Currently experiencing a population boom, Arlington County is facing massive growth in the next decade and is seeking to add half a million square feet in educational facilities. During competitive design procurement, one of the teams suggested a zero energy goal could be accomplished within the given budget. Proponents at the district level who had been championing energy efficiency were receptive because sustainability was a core value of the project from the start, but they were skeptical that it could be done within the budget aimed at LEED Silver. Not only did the project end up coming under budget, including the solar array, but the building is more efficient than originally predicted.
“Building assessment” is done to evaluate current building status and provide recommendations for future consideration. Typically, the core areas of building assessment are the capacity/robustness of the physical infrastructure, the suitability of the learning environment, the use of public space, the flexibility of spaces and uses, etc. Very often, building assessment focuses on the immediate needs of the building and overlooks goals such as energy performance, maintenance, and ongoing operations. Some key questions to ask during building assessment are: Is the site suitable? Is zero energy feasible in your climate? Can the budget accommodate envelope upgrades?
The answers may surprise you! Zero energy schools have been built on many types of sites, in most climate zones, and on very tight budgets. To help assess feasibility for your project, check out these case studies and other resources.
The most important key to achieving a zero energy school and maintaining its performance is finding one or more champions with the vision, passion, persistence, and powers of persuasion to lead the project.
A clear but flexible communications strategy is essential. The benefits of zero energy are likely to appeal to different stakeholder groups in different ways, so be sure you understand the unique advantages for students, teachers, taxpayers, and others.
- Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel Schools Stakeholder Engagement Session, Edmonton, Alberta
- Stakeholder engagement and behaviour key to managing energy
You may be accustomed to a design-bid-build process, but this is not ideal for a zero energy school. Some form of Construction Manager at Risk (CMR) or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach is most likely to result in a school that achieves and sustains zero energy performance.
Regardless of the process that makes sense for your situation, it’s essential to write an RFP that clearly supports the energy goals of the project. The procurement process drives all the decisions that are made, and by whom. It shows the level of commitment to hit the end goal.
- Energy-Performance-Based Acquisition for Commercial Buildings
- How-To Guide for Energy-Performance-Based Procurement
Collaboration is central to achieving the low energy use intensity necessary for zero energy schools. Finding synergies through integrated design is not just an enhancement but an essential strategy.
Though there are some common technical strategies for achieving such low EUIs, a committed, collaborative, and integrated process is required of the project team that will plan, design, construct, and operate a zero energy school. Each project requires an innovative team and a customized solution.
- Roadmap for the Integrated Design Process
- Zero Energy Schools: Architects Take the Lead
- Engage the Integrated Design Process