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Site Visit: Denver Public School’s First LEED Gold Campus

Posted on the 08 November 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Site Visit: Denver Public School’s First LEED Gold CampusA week and a half ago, I attended the US Green Building Council Colorado Chapter’s Green School Summit. For my notes on the conference, click here. Held on the 35-acre Evie Garrett Dennis E-12, early childhood through 12th grade, though there is also a 2 year program on the campus (for nursing and other career tracks), campus, I had the opportunity to tour the facility. Opened last year, the campus is Denver Public School’s (DPS) first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified structure. The entire campus, which currently consists of five buildings with a sixth scheduled for the coming year, earned LEED certification. While the school hasn’t officially received their certification yet, they are on pace to receive the Gold level certification.

According to DPS’s communications department, the project was well under budget.

The Evie Dennis Campus has been completed ahead of schedule and approximately $5.8 million under budget. Originally projected to house two schools, savings from the project funded by the voter-approved 2008 Bond Program have allowed for the design and build of a third school – Vista Academy, the district’s second Multiple Pathways Center, which is projected to open in Fall of 2011.

The new campus was intentionally designed to mimic a small college campus, including shared public spaces in the Student Union and new regional sports complex amenities for the district. The total cost of the project was $42.7 million.

Site Visit: Denver Public School’s First LEED Gold CampusThe school has signage throughout the buildings indicating the “green” features of the various structures, which helped the project earn points toward LEED certification. Cut outs of the wall expose the spray foam insulation with educational materials to teach occupants. See the image to the left. Many of the interior spaces are set up for flexibility, an important facet of “green schools.” This aspect allows for multiple users and various configurations, as opposed to one predetermined use (think bolted seats or permanent walls).

The cafeteria has high walls with lots of natural light. More significantly though, the kitchen is set up for cooking from scratch, which represents a change in policy for DPS. Plans down the road include a 10-acre garden, which may or may not be on the 35-acre campus. The food from the garden would then be used in the school’s kitchen. Site Visit: Denver Public School’s First LEED Gold CampusThe gymnasium, located in the Student Union, sits below the rest of building due to the slope of the campus.  As one can see in the picture to the left, the use of natural light is pervasive. The tour guide pointed out that there were no lights on to brighten up the space. Instead, light tubes, like those offered by Solatube, are the only source of light.

Daylighting, the use of natural light to illuminate interior spaces, is a key aspect of green schools. Studies have shown improved test scores in schools with daylighting. South facing windows have a coating to reduce glare, but allow light into the rooms. The ceiling, which is sloped, and white walls help natural light reach the back of the classroom. The picture at the top of the article is a shot of the exterior of one building. Though only two stories, there are four levels of windows. The upper windows for each floor provide the aforementioned light to reach deep into the interior. Unlike many institutional buildings, the classrooms each have an operable window for fresh air. Lastly, each classroom has an occupancy sensor for the heating-cooling system with its own heat pump, enabling independent controls from other spaces throughout the building. The sensor will turn of the heating-cooling system if the room sits unoccupied for a set amount of time. In addition, individual heat pumps are possible due to the geo-exchange system underneath the baseball and softball fields.

Site Visit: Denver Public School’s First LEED Gold CampusAlthough not visible from the ground level, a 300 kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system blankets the roof of two buildings. An interactive display (see the image to the left) depicts the energy generation from the solar panels. As a result of the energy production, two of the campus’s buildings are “net zero” structures. Both of these features – the net zero and PV system – led to the four school buildings (not including the Student Union) having the lowest energy consumption of all Denver Public Schools since the buildings came online.

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