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Green School Makes the Grade

Green School Makes the Grade


St. Patrick and the USBC Would Approve

By Clare Desmond, Contributing Writer

The significance of the underground find by an electrical contractor during renovation of an empty office building, later to serve as St. Patrick's North Campus School in Brighton, would not have been lost on the school's namesake. Mythology credits St. Patrick for plucking a three-leafed clover, a shamrock, from the ground to explain the Christian belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to pagan Ireland. While laying conduit underground, the electrical work-er found a twig shaped in the form of a crucifix. For weeks, the twig drew atten-tion sitting on the desk of Dan Hough, superintendent for Contracting Resources Inc., Brighton, general contractor/construction manager on the project. Hough gave the cruciform twig to Lorelei Darga, principal of the elementary school, and it now occupies a place of prominence above the entry door to the school's chapel, framed in a surround of painted sham-rocks.

In many ways, the found twig symbol-izes this project, which rehabilitated the former General Motors training facility office, empty for four years by March 2006 when construction on the renovation began. St. Patrick's North Campus School showcases the benefits of recycling or re-using materials for construction and, when choosing new materials, of selecting those that are the most environmentally sound. The project is so environmentally friendly, so "green," that it is on track to be the first LEEDTm-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Catholic K-8 school in the U.S., according to project architect David Richardson, NCARB, LEED AP, of Lindhout Associates Architects, PC, Brighton. The LEED submission for the project has just entered the final phase of construction review with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the nationally accepted criteria for the design, construc­tion, and operation of high performance, so-called "green" buildings, according to the USGBC. LEED promotes and recog­nizes sustainability in design and con­struction in five particular· areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. St. Patrick North Campus School reflects the LEED philosophy in alJ of those areas.

For this adaptive re-use of an existing, 36,000-square-foot office building, approx­imately 90 percent of the existing sh·ucture was re-used, including existing windows, brick, frame, concrete slab and insulation. Of the new materials used during con­struction, about 45 percent of them contain recycled content, including gypsum board, metal studs, steel framing and ductwork, carpet and ceiJiJ1g pads. In addition, roughly 60 percent of the construction's waste materials were diverted from land­fills either by recycling or reuse by manu­facturers. Carpet and ceiling pads were taken back to manufacturers; light fixtures, ceiling tile, steel, cardboard, wood, con­crete, masonry a11d roof ballast were taken to a recycling center. At one point, up to five different dedicated recycling collec­tion bills were on site, provided by Allied Waste Services, Flint Division.

Collecting so much for recycling on a single project was new to hu11, Hough said, that Allied Waste was able to provide much needed help accomplishing the recycling in a smooth and efficient manner.

"It can be pretty challenging for contrac­tors when they get involved in their first LEED project," Allied Waste Services' con­struction representative Carol DeMent said. "It seems tedious at first." Materials to be collected for recycling are separated on the jobsite, with collecting bins dedicated to, for example, concrete, wood, paper, brick and block, etc. It's not as easy as it
sounds, DeMent conceded, with the collection bins often being accidentally contami­nated, often by well-meaning people who didn't understand the necessity of keeping materials separated. She said Dan Hough did a "fantastic job" keeping up the enthu­siasm for collecting and, especially, clean- -ing the bins of contamiJ1atiJ1g materials.

DeMent said there has been "a ton of research" done in California supporting LEED principals iJ1 building. "Contractors iJ1 California build LEED because of the end product," she enthused. 'The LEED buildings have cleaner air, less pollen, more light. They're more energy efficient and in the long run, (an owner) saves on energy bills, gas, etc." She expressed some frustration that LEED calls for more recycling than can be accomplished right now in Michigan. How mud1 and which mate­rials can be recycled depends on market forces, she explained. When there isn't a market for a product, it must then head to a landfill. As well, not all materials that one might think are recyclable actually a1·e. "The paper that food comes wrapped in is a good example of that," she explained. "It's considered contaminated by the food it wrapped, so it isn't recyclable."

SITE SELECTION WAS KEY

The single greatest benefit to the environment was the site selection for St. Patrick's school project, LAA's Richardson said. "By using this structure in the city rather than buymg a new greenfield site with.in the township, costs were saved and the environment benefited," he explamed. Richardson is himself a LEED-accredited professional (AP), as is Steve Rabatin, LEED AP, Lindhout's Intern ill on the job. LAA founder, William Lindhout, AIA, wrote the green specifications for the proj­ect.

St. Patrick's could have purchased 20 acres outside of the city, Richardson noted, adding that staying within the city limits was probably the "greenest" thing the church did, in part by limiting travel time and expense to a location beyond the city limits. Lindhout Associates was hired to study the feasibility of expanding the existing school on Rickett Road, including the option of adding a level to it. That study showed the site was too small and the church would benefit more by building another facility. The old school building now is in "constant use" as a Christian Education Center for St. Patrick's Catholic Church parishioners, offering Sunday school sessions and adult catechism les­sons, Principal Darga said.

"We presented the 'green' issues to them as an option," Richardson said, adding that Lindhout Associates had just joined the USGBC the year before. Options were discussed, he said, and it was decided that working towards LEEOTM certification would be a positive way to promote the new facility to the community and could serve as an object lesson for students. As noted earlier, the project is in the final review phase with the USGBC.

St. Patrick Catholic School and Church have been prominent in the city of Brighton for more than 50 years. The parish considered several greenfield sites in the townships surrounding Brighton in which to expand its campus, but in the end decided to remain within the city, saluting its lengthy community involvement and the greening of St. Patrick's North Campus.

One of the major advantages of staying within the city limits was that existing traf­fic, water, sewer, gas and electric infrastructure·uctures could be used and not duplicat­ed at the Church's expense in a rural greenfield site, Richardson explained. However, since a school building might require an increase in plumbing fixtures, a study was done to determine how much water use might be saved by the use of more efficient fixtures. Both the peak and weekly flow was shown to be less than was used at the existing office building and the former, smaller school through the use of waterless urinals, low-flow toilets, metered faucets and a low-flow dishwash­er /disposal in the kitchen. These and other water-efficiency tactics, including no per­manent irrigation for landscaping, resulted in a savings of 45 percent on water use compared to a standard facility, the architects say. Energy efficient fixtures not only saved the cost of installing increased water service, but also allowed continuing use of the 2-1/2 inch water meter used for the old office building, saving a potential $22,000 tap fee from the city for increased service, according to the architect.

IDEAL FOR A SCHOOL

Located at 1001 Charles Orndorf Drive just off Grand River in Brighton, the exist­ing building was a well-built steel frame with many windows and a brick exterior?? located on a 13.5-acre wooded site that includes, on the back or west side, a portion of Little Worden Lake. A city conservation area/park faces the east facade of the building, separated by two parking lots. In addi­tion, St Patrick North Campus is across the road from the city's main library, making the site even more ideal for a sd1ool.

Even with the added work involved in collecting materials for recycling or reuse, the St. Patrick North Campus School reno­vation project was completed within six months, including the consh·uction of two new additions, adding a total of approxi­mately total 20,000 square feet to the exist­ing structure. Despite delays necessitated by negotiations with the city of Brighton over site plan issues, it remained critical to get the project done in time for opening in September 2006, Richardson explained. The documents were arranged into foam "blocks" in the project that allowed effi­cient staging, so that as each had com­pleted its work the next could move into that particular block. St. Patrick's old school, on Rickett Road a little over one mile away, was bursting at  the seams, Principal Darga said. Current enrollment is 354 students, she noted, with 
405 enrolled for the 2007-08 school year.

Total capacity at the former school building was 275. Healthy growth in the surround­ing community had strained the old school's ability to meet the needs of its stu­dents and had generated a waiting list of about 100 families. The new school has a total capacity for 480 students, which amounts to 30 students per class and assumes two classes for each grade. Currently, the school has only one 8th grade class, but it can accommodate a sec­ond class if need arises. Keeping the enrollment somewhat under 480 allows the classes to be a bit smaller than 30 stu­dents each, Darga explained.

There were minimal interior walls in the existing structure, so it provided a fairly clean slate in which to create a school envi­ronment. Its modest serpentine shape extends 750 feet, nestled comfortably in the heavily wooded lot. "Care was taken to use the existing shell as much as possible," Richardson said. To break up the lengthy expanse on the interior, a media center fea­turing a circular computer lab - dubbed "The Egg" - was established as a feature on the interior at approximately the center of the building.

New construction included a 13,400-square-foot gymnasium addition at the south end and a 6,500-square-foot addition extending off the west elevation at about the center of the building to provide new space for a science lab, music room, art stu­dio and one new classroom.

Three different colors of structural 12-inch decorative split faced CMUs were blended on-site to add design interest to portions of the 30-foot-high walls of the gymnasium, which features a 94 foot clear span by a length of 109 feet. Accent bands and painted units also add visual interest to the space. The new gym adds to the building's "greenness" because it "uses block the way it's supposed to be used, that is, structurally," Richardson noted. Flooring is approximately 10,000 square feet of maple.

Approximately 8-10 masons worked almost continually for two-and-a-half months constructing the two additions, Dan Zimmerman of Zimmerman Masonry lnc., Howell, said. The job wasn't without complexity, including multiple set-ups with local supplier Brighton Block, high scaffolding and extensive vertical and hor­izontal reinforcement required by the clear span. Construction of the new gym didn't begin until late May because the school officials had told the contractor they could live without a new gym but they had to have the new science lab addition.

"Even though the owner said the gym didn't have to be done for the new school year in September, the contractor brought it in on time," Rabatin said. "That was a huge accomplishment."

A Fire Department requirement called for a pathway adjacent to the back or west elevation of the new gym. It was construct­ed of 8-inch-thick slag sand so water could be absorbed through it, and on an approx­imate 4% grade to provide runoff toward the lake. The new gym is open for rent to the community, Darga said, and the school plans to open it in winter for senior citi­zens. In addition, the school is working on a "fitness hall" for use by the community, with help from Boy Scouts Jared Amman and Brenden Kokoszka. Amman and Kokoszka, both graduates of St. Patrick's, are working on their Eagle Scout rank by developing fitness stations along the trail that will display suggested exercises with instructions and any needed equipment required to complete them.

Constructing the 6,500-square-foot, 170- foot-long lab/music/art addition, Zimmerman crews had to move block and other materials around the back or west side of the existing building, which pro­vides in some spots less than 20 feet of clearance before the site slopes down per­haps another 40 feet to the lake. The new lab is an entirely new entity for St. Patrick's students. The old sd1ool had no dedicated lab space at all. Nor did it have a music room and it had only a combina­tion art/science room. Gifted students had to use a portion of gym storage space for individualized instruction or projects. The new school has a room dedicated for advanced students and one for special learning students.

Ceiling heights in the new lab addition are 16 feet, versus the 8-1/2 foot ceilings in the existing building. To provide diffused light into the new wing, clerestory win­dows were installed on the parapet atop the west wall of the existing structure. TS direct/indirect fluorescent lighting was installed in the new wing for its energy efficiency and low-glare. Tabletops in the science lab are fire and chemical resistant epoxy resin. Acoustical metal deck for the ceilings in the art/music/science addition and gymnasium absorb sound. The lab and art studio addition features a green roof with planters that a.re being added by each succeeding class of students. The sci­ence room as a "virtual periscope" that allows viewing the roof plantings and a miniature weather station.

Futme plans call for creating an outdoor "science dock" at the lake, accessible from the science lab, for academic use by stu­dents, Darga said. An outdoor classroom was conducted behind the new sd1ool, with bench seating created from logs felled during construction. Viewed from the back wall of windows inside the chapel, the out­door classroom is a simple site, but quietly stunning in its visual demonstration of envi­ronmental awareness and LEED concepts.

THERE'S MORE ...

Additional energy modeling was used by the project team to study the energy used to temper the large amount of fresh air necessary for the classrooms. Several systems were considered, and it was deter­mined that either high efficiency through wall ventilators or rooftop ventilators with Energy Recover Wheels (ERWs) would be most effective for this project. Both sys-terns were laid out by the mechanical/ electrical consultant, EAM Engineers, Inc., Troy, and then sent out for preliminary pricing by the construction manager. The church used the information and recom­mendations to decide on the rooftop units with ERWs. ERWs control the ventilation entering a building and recover and reuse air that has already been cooled, heated, humidified or dehumidified, depending on the season and outdoor air conditions. The ERWs use energy already created and blend it into the incoming air, resulting in cost savings and conservation.

The 22 HVAC units installed at St. Patrick's North Campus, all with ERWs and other energy saving features, were estimated to reduce long-term energy use by more than 30 percent. The units are con­nected to occupancy sensors in the class­rooms so that when the room is empty the operation moves down to "unoccupied" mode to save energy. A helicopter was used to set the 22 units, in part because the heavily wooded site would have made using a crane difficult, said Steve Willacker of the HVAC contractor, Design Comfort Co., Inc., Howell, The trees "were not a problem for the helicopter, Willacker said. They were all set within approximately 1- 1/2 hours. Willacker credited proper stag­ing and efficient placement of the HVAC units on the ground for the ease with which the units were placed on the rooftop. The units were somewhat congre­gated in the parking lot, but also staged down at least a portion of the building. Air inside the building is aided by air filters with a high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating and fresh air vol­umes at or above ASHRAE standards, according to the architect.

BISHOPS WEIGH IN

LAA even provided decision-makers at St. Patrick's with verification for energy efficiency in the building proj­ect from the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' November 2000 document, Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture & Worship. Chapter Four, 192, of that doc-"Faithful stewardship of the earth's resources demands that the Church be a partner in the development of a sustain­able architecture. Materials, construction methods, and procedures that are toxic to the environment or that are wasteful of the earth's resources should be avoided. Providing heating, ventilating, air condi­tioning, and lighting systems that are ener­gy-efficient is financially sound practice and, at the same time, environmentally responsible. It is an exercise in parish stew­ardship."

Richardson summed up perhaps the most significant rationale for green schools: 'The green aspect helps kids learn."

REMAIN, REMOVE OR NEW

Materials for the project included the existing materials to remain, the existing to be removed and new materials. The exist­ing building shell was used as much as possible, with the design calling for just four new openings to be cut into the exist­ing structure. Three of the new openings were created in order to connect to the new lab and gym additions. The fourth created a new entry and, fittingly perhaps, fea­tures a defin.ing round pillar faced with green glazed brick.

As mud, of the existing materials were sent for recycling versus landfills as possible. An example is that the removed ceil­ing tiles were accepted for free by a manu­facturer for recycling, while the removed carpet with a jute backing had to be care­fully cut and sent for recycling with a dou­bly high charge over that for dumping in a landfill. Rationale for doing that came from the savings reached by not dumping the ceiling tiles. New materials were con­sidered for their life cycle cost, contribu­tions to a healthy learning environment and recycled content. High abuse gypsum board panels were specified with nearly 100 percent recycled content, following a discussion with the supplier.

Besides the ERWs on the HVAC mitts, St. Patrick's North Campus also highlights energy efficiency and boasts 30 percent energy savings for HVAC through:

  • Two new 95%+ efficient boilers v,1ith a non-occupied mode installed for perimeter heat;
  • A high efficiency building envelope with insulation added to the existing structure;
  • Ceramic paint that helps to mirror heat back into the spaces.

The students seem to love this new school, Principal Dai-ga said. One thing they like especially are the lockers that line the corridors. They didn't have any lockers at the old school. Dai-ga said, adding that change of classes in the old school "was horrible." At 8 feet wide, the hallways in the old school were congested and created havoc at change of classes, she said. Hallways at the new North Campus range from 8 to 14 feet wide, with room to accommodate lockers and chairs for one on-one council or instruction by parents or teacher aides. The wider hallways provide "better circulation and better opportunity for casual learning," Dai-ga explained. The new school offers 10-foot-high ceilings for the junior high gi-ades (6th, 7th and 8th) and 8-foot ceilings in the lower grade classrooms.

Three flat panel monitors display the green building and environmental infor­mation for students and visitors alike in the common areas along with other school announcements.
"Now we can teach like we're in the 21st. century, not back in the 1950s," Principal Dai-ga enthused.

St. Patrick North Campus school contin­ues to experience interest from new pa1·­ents and increased enrollment, with many new parents commenting to school staff how the "healthy learning" environment contributed to their decision to enroll their children there.

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