Integrated School Building Technologies for High Performance Schools

Alder Creek Middle School, Truckee, California

When the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District needed to add a middle school, they set a goal for the new campus to be as energy efficient as possible. Built on a 6,000-foot-high plateau in the Lake Tahoe basin, Truckee is frequently one of the coldest spots in the nation. It averages 17 feet of snow in the wintertime.

High Performance Features Site: The two-story building has a reduced foot print to minimize disruption of the environment and to allow for natural drainage in the meadow. The orientation of the building takes into account opportunities to maximize daylighting. Its southern exposure not only allows for good daylighting but also helps the building capture the benefits of solar heat gain for winter heating.

Lighting: The design team decided early on in the project planning phase that daylighting in the classroom was a high priority. This goal was carried throughout the project. The main building is aligned along an east-west axis to maximize the benefits of daylighting. The school uses a daylighting system in conjunction with electrical lighting and controls. All classrooms have full-sized windows to the ceiling. The ceilings are 10 ft high. The windows contain pre-set U-shaped horizontal mini blinds housed between triple panes of window glass. This helps to reflect the daylight off the ceiling and contributes to a more uniform light level. The paint color was carefully chosen to assist in providing a good reflectance of light. There is a large central skylight in the middle of the classroom building that brings additional daylight into each of the surrounding classrooms through ceiling high classroom/hallway windows. High-efficiency T5 indirect/direct lighting with daylight sensors are used when additional light is needed. The result is classrooms that are energy efficient, and naturally lit without glare or shadows. The lighting power density of the school is .7 watts per square foot.

Heating: Since wintertime temperatures in Truckee average between 17 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit, heating costs can be high. The Alder Creek Middle School uses a ground-source heat pump (GSHP) with high efficiency pumps for heating and cooling. This is a 300 ton system that uses 288 six inch diameter wells that extend 315 feet into the ground. There is a back up boiler in case the supply loop temperature ever reaches below 42�. To date, the supply loop has not been lower than 46.5�.

Other Energy Efficient Features:

  • Energy Star-compliant high-reflectance, high-emissivity roof
  • Triple pane, thermally broken window frames
  • High efficiency boiler
  • High efficiency ground source heat pumps
  • Windows that open to provide natural ventilation
  • Built into the sloped hillside to maximize use of thermal insulation

Commissioning: The district retained an independent commissioning agent to insure the original design intent of the project was carried out and that systems operate as intended. The agreement included training of school personnel. The positive experience using a commissioning agent has resulted in a district policy to commission all projects.

Water Use: Low-flow water fixtures are installed throughout the campus, and the school uses a high efficient central boiler for water heating. The school's athletic field is covered in an artificial surface that needs no irrigation or chemicals to maintain. The entire landscaping design minimizes the need for irrigation, and the school captures storm-water from roofs and hard surfaces, allowing it to seep into the ground to recharge the local groundwater aquifer.

Sustainable Materials: CHPS recommends using recycled materials where possible. The new Alder Creek middle school incorporates ceiling tiles, carpet, insulation, wall boards, cabinets and concrete products that are durable and low-maintenance, meet EPA-guidelines for recycled content, and have no residual volatile organic compounds that can pollute indoor air. More than 50 percent of the school's construction waste was recycled.

Athletic field: 27,333 old tires (328,000 lbs of chipped recycled tires) in the athletic field allows the field to be used soon after a rain. This durable field allows for longer seasonal play and increased daily use.