Before last week, I (like most) had never stepped foot in a high performance school. It wasn’t futuristic in terms of its aesthetics, no chrome-plated walls or robots roving through the corridors. However, it was futuristic in the sense that it carefully considered the health of the students, their learning atmosphere, and our environment as a whole. This CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) verified institution represents a new type of school aimed at achieving the golden standard for educational facilities. CHPS is an organization that sets a rigorous and comprehensive standard for school’s to follow during construction and renovation to not only enhance the school’s level of energy efficiency but also to boost the overall quality of the learning environment.
On June 18th, Carolyn Sarno Goldthwaite and I met a film crew at the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School (Southeastern High School) to record a video case study of a high performance school in action. Recent renovations allowed Southeastern High School to incorporate innovative features to reduce operational costs, improve indoor air quality and minimize environmental impact. Located in South Easton, Massachusetts, this school appears to be a typical, modern high school upon first glance.
As we explored the school’s many new components, such as LED lighting, rooftop solar panels, and a wind turbine, my initial impressions quickly faded. This school clearly has more than meets the eye. The school was able to significantly reduce its energy usage by installing a tri-generation power plant, one of the more prominent energy efficiency features. Generating power on-site reduces the monthly energy bill by $16,000, according to Jim Tassinari, Director of Facilities at Southeastern Regional High School.
Aside from the myriad of energy elements and beyond the confines of the school’s walls, located adjacent to the athletic fields are greenhouses, raised garden beds and an orchard. From these gardens come various fruits and vegetables which are later used by the culinary program. One of the exemplary designs on the interior of the building is the new library which was constructed at the location of the old gymnasium. Developers were able to reuse some of the gym’s old building materials – a method laid out in CHPS criteria – to limit the amount of new wood used during renovations. Chairs and desks in the library are locally sourced to further reduce the environmental impact. By the end of the day, it was clear that students and staff members were reaping the benefits of the retrofits on a daily basis.
Thanks to CHPS, the future of schools is now! For a closer look at Southeastern High School, stay tuned for the video which will be released in the coming weeks…
Update: The Southeastern Regional video exemplar is now available and can be seen here.