Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. is leading the nation by example – receiving LEED Platinum certification as well as earning the highest score ever awarded under the LEED for Schools New Construction program.
The school, which was originally founded in 1870 as the nation’s first public high school for African-American students, scored 91 out of a possible 110 points, making it the most sustainable LEED-certified school in the world. Completed in 2013, the 280,000-square-foot facility serves 1,100 students and was designed by Perkins Eastman, a design and architecture firm.
The energy efficient design at Dunbar includes a massive 500,000 kW photovoltaic solar array that can produce enough energy on a sunny summer day to power every classroom light in the building for eight hours. Additional green features include the capitol’s biggest ground-source heat pump with 460-foot wells placed below the school’s athletic fields, two 20,000-gallon cisterns for stormwater reuse, stormwater quantity and quality controls, energy efficient low-E glass, sustainably harvested wood products, and strategies to divert up to 95% of waste. Low-flow systems throughout the facility are also expected to help conserve over 1.4 million gallons of potable water per year.
The design team worked to incorporate elements that would help improve the students’ learning environment, including enhanced acoustical design to allow students and teachers to hear each other more clearly, low-VOC materials, and plenty of sunlight. Additionally, faculty offices were included on each of the school’s levels to encourage more open communication between students and teachers.
While the energy and water savings are crucially important, Dunbar also demonstrates that LEED and other sustainable design strategies can have a dramatic impact on occupant behavior and productivity. After spending just one year in the new facility, students earned the highest standardized test scores of any school in the city for 2014.