Some Ideas to Help Aruba Become the Greenest and Happiest Island #Sustainability #Planning #Architect #Island #Eco #Green #ilmaBlog

Having recently visited Aruba earlier this year, and have fallen in love with the island, I would like to take this moment to reflect on ways that the little island nation can achieve its sustainability goals over the next several years.  Over the past few years it has come a long way but there are still many things left to be addressed if it is to be the greenest happiest little island in the Caribbean as it has set out to do.

One Happy Island

Some background information before we begin — Aruba contains 70 square miles (178.91 square kilometers) of happiness and a population of 116,600 (as of July 2018).

The tiny island gem is nestled in the warm southern Caribbean with nearly 100 different nationalities happily living together. We welcome all visitors with sunny smiles and a warm embrace.

Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 18 miles (29 kilometers) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 20 miles (32 kilometers) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 6 miles (10 kilometers) across at its widest point.

Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean. Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten; the citizens of these countries are all Dutch nationals. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. Fortunately, it lies outside Hurricane Alley.

Aruba’s economy is based largely on tourism with nearly 1.5 million visitors per year, which has contributed to Aruba’s high population density.

Despite having one of the world’s smallest populations, Aruba does have a high population density at 1,490 per square mile (575 people per square kilometer), which is more than New York state.

During the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, the island announced it aim to cover its electricity demand by 100% renewable sources by 2020. In the same year, Aruba together with other Caribbean islands became member of the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge, an initiative launched at the Rio +20 Conference aiming for islands to shift towards 100% renewable energy. The benefits of becoming 100% renewable for Aruba include: reducing its heavy dependency on fossil fuel, thus making it less vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and preserving its natural environment.

(Sources: https://www.100-percent.org/aruba/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aruba; http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/aruba-population)

Some of the areas where Aruba seems to be excelling includes their recent ramp up of wind power – capitalizing on the constant wind that keep the tiny island habitable.

Other areas that they can improve on include the following:

Electric Vehicles

A whopping 87 percent of the entire power generation in the Caribbean comes from imported fossil fuels, and because so much of the region’s fuel comes from faraway sources, electricity costs are four times higher than they are in the United States. The economies of these islands are basically at the whim of global oil prices

The Caribbean has some other reasons to be enthusiastic about electric cars powered by a solar electric grid. The islands, on the whole, are small and low in elevation. The vast majority of islands in the Caribbean are smaller than 250 square miles and are fairly flat, with isolated peaks at most. 

This combination makes them ideal for electric vehicles in ways that, just for example, the U.S. is not. Most electric vehicles have limited ranges, with some only offering a hundred miles or less per charge. The higher-end vehicles can go further; the Nissan Leaf boasts 151 miles per charge, the Chevy Bolt 238 miles, and the Tesla Model S 315, but with still-long waiting times for a full charge, that’s about all you’re getting in an individual trip. That’s not great for hour-plus-long commutes from American suburbs, but for smaller islands with fewer hills to climb, that sort of range is just fine.

Customers who drive electric experience common benefits.

  • Charging up with electricity will cost you less than filling your tank with gas. Clients are experiencing savings of up to 50 percent on fuel costs and very low cost of maintenance.
  • Produce no-to-low tailpipe emissions. Even when upstream power plant emissions are considered, electric vehicles are 70 percent cleaner than gas-powered vehicles.
  • “Fuel” up with clean, Aruban-produced electricity and help our island achieve more energy diversity.
  • Drivers enjoy electric vehicles’ silent motor, powerful torque and smooth acceleration.

Although “solar” vehicles would be even better for this region, the ability for the island to “leap frog” ahead of other counties by building in an electric fueling infrastructure would help set it apart from other island nations.

(Sources: http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/more-like-electric-car-ibbean.html; https://www.elmar.aw/about-elmar/sustainable-energy-and-electric-cars)

Solar Power

Although solar has come down over the past decade I was surprised that not more individuals capitalize on the sunny region with solar roof panels.

The recently constructed government building, Cocolishi, is one of the first buildings on Aruba with a solar roof. The solar panels provide 30 kW of renewable energy.

On the rooftops of the Multifunctional Accommodation Offices (MFA) in Noord and Paradera solar panels are installed. The MFA in Noord is an energy neutral building, this means it produces the same amount of energy as it consumes. The surplus during sunny days will be added to the grid.

Previously, solar panels were installed on the Kudawecha elementary school. These panels produce 175.5 kW solar energy.

The largest school solar rooftop project is installed on the Abramham de Veer School elementary school. This rooftop project produces 976 kW renewable energy.

The Caribbean’s first solar park opened in 2015 over the parking lot of the airport in Aruba. This solar park provide 3.5 MW solar energy and is one of the first renewable energy projects making use of the Free Zone of Aruba.

In Juana Morto, a residential area complex, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of different houses. Together the solar panels generate 13 kW of green energy.

Elmar, the electricity provider of Aruba, installed solar panels on the roofs of their offices. These buildings together provide 9.8 kW solar energy.

There are different decentralized solar projects on Aruba. Together they consist of 5 MW solar PV part and 3 MW rooftop schools & public buildings PV systems. Once built per the 2017 plan, the installation will provide an additional 13.5 MW providing power for approximately 3,000 households.

Given the amount of sunshine this island receives, expanding their solar portfolio seems prudent.

(Source: https://www.freezonearuba.com/business-opportunities/solar-projects-aruba/)

Wind Power

Wind Park ‘Vader Piet’ is located on Aruba’s east coast in the Dutch Caribbean, this wind farm consists of 10 turbines with an actual capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). Aruba’s current wind power production represents about 15-20 percent of its total consumption, which places it fourth globally and still some way behind Denmark, the current global leader, which produces 26 percent of its power from wind. But today, with a second wind farm about to be deployed, Aruba is set to double its wind energy output, placing it firmly in first place.

It’s hard to believe that just a few windmills are able to produce an output of 30 megawatts of energy, suppling 126,000 MWh of electricity to the national grid each year, displacing fossil fuel-generated energy and supporting the island’s transition towards renewable energy sources.

Given that the wind is a constant, exploiting this resource seems like a profitable and intelligent thing to do.

(Source: https://www.utilitiesarubanv.com/main/embracing-the-winds-of-change/)

Off-Roading

I love that the island has embraced off-road vehicles (ORV); it is a great way to experience the beauty around us in a challenging and fun way adding to the experience.  However, it would be very wise to develop designated areas for off-road vehicles to eliminate (or at least minimize) the human impact on the beauty of this island.  Because it’s greatest commodity is the natural beauty – Sun, ocean, nature and wildlife; Aruba (and other island nations) need to consider how to balance the fun aspect with some regulations that will preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.

As you may already know, the use ORV’s on coastal beaches is an activity that attracts considerable controversy amongst beach users.

ORV driving is considered as main contributor to land degradation in arid regions.

The most obvious physical impacts of ORV on vegetation include plant crushing, shearing, and uprooting. Such destruction of vegetation in arid ecosystems can lead to land degradation and desertification. Desert plant species exhibit varying degrees of vulnerability to vehicle use intensity, which results in changes in vegetation composition, height, biomass, reproductive structures, cover and seedbank.

(Sources: https://serc.carleton.edu/vignettes/collection/35397.html; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X18301153)

I also notice that many locals and tourists park their vehicles on the shorelines which are inhabited by indigenous plants and animals of all varieties.  This too should be lightly regulated through education or ordinances so that leaky old (or new) vehicles do not stain the natural shorelines that not only belong to us but to our grandchildren’s grandchildren as well.  We need to educate people to be more responsible and not disrupt the natural world with our cars , especially when it can be easily avoided with very little cost impact to the planning of the island.

Stormwater

Following up on vehicle management along the shorelines, another thing I noticed was stormwater runoff; which is not much but should be managed now to avoid a small accumulation over time.  It is still early enough to employ best practices and manage any future problems by building a robust infrastructure now before things get worse.  Because the island is so small it looks like much of the run off drains directly into the ocean.  Following best practices will ensure that the clear waters stay that way long into the future for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Circumstances alone should prompt islanders to manage stormwater runoff:

  • Traditional community boundaries often centered on natural drainages (e.g., Hawaiian ahupua’a and Samoan village structure), so residents are aware of how land use changes can affect watershed hydrology.
  • Local economies rely on clear waters, healthy reefs, and robust fisheries; thus, BMPs designed to eliminate sediment plumes offer immediate, visible results to resource users.
  • In some locations, rainfall is the primary source of freshwater, so using BMPs like cisterns or storage chambers to collect runoff for potable and non-potable reuse makes water supply sense.
  • Tropical vegetation is fast-growing and plays a huge part in the water cycle, so stormwater management approaches that take advantage of canopy interception and evapotranspiration to reduce runoff have a high chance of success.
  • Island infrastructure is subject to big storms, rising seas, and tsunamis; therefore redundancy within the stormwater system improves resiliency.

Things that should be considered as the island faces increased development includes the engagement of “low impact development” which is an approach to land development that meets the following conditions:

  1. Avoids disturbance of existing vegetation, valuable soils, and wetlands to the maximum extent possible (e.g., minimizing site disturbance and maintaining vegetated buffers along waterways);
  2. Reduces the amount of impervious cover and, thus, stormwater runoff generated on a site through careful site planning and design techniques; and
  3. Manages runoff that is generated through structural and non-structural practices that filter, recharge, reuse, or otherwise reduce runoff from the site.

(Source: https://horsleywitten.com/pdf/Feb2014_IslandBMPGuide_wAppendix.pdf)

Desalinization

Tasked with providing water for a population which more than quadruples with tourists throughout the year, the Caribbean island of Aruba is building a new 24,000 m3/day (6,340,130 gallons) desalination facility to process seawater from beach wells. Paul Choules & Ron Sebek discuss technical details of the installation, set to replace older thermal desalination units.

This is so awesome and could become a really great way for Aruba to expand its market into other emerging countries that are facing water issues.  Abruba could use its extensive knowledge to help other arid climates deal with lack of drinking water, taking Aruba to the next level as a global leader in this realm.

(Source: https://www.waterworld.com/international/desalination/article/16201943/desalination-plant-profile-aruba-the-pearl-of-the-caribbean)

Cogeneration of Power

Justin Locke is director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit. He said it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power.

“Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources,” added Locke. Aruba’s plan includes building new solar and wind farms, converting waste to energy, and working to increase energy efficiency.

Aruba has set the ambitious goal of becoming the first green economy by transitioning to 100% renewable energy use. Currently, Aruba is at 20% renewable energy use.

Aruba is known for being sunny all year long and its cooling trade winds. By capitalizing on these natural resources, the island can generate renewable energy. The island is lowering its dependence on heavy fuel oil, lowering CO2 emissions, and reducing environmental pollution.

By steadily continuing its momentum with its green movement and implementing cogeneration of power production it will help the island become sustainable and resilient.

(Source: https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/your-country-and-the-netherlands/united-states/about-us/aruba-and-you/sustainability-in-aruba)

Conclusion

Although Aruba has promised to become green it is not absolutely clear that it will be able to achieve its aggressive 2020 goals.  However, the future is bright if Aruba is able to continue on its path and starts to take these issues into greater consideration making it a premier destination for people to enjoy.  Becoming the world’s greenest island will ensure that tourism continues to flourish and that the country will continue to thrive in an environmentally-friendly way that will help restore and maintain the attributes that has made it what it has become famous for – a place for people from all over the world to come and enjoy the natural world away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the world in a way that seems to be reminiscent of a simpler time and offers us a chance to connect with something much larger than ourselves.  As temporary stewards for the environment it is up to us to protect that which does not belong to us so that future generations can also appreciate these valuable experiences.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


CELS Earns Honorable Mention Among @USGBCNJ Gala Award Winners – 2019

NEWS – The U.S. Green Building Council New Jersey Chapter (USGBC NJ) celebrated nine New Jersey-based projects at its Annual Awards Gala. The Gala took place on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at the LEED registered Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick, NJ.

Each year, USGBC NJ recognizes and presents these distinguished awards to companies and individuals that have demonstrated outstanding achievement and best practices in green building and sustainability.

“The Annual Awards Gala is a stellar event,” said USGBC NJ Board Chair Daniel Topping, Principal with NK Architects. “It is our opportunity to celebrate innovative green New Jersey projects, while networking and financially supporting the mission of USGBC NJ. This year’s winners are exciting and inspiring. They range from corporate campuses, higher education facilities, sustainably built residential projects, a comprehensive green cleaning initiative and an urban resiliency park.”

This year, USGBC NJ’s Gala celebrated the following Award Winners (click for list of winners).

Honorable Mention

Included as an honorable mention was the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences (CELS) facility, a 107,500 square foot, LEED® Gold–certified science facility devoted to environmental and pharmaceutical life sciences research.  CELS enables Montclair State University’s College of Science and Mathematics (CSAM) to build on its collaborative culture combining strengths across disciplines and building research programs of exceptional power. In the process, Montclair State University demonstrates that it can make a large impact on the advancement of science and technology, especially in the sustainable use of natural resources and improved human health. The building comprises of a comprehensive array of laboratories, seminar rooms, classrooms, and other facilities that enable collaborative transdisciplinary research in the pharmaceutical life sciences and environmental sciences. It joins three existing science buildings around a “learning and discovery landscape” to give science research a high-visibility position on the campus.

The Project Team

  • Montclair State University Project Manager: Frank Cunha III, AIA
  • Architect of Record: The S/L/A/M Collaborative, Inc.
  • Engineer of Record: Vanderweil Engineers
  • Contractor: Terminal Construction Corporation
  • LEED Consultant: Green Building Center – New Jersey
  • Commissioning Agent: NORESCO

Some of the LEED-specific features include:

  • Both bus and rail transportation options within a half-mile walking distance.
  • The building is situated on an area that was previously developed.
  • The site is near to basic services such as places of worship, a convenience store, day care center, library, park, police department, school, restaurants, theaters, community center, fitness center, and museums.
  • A green roof with sedum mats is located above the second floor. This absorbs stormwater, restores habitat, adds insulation to the building roof, and provides a scenic study site and retreat for building occupants.
  • Exterior landscaping includes water efficient plantings and two rain gardens in front of the building.
  • A 35 percent reduction of water use in flush & flow fixtures.
  • Separate collection of refuse and recyclables with color-coded storage containers to avoid contamination of the waste stream.
  • Smoking is prohibited in the building and within 25 feet of entries, outdoor intakes and operable windows.
  • The building is mechanically ventilated with CO2 sensors programmed to generate an alarm when the conditions vary by 10 percent or more from the design value.
  • The design outdoor air intake flow for all zones is 30 percent greater than the minimum outdoor air ventilation rate required by ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007, Ventilation Rate Procedure.
  • Lighting controls include scene controllers and occupancy sensors for classrooms, conference rooms and open plan workstations, with task lighting provided.

Further reading about the facility:

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


What is a High Performance School?

Ask the Architect


by Frank Cunha III

What is a High Performance School?

A “High Performance School” is a well-designed facility can enhance performance and make education more enjoyable and rewarding. A “High Performance School” is healthy and thermally, visually, and acoustically comfortable. It is also energy, material, and water efficient. A “High Performance School” must be safe and secure; easy to maintain and operate; commissioned; environmentally responsive site. Most of all a “High Performance School” is one that teaches and is a community resource. It should also be stimulating as well as adaptable to changing needs.

Improved Student Performance

Evidence is growing that high performance schools can provide learning environments that lead to improved student performance.  Recent studies show that effective daylighting has contributed to improved student test scores by 10-20%. Intuitively quieter, comfortable classrooms with good lighting and good air quality yield better students/teachers. Low- and no-emission building materials can reduce odors, sensory irritation, and toxicity hazards. Efficient windows also reduce outside noise distractions. Improved heating and cooling systems permit students to hear the teacher better and avoid room temperature swings. Adequate lighting improves students’ ability to read books and see the blackboard. Considerations for “High Performance Schools”include: siting; indoor environmental quality; energy; water; materials; community; faculty and student performance; commissioning; and facilities performance evaluation.

 Siting

Siting is critical for “High Performance Schools” with regards to the environment, energy consumption, and indoor environmental quality, transportation, greenfields, endangered species, wetlands concerns, existing pollution on the site, and stormwater management. A key factor in site design is orientation of the building, which can influence passive heating, natural ventilation, and daylighting. Optimal orientation can reduce year-round heating and cooling costs and optimizes natural lighting. If possible orient buildings so that the majority of windows face either north or south. Strategic placement of vegetation can be used when this orientation cannot be utilized.

Positive affects on the energy and environmental performance of a school include primary consideration for the environmentally sound school building. A school building should complement its environment. Working around existing vegetation to shade building and outside cooling equipment to reduce HVAC load help ensure good environmental performance of school by lowering energy bills and reducing local pollution. Locating a school near public transportation and within walking distance to a majority of students will further reduce energy use, while lowering local traffic and pollution.

Stormwater management is vital to safety and ecological health of a school’s site. Moving stormwater quickly to gutters, downspouts, catch basins, and pipes increases water quantity and velocity requiring large and expensive drainage infrastructure. Water should be captured in cisterns and ponds, or absorbed in groundwater aquifers and vegetated areas. Remaining water runoff should be slowed down and spread across roof and paved surfaces evenly before entering bioswales and creeks. Perforated drainpipe and filters, and “Green” roofs promote water absorption.

“High Performance Schools” promote student safety and security. Visibility of school entrances from main office and general accessibility of the school grounds can affect security. Lighting quality in halls and corridors is also critical.

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ)

“High Performance Schools “ optimize IEQ by considering it throughout the design and construction process. IEQ includes indoor air quality; acoustics; daylighting; lighting quality; and thermal comfort. Benefits include: reduction in student and teacher absences; increase student performance; reduction of illnesses related to indoor toxins; improved teacher retention rates; reduced distractions; improved comfort levels; and maintenance of healthy students, teachers and staff.

Proper siting contributes to positive daylighting potentials and acoustics. Building envelope design affects thermal comfort, daylighting, and indoor air quality. Material choices can also have a positive affect on IEQ. Construction process and the operations and maintenance affect Indoor Air Quality. Key elements of building’s indoor environment affecting occupant comfort and health include: Thermal comfort – temperature, radiant heat, relative humidity, draftiness; light – amount and quality, lack of glare, direct sunlight; noise – levels and kinds, classroom acoustics, inside and outside sources; ventilation, heating & cooling – fresh air intake, re-circulation, exhaust; microbiologic agents – infectious disease, mold, bacteria, allergens; and chemical agents in air or surface dust –volatile organics (formaldehyde), pesticides, lead, asbestos, radon;

Ill health effects associated with poor IEQ can cause students, teachers, and administrative staff to experience a range of acute or chronic symptoms and illnesses including: headaches and fatigue (from VOCs and glare); irritation of eyes, nose, and throat (from VOCs, particles, low relative humidity); respiratory symptoms – allergic reactions (from mold, animal allergens, dust mites); breathing difficulties – increase in asthma symptoms (from allergens, particles, cold); increased transmission rates of colds and flu’s (due to poor ventilation); and poor IEQ can also lead to excessive exposure of classroom occupants to some carcinogens.

Important decisions school designers should pay particular attention to key buildings elements: building materials and surfaces (low-emitting for chemicals); ventilation systems (quiet, efficient filters, adequate fresh air); fenestration (adequate and operable windows); site drainage; envelope flashing and caulking; ande ase of maintenance for building components (e.g., floor cleaning, filter changing).

Common IEQ problems in classrooms include: excessive levels of volatile organic compounds, like formaldehyde, which can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation and pose cancer risks (these compounds are emitted from new pressed wood materials, and in some other building materials and furnishings, especially in new or remodeled classrooms); although classrooms have individual control of HVAC systems, these systems are often noisy and are not continuously operated (causing large swings in both temperature and humidity levels, and allowing indoor air pollutant levels to build up); moisture problems are sometimes present in roofing, floors, walls, and exterior doors; operable windows are often small or absent; siting can be problematic relative to pollutant and noise sources, poor site drainage, and shading.

Energy

It is critical to manage and conserve natural resources in “High Performance Schools.” This can be done by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by using renewable energy resources; integration of concerns with design process; building siting and orientation; buildings shape; and landscaping; lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation sources. Integrated design can yield long and short-term savings. Reduced heat from an energy efficient lighting system and good natural ventilation designs can reduce the cooling demand, and thus the size and cost of the air conditioning units. All members of the design team should meet early on in the planning process and continue to coordinate integrated design concepts throughout the project in order to reduce energy costs.

The end result of integrated design is reduced overall energy consumption, thus saving construction costs through the downsizing of the systems and on-going costs of operation through reduced utility bills.
Many programs are available to help schools build energy-efficient facilities. Educate students about energy issues and to install renewable energy systems in schools. By taking advantage of these programs, schools can realize cost savings, better educate their students and help to ensure a cleaner, more stable environment for the future.

During the rush to construct new school buildings, districts often focus on short-term construction costs instead of long-term, life-cycle savings. The key to getting a high-performance school is to ask for an energy-efficient design in your request for proposals (RFP) and to select architects who are experienced in making sure that energy considerations are fully addressed in design and construction. Unless a school district directs its architect to design energy-efficient buildings, new schools may be as inefficient as old ones, or they may incorporate only modest energy efficiency measures.

Total construction costs for energy-efficient schools are often the same as costs for traditional schools, but most architects acknowledge a slight increase in the capital costs maybe necessary (as some energy efficient building features may cost more.) Efficient buildings have reduced building energy loads and take better advantage of local climate. A properly day lit school, for example, with reduced electrical lighting usage and energy efficient windows can permit downsized cooling equipment. Savings from this equipment helps defer costs of daylighting features. Even when construction costs are higher, resulting annual energy cost savings can pay for additional upfront capital costs quickly.

Older “cool” fluorescents had low quality of light that gives human skin a sickly bluish color. Newer fluorescent lights are both higher light quality and higher efficacy. Daylight, the highest quality of light, can help reduce energy use if the lighting system is properly integrated, with ambient light sensors and dimming mechanisms.

Daylighting

The design and construction of a school’s daylighting systems can cost more money. Properly day lit school (with associated reduced electrical lighting usage) can lead to downsized cooling equipment. The savings from this smaller equipment helps defer the costs of the daylighting features. Hiring an architect or engineering firm that is experienced in good daylighting design, especially in schools, will minimize any additional costs from the design end of a project. As with any building feature, effective daylighting requires good design.

Today’s window technology and proven design practices can ensure that daylighting does not cause distributive glare or temperature swings. Exterior overhangs and interior cloth baffles (hung in skylight wells) eliminate direct sunlight, while letting evenly distributed daylight into rooms. “Daylight” is in effect controlled “sunlight” manipulated to provide useful natural light to classroom activities. Moreover, daylight by nature produces less heat than that given off by artificial lighting.

The application of daylighting without control of sun penetration and/or without photo controls for electric lights can actually increase energy use. Design for daylighting utilizes many techniques to increase light gain while minimizing the heat gain, making it different from passive solar in a number of ways. First of all, the fenestration (or glazing) of the windows is different.  In a day lit building, the glazing is designed to let in the full spectrum of visible light, but block out both ultra violet and infrared light. Whereas, in a passive solar building, the fenestration allows for the full spectrum of light to enter the building (including UV and Infra red), but the windows are designed to trap the heat inside the building. In addition, in day lit rooms, it is undesirable to allow sunlight in through the window. Instead, it is important to capture ambient daylight, which is much more diffusing than sunlight, this is often achieved by blocking direct southern exposure, and optimizing shaded light and northern exposure. Passive solar maximizes south facing windows, and minimizes north-facing windows, thus increasing heat gain, and minimizing heat loss.

Water

As population growth increases demand for water increases. A “High Performance School” must reduce water consumption and use limited water resources wisely. This can be achieved by utilizing: water-efficient landscape techniques; water-efficient fixtures and controls in indoor and outdoor plumbing systems. The largest use of water in schools is in cooling and heating systems (evaporative cooling systems, single-pass cooling systems, etc.), kitchens, maintenance operations, landscaping irrigation, locker rooms, and restrooms. Good landscaping design including specifying native plants, proper spacing, and low-flow irrigation (that runs at night) will reduce a school’s water demand and expenditures.

High-efficiency irrigation technologies such as micro-irrigation, moisture sensors, or weather data-based controllers save water by reducing evaporation and operating only when needed. In urban areas, municipally supplied, reclaimed water is an available, less-expensive, and equally effective source for irrigation. The siting of a school and the shape of the land upon which is resides have tremendous impact on water resources. Selecting drought-tolerant plants will naturally lessen the requirement for water. In addition, using mulch around plants will help reduce evaporation, resulting in decreased need for watering plants or trees.

Drip irrigation systems with efficiencies of up to 95% rather conventional spray systems with efficiencies of only 50 to 60%.

The treatment of sewage is a costly process taken on by the local utility at the customer’s expense. The wastewater is typically treated and released back to the environment. Waste materials extracted from the wastewater must be further disposed of according to local codes. Considering on site water treatment will reduce the load on the local utility, offer an opportunity for students to learn about the biological and chemical processes involved in water treatment, and reduce operational expenses by avoiding a utility bill.

Greywater is water that has been used in sinks, drinking fountains, and showers. Black water is water that has been used in toilets. Greywater is fairly simple and safe to clean and reuse, whereas there are more health risks associated with black water.

Materials

“High Performance Schools” utilize material efficiency, which includes durable, reused, salvaged, and refurbished or recycled content. Recyclable materials manufactured using environmentally friendly practices.

Material efficiency can often save schools money by reducing the need to buy new materials and by reducing the amount of waste taken to the landfill. “high Performance Schools can reduce the amount of materials needed by: reusing onsite materials; eliminating waste created in the construction and demolition process; choosing materials that are safe, healthy, aesthetically pleasing, environmentally preferable, and contain low embodied energy.

Waste reduction planning is essential for school districts. These wastes represent a significant loss of natural resources and school district funds as well as a potential threat to student/staff health and the environment. To be responsible stewards of environmental quality, school districts should review new school construction, processes and operations, and even curriculum choices and evaluate the economic, educational, and environmental benefits of implementing effective waste reduction measures. Incorporating waste reduction as part of the school district’s overall way of doing business can provide a number of important benefits: reduced disposal costs; improved worker safety; reduced long-term liability; increased efficiency of school operations; and decreased associated purchasing costs.

Building materials may have a number of associated operating costs beyond the straightforward, initial capital costs. Proper selection is essential to minimize these secondary costs. Building materials may pose future health hazards, costing schools absentee time and lost student and faculty productivity. Consider the dangers of volatile organic compounds, dust, and moisture when selecting materials. Keeping these indoor pollutants at a minimum will ensure a healthy indoor environment and improve the learning environment.

Consider also the composition of the materials and how recyclable, durable, and refinishable they are. Keeping each of these characteristics in mind when selecting materials, the building will provide better service and reduce maintenance and operating costs. Source building materials from local distributors and save transportation energy costs if possible.

Transportation costs are sometimes referred to as part of a material’s embodied cost (and energy). Purchase building materials with low embodied costs such as local regional certified wood harvested from sustainable and well-managed forests. Onsite waste reduction and reuse during demolition and construction can save money by reducing amount of money spent at landfill, and by reducing initial amount of money spent on new materials.  Save on labor costs by providing a Construction and Demolition waste plans before starting operations and identifying where to recycle materials and what materials to salvage.

Community

The location where a “High Performance School” is constructed impacts the surrounding community. It can affect pedestrian and automobile traffic; quantity and quality of open space in the neighborhood; location within the community; and may be used as a tool to revitalize a community.

Once the school site is determined, the school’s design, construction, and use should be considered. Aspects such as the exterior design, amenities that it may provide and environmental design features can be a source of pride to the community. Schools can be a center for teaching and learning, and also add functional value within the community by providing access to facilities and play fields, and services such as after-school daycare and extended education.

High performance design for schools can be a selling point in bond elections because energy, indoor air quality, and other improvements translate to more comfortable classrooms for students, reduced energy bills, and lower operating and maintenance costs. Schools become healthier learning environments, reduce waste, and have less impact on the environment. Good indoor environmental quality has been proven to increase average daily attendance of students.

Faculty & Student Performance in High Performance Schools

Challenges include: tight budgets; an ever-increasing student enrollment; growing need for the renovation and building of many schools; higher expectation of faculty and student performance among these compelling circumstances. Sustainable schools can have a favorable impact on the school’s budget; help protect our environment; and encourage better performance of faculty and students as a result of a better learning environment.

“High Performance Schools” integrate today’s best technologies with architectural design strategies to achieve a better learning environment. These include: lighting – integration of daylighting and electrical lighting technologies; reduced noise levels by using acoustic materials and low-noise mechanical systems; healthy air quality, temperature, humidity levels – indoor air quality; thermal comfort; HVAC systems; low-emission materials; and reduce distractions and create environments where students and teachers can see and communicate with one another clearly and comfortably.

Commissioning

Without properly commissioning a school, many sustainable design elements can be compromised. In the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Guideline, The Commissioning Process is defined as follows: “The Commissioning Process is a quality-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of facilities, systems, and assemblies meet defined objectives and criteria. The Commissioning Process begins at project inception (during the pre-design phase) and continues for the life of the facility through the occupancy and operation phase. The commissioning process includes specific tasks to be conducted during each phase in order to verify that design, construction, and training meets the Owner’s Project Requirements.” By implementing a commissioning plan, a school can be sure that all of the systems function at optimum levels.

Facilities Performance Evaluation

Building and its systems are tested one year after completion and occupancy. Surveys are conducted to evaluate the satisfaction of occupants and maintenance and operations personnel. Alert school to system operational performance errors and potential hazards created by poorly operating systems. These problems can be corrected.

Data can be provided to school districts on what building attributes do and don’t work for their schools. Schools can develop guidelines and protocols that can help create better schools in the future.

Key Benefits of a High Performance School

Benefits include higher test scores, increased average daily attendance, increased teacher satisfaction and retention, reduced liability exposure, and sustainable school design.

Financing and incentives

Total construction costs for high performance schools are often the same as costs for conventional schools. Design costs may be slighting higher, but resulting capital and long-term operation costs can be lower. Properly designed day lit school with reduced electrical lighting usage can permit downsized cooling equipment. Even when construction costs are higher, resulting annual operational cost savings can pay for the additional upfront in a short period of time. High performance schools are falsely understood to be high-budget construction projects. Schools can find ways to finance a school beyond the State Allocation Board process. A collection of financial incentives in relation to energy, water, materials, siting, green building, landscaping and transportation from the Federal, State, Local, and Utility sectors may be available.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post.  We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.

 


Architecture Resources

Blogs:

Young Architect!
Michael Riscica’s blog aims to teach and help other Young Architects be more successful in their personal, academic and professional careers.  He does that by sharing in full disclosure what I did to become a Licensed Architect with the many successes and failures along the way.

Business of Architecture
A site for Architects about running a better business.

Death by Architecture
Death By Architecture (DBA) began in 1995 as the personal web page of Mario Cipresso, an undergraduate architecture student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. By 1997 Death By Architecture had become the preeminent site for architecture competition information on the internet.

EntreArchitect
At EntreArchitect, our mission is simple: To help you build a better business, so you can be a better architect. A better business starts with planning for profit.

Life of an Architect
A Blog about being or working with Architects.

Green Roof Florida & Arid, Hot, Dry World Food & Green Roofs
Green Roofs for Florida & the Arid, Dry Climates. Green Roof Plants and Green Roof System Design for dry, hot, humid and windy ecosystems. MetroVerde Permaculture Green Roofs – Green Roofs Grow Food, Clean Stormwater, Create Habitat and Reduce Carbon Footprint.

Websites:

WJM Architect
An interactive website by a friend and Architectural colleague, William J. Martin, AIA.

Standards:

Whole Building Design Guide
A robust gateway to up-to-date information on integrated ‘whole building’ design techniques and technologies. The WBDG is the only web-based portal providing government and industry practitioners with one-stop access to up-to-date information on a wide range of building-related guidance, criteria and technology from a ‘whole buildings’ perspective. Currently organized into three major categories—Design Guidance, Project Management and Operations & Maintenance—at the heart of the WBDG are Resource Pages, reductive summaries on particular topics.

Residential Cost Calculator
A residential cost estimator tool by my friend and Architectural colleague, William J. Martin, AIA.