SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS: Net Zero Energy School in Staten Island

This December, leaders of nations from across the globe will meet in Paris for COP21, the latest UN Conference on Climate Change. 82 countries have already submitted their pledges, and even though these non-binding proposals are a step in the right direction, they are estimated to still put our planet on track for an increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, which will have a significant effect on our climate and way of life.

We must use the technology available to us to transition to a more sustainable way of living, and we are starting to see this evolution take place. Here on the UEP blog, we want to focus on different examples of how clean technology can promote sustainable living, much like our zinc-manganese dioxide batteries.

This week we begin with P.S. 62, the first ever net-zero school in New York City designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which opened for classes this month in Staten Island:

This school is one of the first of it's kind in the world. For those wondering, Net-Zero means that not only does the 3.5 acre, 68,068 sq ft facility use a large amount of renewable energy, but it actually creates as much energy as it uses each year, leaving virtually no footprint on the environment. The project is considered the NYC School Construction Authority's first "Sustainability Lab." and offers a 50% decrease in energy usage over the standard NYC public school.

As you can imagine, this is quite the engineering task requiring many sustainable design features. Here is a list,  found on the project website:

  • Photovoltaic arrays on both the roof and south facade
  • Energy recovery ventilators and demand-control ventilation
  • Ultra-tight high-performance building envelope
  • Solar thermal system for hot water
  • Horizontal deep-set clerestory and vision windows in south facade, which shades glass from solar heat gain, while providing panoramic views.
  • Precast rainscreen panels on east, west, and north facades which form tight encolsure to minimize air infiltration
  • Efficient light fixtures with dimming and daylight harvesting capabilities
  • Greenhouse and vegetable garden

All classrooms and other learning spaces are conveniently placed on the north or south side, to maximize the effect of natural sunlight, further minimizing energy usage.

Another interesting feature is that each room will have a smart board which will display how much energy is being used in each room, which will help the 444 elementary school students learn about sustainable living:

According to SOM, the goal of these digital scorecards is to "create a friendly competition among the students about which classes are saving more energy. Math and science teachers will be encouraged to work this data into their instruction."

Here are more pictures of the stunning project, featured on the website: