Text description provided by the architects. What initially began as a “repeat” school design resulted in one of the greenest elementary schools in the state of Texas without adding any costs to the district’s capital budget. When the architect and Spring Independent School District first began exploring the goals for the new school, conversations quickly turned to daylighting, energy efficiency and water conservation. This led to an original sustainable, high-performance school designed as a teaching tool that will educate generations of students about resource conservation.
The school was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification and has already been accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive an ENERGY STAR rating due to its energy-efficient building design. In addition, the architect designed the school to meet criteria for Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), the nation’s first green building rating program especially designed for K-12 schools. The building will also be the first school in Houston to use geothermal heating and cooling, which is expected to save at least 25 percent in energy consumption over the current code.
The school is a two-story rectangular building oriented with long sides facing north and south. Each classroom have natural light and the south-facing classrooms are taking advantage of daylight harvesting. In addition, the building was designed to have lights off in the classrooms 75 percent of the time, so each room will have sensors that turns the lights on and off based on levels of natural light.
Before the school opens, Spring will work with Cambridge Strategic Services to design an environment-focused, project-based curriculum. This will ensure that the entire school and its sustainable elements are teaching tools.
For example, the entry to the building will be alongside a science garden and eco-pond that includes an above-ground cistern and a water trough. These can be used to teach children integrated concepts about math and science that allow for real-world experiences. Under the parking lot and playgrounds is a geothermal well field that will house a system of tubes and valves that take hot and cold water in and out of the building. Through the use of a web-based learning tool, students are able to interact with the building systems and know the temperature of the water as it leaves the building and when it returns from deep in the earth.