Green School Summit 2017 | Tour Recap: Fort Logan Northgate School
by Dannie DiIonno, Business Development Specialist
Last month, members of our Denver team were given an incredible opportunity to act as a tour guide, during the Green Schools Summit, for one of our projects. During this real-time case-study of the Fort Logan Northgate 3-8 School in Sheridan, CO, the tour guides, consisting of M.E. GROUP’s Energy + Ecology Practice Lead, Miles Dake and Assistant Denver MEP Practice Lead, Mandy Redfield along with Wold Architects Project Manager, Cody Knoblock and school Principal Nelson Van Vranken, took attendees through the physical environment, highlighting the design and systems of the brand new school along the way. Throughout the tour, the guides discussed various challenges they faced and the solutions our team provided.
We feel privileged to have been selected to conduct a pre-conference tour site to help kickoff the 11th Annual Green Schools Summit, managed by USGBC Colorado. Bringing people into the school and show tour participants actual classrooms, the library, mechanical rooms, and even the roof was an incredible way to showcase the remarkable features of the building and show attendees how the building was being used daily by educators and students.
The tour began with an introduction by the school Principal, Nelson Van Vranken.
This is the first new school the district has built in a long time. Principal Van Vranken explained the impact of the school on students and the community, serving not only as an educational facility but also as a community gathering place.
Getting to this point, though, did not come without challenges. School leaders and teachers had to overcome design obstacles which could have led to some serious issues:
- Locker space hub on the second floor near the library. Due to the expanse of lockers, it could have become an easy gathering place for students and didn’t allow easy access of adults. The leaders worked with the design team to make sure the lockers were low enough to allow for a clear line of sight over the lockers so teachers could see from one side to the other.
- Interior windows in the classrooms that face the hallways. This feature presented unforeseen safety issues. This configuration would have provided full sight into the classrooms from the hallway, potentially making students and teachers vulnerable during emergency situations, specifically with regards to acts of violence. Cody Knoblock worked with Cindy Wright, Director of Facilities and Transportation, to implement a black plastic magnetic board that teachers could quickly place over the window should the unthinkable occur.
- Replacing filters and maintaining heat pumps would be difficult if they were spread all over the building. The school maintenance team was also able to voice their concerns in the design phase. Miles Dake and his team understood maintenance’s concerns, and after revisiting the site plans, he figured out how to make three mechanical rooms be centrally located based on feedback: one for both classroom ‘arteries’ and another for the ‘heart’ of the building. The maintenance team, also present on the tour, confirmed this solution and its positive effects, resulting in easier mechanical room monitoring, timely and efficient replacement of air filters, and the ability to keep a good pulse on operations.
As luck would have it, our tour included a visit to the central ‘heart’ mechanical room where Miles could show off the heat pumps, copper coils, ducts and filters. I was impressed with how clean the facility team kept the maintenance room!
From the basement we continued to the top of the school where we could see the Photovoltaic array and a magnificent view of the turf sports field. Not only was the view outstanding, we were excited to learn the school was able to relocate the solar array from a decommissioned school. Another positive solution!
The large ventilation units on the roof gave us a sense for how much air was being pushed into the building. Miles shared the positive impacts of how ventilated air helps improve student and teacher performance. This is based on research conducted by our team, which proves that increasing outdoor ventilation in a school setting increases cognitive function. Feeling the fresh outdoor air in the space was a terrific way for us to experience, first-hand, the occupant impact and its importance in the learning environment.
Outside of the original design scope of the school, the community raised additional funds to have a turf field instead of a grass field. This reduced water usage, tremendously. A great feature indeed, but added too late to be given credit in the LEED® documentation as a water conservation strategy.
Finally, Miles led the group downstairs to the boiler room where we could see the GeoExchange loop enter the building. It was neat to hear how this system helps to reduce the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building.
Overall, I was impressed with the impactful nature of this tour. The A/E/C industry attendees received a hands-on and ‘in-the-trenches’ experience that would be impossible to replicate in a conference room via PowerPoint presentation. Physically showing everyone how high performance MEP design, building science, early listening/understanding, and relevant research can be applied to improve a school was the best way to showcase this project. To be fair, issues always pop-up in design projects, no matter the phase. However, the school, architect and our engineering team went beyond the expected and worked together early and throughout the project to address and resolve questions before they became issues. I’m very proud that.
I hope we can bring more people into our school projects, and other building types, so we can all learn from each other; working towards our goal of Improving Life through a Better Built Environment. Just give us a call. We’ll set something up.