'Green spaceship' an icon for sustainable school

November 01, 2004 |

Soon after moving into the Lake Zurich (Ill.) Elementary/Middle School in January, students christened the building the "green spaceship" because of the curving green copper panel exterior at the main entrance. Making the name even more fitting are the sustainable features of this $28 million facility, which accommodates 1,300 students in two separate building blocks — kindergarten through fifth grade and grades six through eight.

Shared space is maximized in the 218,000-sf building to save energy and avoid wasting materials. Housed within the egg-shaped sloping glass and pre-patinated copper panels, the school library is divided between the elementary and middle school. This shared space also includes a presentation center and a cafetorium, with glass walls, which look out onto an outdoor courtyard.

"Natural light touches every major space in the building," says John Gresko, project architect for designer Legat Architects, Waukegan, Ill. Classrooms offer optimal north/south exposure on the project, which included New York-based Bovis Lend Lease as CM. Low-e window coating, solar shades, and light shelves reduce glare and solar heat during warmer months and increase heat gain during winter, while maximizing daylight.

Operable windows and economizer cycles on air handling units fill classrooms with fresh air. The building also uses low-emitting materials, including low-VOC paints and adhesives, formaldehyde/CFC/HCFC-free foamed-in-place insulation, and chemical firestopping.

As part of the building's energy management system, an ice storage system manufactures ice at night when utility company rates are at their lowest. An energy recovery mechanical system extracts heat (or colder air) from return air to warm (or cool) and humidify air. High-efficiency boilers are 10% more efficient than standard boilers and high-efficiency filters within air-handling units are more than twice as efficient as the average building, according to Legat.

Although the school site is located on 31 acres of largely vacant farmland, construction avoided two large wetland areas.

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