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VOL. 37 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 7, 2013

Schools get in on LEED certification

By Stephanie Toone

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An East Nashville middle school once marred by mold, asbestos and age is set to receive an almost full facelift that will add it to the list of Metro Nashville Public School’s “greenest” buildings.

Highland Heights, the Douglas Avenue building that most recently housed KIPP Academy Charter School for grades 5-8, is slated to become a LEED-Silver Certified building.

“The cost savings alone makes LEED the best option,” says Claire Pitt, project manager for contractor R.G. Anderson Company.

“The building will be overall more efficient by recycling 75 percent of the building debris for other construction projects, the recycled drywall [will be used], and the pervious parking lot [will] conserve water,” she says.

The front half of the school represents the largest repurposed element of the project, Pitt says. The wall and roof structure of the school’s front will be retained in the rehabbed building.

Metro Schools are following the trend of schools systems nationwide seeking to take advantage of the cost-savings and educational benefits of building LEED-certified schools, says Tiffany Wilmot, president of Nashville’s Wilmot Inc., a building sustainability consulting firm.

“Tennessee and Nashville is really trying to increase the way we handle education, because clean, efficient and high-performing buildings should be a place for our children,” Wilmot adds. “When kids are in a school where they can breathe, the lighting is improved, they do better.”

In 2007, Metro Council passed a law requiring all Metro buildings 5,000 square feet or larger with construction costs of more than $2 million be certified.

Highland Heights, a neighborhood school building that was placed on Historic Nashville’s nine most endangered landmarks in 2011, would eventually be the fourth Metro school building to achieve silver status, according to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council’s directory. Others are Wharton School, Julia Green Elementary and Madison Middle.

Montgomery Bell Academy has a gold-certified building, the highest level, on its campus.

The Green Building Council uses the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) point system to verify green buildings seeking to achieve various levels of energy and water efficiency by design. Fifteen schools in Middle Tennessee, 12 of those Metro School facilities, have been awarded the LEED designation.

Built in the 1930s, Highland Heights will be reborn as an energy-efficient, redesigned 96,000 square foot building with 43 classrooms.

The school will house nearly 1,000 KIPP Academy students. The $13.9 million renovation should be complete in time for the opening of school in 2015, Metro Schools spokeswoman Kina Cleveland says.

Maynard Select Geothermal and Solar will install a geothermal heating and cooling system that reduces the greatest operational cost to any school system – energy costs, says Mike Lilly, Maynard Select’s general manager.

The energy-efficient HVAC system uses the temperature of the ground as a barometer.

“The 60-70 percent saved by using a geothermal system is money that can go back into other important parts of education,” Lilly explains.

LEED-certified schools are devoid of VOC – volatile organic compounds – carcinogens found in the paints and carpeting of older buildings that have been connected with student illnesses, Wilmot adds.

Other changes in energy-efficient schools like natural lighting, classroom-controlled temperature controls and removal of mold and mildew result in healthier students.