West Virginia builds first green public school
Berkeley County will be home to WV's first public school with green design.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 20:54
DIGGING FOR KNOWLEDGE: A garden isn't the only thing that's green at Berkeley County's Spring Mills Primary School. (Photo: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
In the fall of 2011, students ranging from kindergarten to second grade will have the opportunity to attend West Virginia's first green public school. Construction on Spring Mills Primary School, in Northern Berkeley County, is already underway. Upon completion, it will become the first public school in the state to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. The certification system, which is run by the U.S. Green Building Council, offers a five-tier rating system: certified, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Spring Mills Primary is being built according to the silver certification standards.
In its current state, the Spring Mills Primary School hardly appears green. The brick facing on the outside of the school makes the building look quite average, though the construction is anything but. The walls are being built using hollow styrofoam blocks that are stacked like Lego blocks. Concrete is then poured down the center, creating a wall that is more insulated than with traditional construction.
Interior green features
Inside, the building will feature an interior made almost exclusively of recycled materials. I read one article which mentioned that the partitions in the restrooms were to be made of old computers that have been ground up and put back together to create a panel. Water faucets that turn themselves off will also be featured.
Spring Mills Primary School will be 64,000 square feet upon completion. Normally heating and cooling such a large building would come with high resource and economic costs, but designers have made several important considerations to keep such costs at bay. The school was built to sit from east to west, so that maximum heat can be brought in through the windows. Just a few generations ago, most people built their homes utilizing natural forces to help with heating and cooling. This was considered common sense long before it was ever considered green. Somewhere along the line we lost touch with the need to consider natural elements when constructing our buildings — relying instead on artificial sources of heating and cooling. With green design, however, it seems we are getting back in tune with nature and constructing accordingly.
Not only will the school be built in a direction to optimize sunlight, but it will be topped with a three inch insulated white roof that will reflect the light making heating and cooling easier. For days with extreme temperatures, the school will utilize a geothermal-based heating and cooling system, which relies on the relatively constant temperature of 56° F below the earth's surface.
Between the two wings of the school, there will be a garden where students can grow vegetables. Rainwater collected from the roof will be stored on site to water the garden, and the grass on the rest of the grounds.
The design of Spring Mill Primary School is not just significant because it is environmentally friendly. The green school building is intended to help educate the 600 children who will eventually attend it. As these children learn about the practices that make their school different and the reasons behind them, they will spread better practices beyond their classrooms.
Spring Mill Primary School is not just important because of the way it was constructed, it is important because of the message it sends to the rest of the Berkeley County community, and the state of West Virginia in general.