The Environmental Sustainability of our New Building
by Grace Pacelle • Class of 2017
There’s no doubt that humans are injuring the earth, and many wonder how much longer the earth can stand human impact. The need for sustainable and energy efficient buildings is becoming essential. Thankfully, Concord Carlisle High School’s new building has taken steps to become one of the most environmentally friendly public schools in Massachusetts.
The building requires significantly less energy than required by the old building. When walking inside, one quickly notices the new building’s airy and bright feel. In order to maximize sun exposure, the building is oriented along its east-west axis. Sunshades control the lighting in the classrooms, while light fixtures hang from the ceiling above. Photo sensors dim or brighten the lights, depending on how much natural light is available at the moment. The three large atriums, located above the third floor’s breakout spaces, let in natural light that fills the hallways and classrooms. Ultimately, the school uses thousands fewer kilowatt hours of electricity than was used by the old school building by utilizing natural light and adopting light usage regulation technology. The building has also committed to Energy Star efficient appliances, which greatly reduces energy usage. The building’s predicted energy use is 18-37% less than that of the old school building.
The building’s multi-story design is also environmentally friendly. The compact new building has a building footprint–the area of ground occupied by the building– significantly smaller than that of the old school building. This allows for storm water management, space for playing fields, and the flow of pedestrians and vehicles. During the building and landscaping of the building, no outside soil was brought on site, decreasing impurities introduced into the local environment.
The air quality in the new building far exceeds that of the old building. 100% fresh air is silently, constantly circulated into the classrooms. The building has an excellent building envelope– the physical separator between the inside and outside of the building– to keep heat in, and this decreases energy needed to control air temperature. To further boost heat insulation, heat is captured in a turbine system on the roof.
The building also has many other sustainable features. The building is constructed with materials of high recycled content, lessening the demand from landfills. In bathrooms, paper towel waste is reduced with the installation of hand dryers. CCHS uses water efficient appliances in the bathrooms, labs, classrooms, and the kitchen, reducing water use by 20% compared to the old school. Hydration stations have been installed throughout the building that provide an easy way to fill reusable water bottles, decreasing plastic water bottle waste.
The new building’s many energy efficient and sustainable features are part of what makes our school exceptional. While most architects rarely say a building could last more than 50 years, CCHS’s new building is expected to last well beyond that. Thanks to the many remarkable construction workers, architects, committee members, and others, CCHS will be reducing waste and saving money, water, and energy for a long time to come.