As Michigan’s first net-zero energy, LEED Platinum certified school building, the Lenawee Intermediate School District’s (LISD) Center for a Sustainable Future (CSF) will provide students of all ages with hands-on learning opportunities through product development, demonstration, and active research in the rapidly growing areas of sustainable agriculture and alternative energy production.
As a net-zero energy school, the LISD CSF serves as an educational tool for LISD TECH Center programs and the Stubnitz Environmental Educational programs. Students gain real-world experience in managing, maintaining, and evaluating building automation systems.
For example, having all of the climate control components in one greenhouse provides a rare opportunity for students to work with the different systems under one roof and to conduct plant science experiments all year long – including how to grow food year round.
Students are introduced to sustainability concepts relevant to their programs: building healthy soil, conserving and protecting water, preserving biodiversity and food security, protecting human health and the environment. Students are encouraged to think critically about these options, carefully evaluating energy and agricultural practices.
The orientation of the school structure benefits from an earthberm, protecting it from north-westerly winter winds while opening to the passive solar opportunities facing south. Sun shades protect windows from the high angles of summer sun but allow winter sun angles to enter the building.
Solar tubes provide a balanced amount of daylight to the school’s interior. Each solar tube consists of a plastic dome that sits on the building’s roof and a reflective tube that carries the light inside. The tube that transports light is made of reflective material and can be bent to carry light to the space below.
Windows provide natural daylight, but because they are less efficient than other lighting methods used, they are primarily for outdoor views. The building uses all LED lighting fixtures which automatically dim to save energy when natural light is sufficient.
The LISD CSF has a 68kW photovoltaic generation system consisting of both ground and roof-mounted solar panels. The system generates all of the building’s electrical needs on an annual net-basis.
The LISD CSF models best practices for ecologically-responsible site and building design. Sustainable systems include a solar array, rain garden, demonstration plots, geothermal heating and cooling system, vegetative roof, and rainwater collection tank.
Curricular Impact: The diversity of ecosystems, large number of tillable acres, and farm equipment connects students to nature and real world agriculture experience.
The LISD CSF’s rainwater catchment system uses the rainwater collected from the school’s roof to irrigate demonstration plots and other plantings. Approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of roof area drains into a 10,000 gallon underground water storage tank. In times of low rainfall, the system is supplemented by the potable well water system.
All plumbing fixtures specified for this project are “low flow” fixtures. The CSF restrooms use approximately 45% less water than a typical restroom.
Curricular Impact: The water conservation systems provide students with experience collecting and reusing rainwater, experimenting with native plants to reduce soil erosion, and landscape designs to capture and recharge ground water supplies.
The LISD CSF features a geothermal heating and cooling system which uses 400-foot deep wells to transfer heat to and from the ground in order to condition the building.
Temperatures are controlled by occupancy sensors in each classroom to minimize energy usage when spaces are unoccupied. The greenhouse and school vestibules feature radiant floor heating systems which use hot water piping embedded in the concrete floor.
Curricular Impact: The photovoltaic and geothermal systems provide students the experience of working with these increasingly common renewable energy systems. Real time data collection will inform instruction about alternative energy and green building techniques.