One of the Newest CPS Schools is Also the Greenest

Goode5By Matt Baker

The Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy opened its doors in 2012, but it doesn’t have a single student. Here, pupils are “innovators.” As its name suggests, the high school specializes in science, technology, engineering and math. These are the areas of study from which future jobs are likely to spring; this is where future innovation lies.

But the students aren’t the only innovators involved, as one of the newest Chicago public schools is also the greenest. Located in Chicago’s Ashburn community, Sarah E. Goode STEM has been recognized with several awards, including an Excellence in Engineering Award from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The school has also been certified LEED Platinum by the USGBC—a first in the state.

Goode3Goode1As with all city property under the purview of the Public Buildings Commission (PBC), Goode Academy was designed with sustainability in mind. At LEED Platinum, however, the school was constructed to an even higher standard than is usual for Chicago municipal buildings. The PBC selected STR Partners and NIA Architects to collaborate on the design; dbHMS performed as MEP engineers while Jacobs/Ryan Associates handled the landscape architecture. FH Paschen was the general contractor.

“This project should serve as a model for sustainable design and underscores how innovative thinking, an integrated design process and the use of green technology results in benefits to the environment, the students and our communities,” said Erin Lavin Cabonargi, Executive Director of the PBC.

Designing to such a high standard began with the site. The area near 77th & Homan was a brownfield, the location of a long-since demolished food manufacturing facility. After site remediation, the city block was divided in two, with half the block allocated for the school. Goode Academy’s 207,000 square feet are therefore compressed into a 3-story structure, using convertible spaces such as a gym/auditorium.

A solar thermal water heating system on the roof provides 18% of water heating energy for the school annually, including both domestic water use and the pool. The system consists of 19 roof-mounted, evacuated tube collector panels and 800 gallons of storage. External heat exchangers maximize the thermal water heating system’s efficiency.

In addition to the on-site solar energy generation, Goode Academy is home to the Chicago Public School district’s only ground-source heat pump system, which maximizes air-handling efficiency using 170 boreholes dug 450 feet deep. Outside air is ducted to the geothermal system and energy recovery ventilation, in this case an enthalpy wheel design, ensures that very little heat is lost in the exchange. Custom ground-source heat pumps also service the gymnasium and dehumidify the pool deck.

Goode2Circulating pumps and three-way condenser valves on each packaged heat pump allow for optimal control of condenser water. This design cut costs involved with pipe installation and further saves money by minimizing pump energy needs. “Designed specifically for this project, the condenser water piping arrangement is now offered as a standard accessory by the heat pump manufacturer,” STR Partners said in a statement.

The geothermal system cut costs and energy use in other ways too. Building height, and therefore materials, was reduced by the smaller ductwork and absence of a mechanical penthouse. “The project was actually rejected for a federal grant,” stated STR Partners, “as it cost less than the conventional system.” The cost saved by reducing construction helped to offset the geothermal system, while the ground-source heat pumps lower the overall HVAC energy operations by an estimated 20%.

Energy generation is only one prong in the two-part offense on energy consumption. Energy efficiency is the other and Goode Academy is replete with energy-saving technologies, especially when it comes to lighting. Most lights in the school, for example, are controlled by occupancy sensors; classrooms go further with automatic dimming controls when daylight enters the space.

Goode4The school also has several water-saving technologies in place. Low flow fixtures are attached to showers, toilets and urinals, for example, but the profoundest technology is the filtration system on the pool. The most widely used filters (and not coincidentally, those with the cheapest upfront cost) use sand to clean the water. One key process in filtering pool water is “backwashing,” which in a pool the size of Goode Academy’s would mean discharging between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of water per week. This is a waste not just of water, but of the heat and treatment chemicals that went into it.

The school opted for a regenerative media filter that cost twice as much at installation. But the significant water and energy savings will pay back the extra cost quickly. Instead of sand, these filters generally use either perlite or diatomaceous earth, and each weekly backwash results in between 300 and 400 gallons—an order of magnitude lower than the alternative.

The most visible water-saving feature of the school is the cistern in the community garden. Non-potable rainwater diverts from the roof over cascading stainless steel disks, creating a waterfall effect before the water enters the cistern. The stored rainwater can then be used for irrigation in the community garden.

The community garden is far from the only open green space on the school grounds. Rain gardens and permeable pavers around the property retain stormwater runoff. Native plantings mitigate the need for irrigation and signage educates the “innovators,” faculty and visitors about the plant species surrounding them, as well as the importance of maintaining unique and diverse ecosystems.

Goode6Roughly 50% of the roof area features vegetation, some of which is visible to building occupants. The green roof serves the usual functions of insulation, stormwater retention and minimization of the urban heat island effect, but also goes a step further. One section is designated as a bird sanctuary. “There are varying levels of vegetation, bird houses and dead trees anchored to the roof to promote the habitat,” stated STR Partners.

Recycled and/or locally-sourced materials make up much of the building. Bricks and concrete masonry units were sourced locally, as was the glazing used for the building exterior. The majority of recycled content used on-site was structural steel, though carpet tiles, drywall and terrazzo flooring all make use of recycled materials as well.

The school serves a densely-populated residential neighborhood, but it also sits at the edge of an industrial corridor. The designers were keen to ensure that the new property was a true asset to the neighborhood. With that in mind, the property was developed as a park-like atmosphere, welcoming the community to gather and make use of the outdoor spaces. The building itself was also designed to accommodate community events unrelated to school functions. The library, multipurpose gym/auditorium and pool can all be made available separate from the rest of the school for use by the neighborhood.

Photos: Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing

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