Colorado Springs, CO 80915
When the design team began planning for Colorado Springs School District 11's Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, the team knew it had to meet specific objectives—74 pages of design objectives, to be exact.
District 11 requires all school designs to meet rigorous sustainability targets, which are laid out in the design guidelines. The district also started setting energy performance targets for McAuliffe early in the design phase, and these efforts paid off. In 2007, the school achieved Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR certification, and in 2009, the operating school earned the ENERGY STAR label.
The district was selective in choosing a metric for measuring its energy targets. Administrators were committed to energy efficiency, but they were also committed to fiscal responsibility. They eventually decided to use the EPA energy performance rating because they felt that its associated tools—such as Target Finder and Portfolio Manager—were most effective in setting performance targets and ensuring that the operating school met those targets. These EPA tools were also the only resources that met the district's criteria and were available at no cost.
District Energy Manager Thomas Fernandez was also committed to rethinking the design process. He said that he wanted to avoid the "traditional design hierarchy," which he defined as owners dictating budget and scope, architects designing form and function around the owner's specifications, and the engineers designing the mechanical and electrical systems around the architect's plans. For McAuliffe, Fernandez wanted owners, architects, and engineers to work together from the project's inception. Instead of inserting HVAC and lighting systems to the design as an afterthought, architects designed the school around HVAC and lighting systems in an effort to prioritize energy efficiency.
Fernandez visited some of the nation's top-performing schools to learn from their successes. As a result, the design includes an intelligent building automation system, which calculates the exact time each system must start to reach required capacity by the beginning of the school day. The school also uses heat recovery ventilation, which captures heat from exhaust air before it exits the building and reuses it to temper incoming fresh air.
"Studies have shown that students learn more, perform better, and attend more often, when they are schooled in a sustainable building," Superintendent Dr. Norman F. Ridder wrote in his introduction to the district's Sustainable Design Guidelines. McAuliffe, it seems, is designed to give students a head start.