New School Sets Sustainable Learning Environment

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    Architecture Architecture Apr 21, 2014 03:16 PM EDT


    The new Cardinal Wuerl High Shool won’t be opening its doors until this fall but has already created a suitable learning environment to educate students about design sustainability.

    The new school has clerestory windows, polished concrete floor and panels of salvaged barnwood.

    According to Mike Arnold, the chief facilities officer for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the design direction was based on their interview with the parents and students who expressed that they want a school with earthy products and an environment with generous amount of natural lighting.

    The resulting design is a structure made of wood and stones. The lobby is covered with thin slate tiles as accent walls while the major walls have tongue-and-groove planks of reclaimed red and white oak.

    Natural lighting comes from the large, operable windows, sidelights and transoms on the doors and glass strips located near the ceilings.

    The staircases and hallways have dramatic lighting fixtures which meshed well with the broad, airy ambiance of the school. The exterior facade is covered with brick and aluminum, making the structures appear to be a modern hotel or a corporate building. In the center of the 75-acre campus is a small chapel which plays a significant role in the religious nature of the school. Majority of the classroom windows open up towards the chapel, which Arnold hopes to become a source of inspiration for their students.

    Currently, the school is seeking a silver certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council. About 35% of the campus is an open space and the campus has its own detention ponds that can be used for irrigation purposes so no potable water will be consumed in the process. In terms of water usage, the school has also developed a method of consuming 43% less than other conventionally-built schools. Highly efficient water equipment are also used to accommodate activities.

    For its construction, more than 90% of the waste materials were salvaged or recycled and 25% of the construction materials also have recycled content in them. An estimated 70% of wood used for the structure came from certified forests. They also made sure to protect all installed materials from dirt and contaminants during the construction phase. And all paints, adhesives, primary wall and ceiling systems and composite wood adhered to the standards set by LEED.

    Energy efficiency is calculated to provide 14% savings compared to other built structures. The school also equipped CO2 monitors and activity sensors to insure indoor air quality and to save energy, respectively. Lastly, the roofs are all installed with white thermoplastic polyolefin for sun-shading measures and minimize the need for airconditioning.

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