ABCs of Solar Not Lost on Schoolhouse Ravaged by Fire
When a raging fire devastated a Columbia, Missouri elementary school trailer, its students had nowhere to turn. The ABCs of recovery for this demoralized population started with an Architect with knowledge in sustainability — and an interest in sharing it. The architect, Nick Peckham of Peckham and Wright Architects, saw designing a traditional one-room schoolhouse using today’s efficient green building standards as the perfect way to pay homage to the community that had sustained his career for 30 years, while inspiring future generations with his sustainability insights. He rallied localBusinesses from around the county to donate the majority of materials — and labor — to build this exciting new learning center, which would cost about $250,000. And then he engaged the Community to support the effort. Insurance proceeds for the dilapidated trailer would amount to a mere $30,000 — a fraction of the cost to rebuild. This broad-brush community effort transformed a local tragedy into an inspirational national treasure. Today, Missouri’s Eco-Schoolhouse serves as a vibrant educational beacon for the students it serves and a model of what learning the ABCs can do for districts across the nation.
Here’s what makes it so efficient: Structural insulated panels were used to create a very tight building envelope, which minimizes the energy required to heat and cool the building. Nearly 97% of the construction waste from this project was recycled. Stormwater runoff from the roof is captured in rain barrels, which is then used to water the landscape of native Missouri plants. And compost bins stand at the ready to devour cafeteria debris.
The ceiling is populated with reflective solar “sun tunnels” to reflect natural daylight (passive solar), and the lighting is supplemented with high-efficiency florescent fixtures, each of which can be independently controlled. The building’s prescription for energy efficiency allows the 10 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels on the roof to meet nearly all the schoolhouse’s energy demands. On most days, the 2.2-kW system produces enough energy to supply all of the Eco-Schoolhouse’s needs. The system is tied into the grid, so at night or on dark, cloudy days, electricity can be pulled from the grid like any other building; conversely, on sunny days, excess electricity flows back onto the grid for use by other buildings.
The structure has earned LEED-Platinum certification, the pinnacle of building efficiency. The obstacles overcome — and the milestones achieved — in this community endeavor make for one Grade A lesson plan.