What if a school could be designed and built to produce as much energy (on site) as it consumes from the electric grid? What if there was little or no need for electricity for use of air-conditioning, lighting or power? Limited gas bill for heating, hot water, or cooking food and no water bill for ground irrigation?
These were the questions the Irving Independent School District dared to ask when it began planning the district’s eighth middle school. What emerged was the 152,000-square-foot Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in Irving, Texas. The recently completed educational facility now holds the prestige of being the largest net zero public school in the country, the first net zero middle school in the country and the first net zero public school in Texas.
By definition as a net zero building, Lady Bird Johnson MS produces more energy than it consumes over a 12-month period. Several technologies and strategies were employed to reduce its consumption including geothermal heating, solar panel technology, wind turbines, rain water harvesting techniques and smart solar management.
“Lady Bird Johnson MS is the first net zero school is the country and is pursuing LEED gold certification,” said Sangeetha Karthik, AIA, LEED AP BD + C, Corgan Associates, project lead architect. “The general message of the school is to reduce, reuse, recycle and educate future generations to become stewards of the environment. We made conscious choices to support the overall message of the building while keeping the economics and use of the building in perspective.”
Aside from the extensive use of Fabral wall panels on the overall exterior of the school, one of the most prominent features of the facility is a large canopy that stands on two sides of the building. Covered in Fabral manufactured metal cladding, the canopy towers over the west side classroom windows and wraps around the building to shade the south facing library windows. This structure blocks the hot Texas summer sun from passing through classroom and other windows while still allowing natural lighting. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, the rays pass directly through the windows, providing warmth and heat to the building. The width of the canopy was determined by analyzing the sun angles during the times and months when students are in their classrooms.
On the building itself, high-efficiency glazing and the increased insulation from Fabral flashing and trim help the building to stay tightly insulated from outside elements. All products were specified in Bright Silver, a finish strategically chosen for its light color and reflective properties which help reduce heat absorption, enhancing the building’s overall energy efficiency.
Lady Bird Johnson Middle School was envisioned as a neighborhood middle school organized with innovative 21st century ideals. Because of the use of efficient materials and cutting-edge renewable energy technology, the building becomes a three-dimensional learning space. Students from across the district, as well as within the Lady Bird Johnson MS attendance zone, will learn through practical, hands-on experiences about environmental stewardship, energy conservation and such topics as geothermal science, rainwater collection, solar panel usage, and wind turbine efficiency. Because the school presents unique learning opportunities for all students in the District, the campus has been designed to host 60-70 visiting students on a daily basis. The project will apply for LEED GOLD Certification with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) at the end of 2011.