Middle School Design Snags Top Honors from Sustainable Buildings Industry Council

Middle School Design Snags Top Honors from Sustainable Buildings Industry Council

Innovative Design, a Raleigh-based architectural firm, has been selected by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC) as its first place winner of the 2005 Exemplary Sustainable Building Awards. The firm won the juried, national award for the energy- and water-efficient, environmentally sound Heritage Middle School, located in Wake Forest, N.C.

Wake County Schools' 150,000 square foot Heritage Middle School incorporates an extensive array of green, whole-building design elements including a rainwater collection system that annually saves 1.8 million gallons of water, extensive daylighting throughout the school that reduces lighting needs by 43% and peak cooling loads by 24%, a one acre constructed wetland that minimizes runoff and nitrogen from entering nearby streams, a 250 square foot solar thermal system that heats water for the cafeteria, school-wide recycling, and numerous green products and materials. Despite the comprehensive green strategies, the school was built $1.4 million under budget.

The school design was recognized by jurors for its excellent daylighting strategies that provide glare-free natural light to all the classrooms, gymnasium, cafeteria, band room, choir room, and media center. Mike Nicklas, FAIA, President of Innovative Design, describes the daylighting: "The reasons for incorporating the daylighting strategies are many. First, the lights are off over two-thirds of the time and the sunlight, which is brought into the spaces in very controlled ways, is full-spectrum. This results in considerable energy savings and provides the students and teachers with better light quality and a healthier indoor environment. It’s just easier for the students to read. Daylighting has proven to result in higher attendance and better performance. You can’t underestimate the importance of the physical environment to student performance. If we create pollutant-free, healthy, daylit spaces, everyone is going to perform better. That’s exactly what we have done at Heritage Middle School." The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction rated Heritage Middle School as a “School of Distinction,” and it was the second highest in the state for improved grades in 2004.

To aid in experiential learning, the sustainable measures integrated into the building have been designed as 3-D teaching tools. The photovoltaic system and a weather station will be monitored by students, allowing them to better understand the economic and environmental benefits as well as how solar energy works. Foot paths allow science classes to enter the constructed wetland to study plant and animal life. And the sundial keeps the students in touch with the seasonally changing sun’s path.

Wake County Public School System has been promoting sustainable design through the use of Triangle J Council of Government’s High Performance Guidelines, a locally modified version of the LEED rating system. The Heritage Middle School and Millbrook Elementary, another school designed by Innovative Design, are Wake County Schools’ only “gold” rated buildings. Heritage Middle is also recognized by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a part of its Energy Star program.