How do you teach young people the importance of environmental stewardship? You build a school based on smart, sustainable design principles. That’s just what Iredell County, NC, did when it opened the doors of Third Creek Elementary, Statesville, NC, on Aug. 5, 2002.
With the population of the metro Charlotte area growing rapidly, it became imperative that construction begin on a new K-12 school – a facility to replace two 60-year-old-plus school buildings. When the discussion commenced on the topic of the new building, the community, parents, and faculty became involved. Even some of the school board members had distinct ideas about the new school – one individual in particular, Mary Bruce McKenzie Serene, a Statesville citizen and mother. “I think it’s important that we use every teaching method that we can for children to make them better citizens and certainly being in a building that is an environmentally friendly building is a good thing for students for a lot of different reasons. If it can be done within the same dollars that you would spend on conventional buildings, I don’t see any reason not to,” Serene says. With sustainability in mind, the team used the USGBC’s LEED rating system as a guideline.
An effective storm water runoff program was initiated at the school, and includes a constructed wetland that filters suspended solids in rainwater before it leaves the site and goes into Third Creek, keeping the school from polluting water downstream. Grant applications have gone out in order to increase the size of botanical gardens on-site. “The teachers are just amazed. They are integrating into the standard course of study ecology issues, recycling issues, or garden issues,” says Rob Jackson, construction manager, Iredell/Statesville Schools, Statesville, NC.
The environmental commitment is obvious from the investment in sustainable building products at Third Creek Elementary. Materials containing recycled content accounted for 50 percent of the dollars spent on building materials. “The ceramic tiles, the carpets that were selected, [and] the fabrics that covered sound panels and operable partitions all had high recycled content,” says Chris Venable, vice president, Moseley Architects, Raleigh, NC. The building’s envelope incorporated an insulation product with a high R-value that is made from recycled newspapers. “The casework is made from wheatboard substrate rather than particle board, and the benefit of that is the wheat is a rapidly renewable material,” Venable explains.
Water conservation was a priority at Third Creek Elementary. “To save water, we used low-flow fixtures, metered-type faucets, and waterless urinals,” says Venable. These strategies and systems will reduce water consumption at the school by more than 30 percent. Systems that maximized efficiency, including highly reflective glazing, light shelves, and daylight optimization strategies, helped the building reduce the amount of energy consumed. “We have occupancy sensors in each room and if someone goes out of the room for more than 10 minutes, the lights go out,” says Jackson. Additionally, classrooms have two sets of lighting, giving instructors the options to turn off banks of light when the daylight is sufficient. “The daylight comes in on a light shelf, it projects the light onto a highly reflective ceiling, and then broadcasts [light] throughout the room,” Jackson explains. The school is expected to exceed ASHRAE 90.1-1999 requirements by approximately 25 percent.
The creation of a Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan ensured that indoor air quality would not be compromised during the construction process. “During construction, we had the contractor do things to protect the ductwork from being contaminated,” says Venable, “[so that] the dust and dirt generated from construction would not be in the system and eventually blown out and into the lungs of occupants.” Low- or no-VOC materials and installation processes were selected to maintain a superior learning environment for the school’s 800 students.
Productivity enhancing, environmentally friendly, operational efficiency – the building definitely makes the grade. And that’s not just rhetoric either.