example, we brain-stormed strategies to reduce this source of power consumption. This lets us use the process as an interactive, hands-on way to convey basic concepts in physics, mathematics, and even social/behavioral science. Other sustainable design strategies such as the site's natural drainage and native and food-producing plants are also leveraged in lesson plans."

chartwell school green building LEED energy windows photo

That's just one example of a building that is designed for both energy efficiency as well as those many other aspects of green building that so often get ignored, such as air quality, embodied energy and water use. The architecture is interesting, but the way the school uses it is inspiring.

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