flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

Massachusetts’ first net-positive energy public school opens

K-12 Schools

Massachusetts’ first net-positive energy public school opens

Part of the town of Westborough’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 16, 2021
Annie E. Fales Elementary School lets in lots of natural light. Images: Ed Wonsek
The design and construction of the Annie E. Fales Elementary School include rooms that let in lots of natural light and outside views. Images: Ed Wonsek

Yesterday, the town of Westborough, Mass., opened the 70,242-sf Annie E. Fales Elementary School, which is the state’s first net-positive energy public school.

The two-story building replaces the original school—also named after a beloved school teacher who spent most of her 50-year career in Westborough—that’s on the same premises and which closed its doors after the town determined that new construction was a better option than trying to upgrade and remodel a 58-year-old building for a growing local population.

HMFH Architects designed the new school, which accommodates 400 kindergarten-through-3rd grade students, with five classrooms per grade plus one float classroom. It was built by Gilbane Building Company. The project cost was $56.8 million, of which $45 million was for construction.

This all-electric school consumes less than two-thirds of the energy used by a comparable code-compliant building. Its sustainable features include triple-glazed windows, roof and wall insulation that’s 40 percent above code requirements, 40 660-ft-deep geothermal close-loop wells, a 25,000-sf 508-kW solar PV array that’s integrated into the exterior architecture, LED lighting, high-efficiency mechanical systems designed to improve air quality, and a building management system that monitors and controls the mechanicals and lighting.

The ground-floor public spaces—including the cafeteria, gym, and administrative offices—are built into the hillside to reduce heat loss and gain through exterior walls. The second-floor teaching spaces have a north-south orientation that allows for windows and skylights to provide natural light and views to the outdoors.



The school accommodates 400 students
There's ample space for the 400 students the school accommodates.

The school is expected to generate 10 percent more energy than it uses, which the town will return to the electric grid. Westborough has set a goal to be carbon emissions free by 2035. The town’s environmental stewardship “encouraged the design and construction management team to aim high and go beyond a net-zero energy goal and create a school that will inspire other communities to do the same,” said Julia Nugent, AIA, Principal and Project Leader with HMFH Architects.

The school, which is shooting for LEED Gold and LEED Zero certifications, is a learning tool itself, with exhibits and visuals to educate students and visitors about the natural environment and sustainable practices.

The Vertex Companies was the town’s project manager for the new school, which is the second K-12 school that Gilbane has constructed for Westborough, the first being a 110,000-sf Sarah Gibbons Middle School, completed in 2017.

Related Stories

K-12 Schools | Jun 5, 2023

How to achieve cost-effective kindergarten classrooms

Educational architect Robin Randall shares realistic advice about the challenges of adding developmentally appropriate, play-based kindergarten classrooms while respecting budget limitations.

K-12 Schools | May 30, 2023

K-12 school sector trends for 2023

Budgeting and political pressures aside, the K-12 school building sector continues to evolve. Security remains a primary objective, as does offering students more varied career options. 

K-12 Schools | May 25, 2023

From net zero to net positive in K-12 schools

Perkins Eastman’s pursuit of healthy, net positive schools goes beyond environmental health; it targets all who work, teach, and learn inside them.

K-12 Schools | May 22, 2023

The revival of single-building K-12 schools

Schools that combine grades PK through 12 are suddenly not so uncommon. Education sector experts explain why. 

K-12 Schools | May 17, 2023

Designing K-12 schools for students and safety

While bullying, mental health, and other acts of violence are all too common in schools today, designers have shown that smart and subtle preventive steps can make a big difference. Clark Nexsen’s Becky Brady shares how prevention and taking action at the design level can create safe and engaging learning environments. 

K-12 Schools | May 12, 2023

In Virginia, a new high school building helps reimagine the experience for 1,600 students

In Virginia, the City of Alexandria recently celebrated the topping out of a new building for Alexandria City High School. When complete in 2025, the high-performance structure will accommodate 1,600 students. 

Sustainability | Apr 20, 2023

13 trends, technologies, and strategies to expect in 2023

Biophilic design, microgrids, and decarbonization—these are three of the trends, technologies, and strategies IMEG’s market and service leaders believe are poised to have a growing impact on the built environment.

K-12 Schools | Apr 18, 2023

ASHRAE offers indoor air quality guide for schools

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has released a guide for educators, administrators, and school districts on indoor air quality. The guide can be used as a tool to discuss options to improve indoor air quality based on existing HVAC equipment, regional objectives, and available funding. 

K-12 Schools | Apr 13, 2023

Creating a sense of place with multipurpose K-12 school buildings

Multipurpose buildings serve multiple program and functional requirements. The issue with many of these spaces is that they tend not to do any one thing well.

Market Data | Apr 11, 2023

Construction crane count reaches all-time high in Q1 2023

Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver top the list of U.S/Canadian cities with the greatest number of fixed cranes on construction sites, according to Rider Levett Bucknall's RLB Crane Index for North America for Q1 2023.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

K-12 Schools

K-12 school sector trends for 2023

Budgeting and political pressures aside, the K-12 school building sector continues to evolve. Security remains a primary objective, as does offering students more varied career options. 

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021