Return to site home page


EDJ Takes Note...


EDJ Takes Note...

Environmentally Smart School Teaches Lessons
When Blue Oak School in Napa Valley, CA, opened its doors to the school's inaugural class of 70 pupils last September, it was also breaking new ground environmentally. Blue Oak School is the first independent elementary school in California to install a geoexchange system for heating and cooling. This environmentally responsible HVAC system, which cost approximately $400,000 to install, will pay for itself in energy savings for the 18,900-square-foot structure in less than five years. The school's architect, Ratcliff of Emeryville, CA, and mechanical engineer, McCracken & Woodman, Inc. of Oakland, CA, recommended and designed the geoexchange system over traditional gas-powered systems.

"In our increasingly interde-pendent and complicated world, we want our students to be environmentally literate," says Scott Duyan, head of school for Blue Oak. "This geoexchange system is one way for the school to begin modeling for the children some of the choices they can make to create a better world for themselves."

With the geoexchange system, teachers have the capability to individually adjust the temperature in each classroom for optimal conditions. The system works by attaching geothermal heat pumps to the ground through a series of buried plastic pipes drilled 350 feet underground, which circulate water in a closed loop arrangement. Thus, when the sun beats down on Napa in early fall, the geoexchange system will pull the hot air from the
structure and pump cool water from below the earth's surface to create comfortable indoor temperatures.

Ratcliff also incorporated many other sustainable design elements at Blue Oak. Classrooms are located in a recycled building from 1909, formerly known as Washington Primary School, which was renovated to preserve its architectural heritage. A new library and multipurpose room provide a contextual extension to the existing classroom structure for accommodation of school and community events.

In addition, floors throughout the school are all earth-friendly. The existing Douglas fir wood floors in the school's main entry areas and much of the classroom areas were renewed. Cork floors implemented in Blue Oak's multipurpose room not only provide a springy sensation for the students- they are also made of fiber harvested from the bark of cork trees in Portugal. New carpeting is fully recyclable, and the linoleum that was installed is produced from all natural linseed oil. Additionally, fabric walls used
to display student work are made of recycled polyester materials.

Trash to Treasure
Pull something out of the waste stream and turn it into something of value. Find anything that has been "tossed" into your home trash container, the office waste bin, a dumpster at a construction site . . . wherever you find trash. Then, turn this trash pieces/parts/ duplicates-whatever moves you, and create an object of beauty-or humor-or a piece of art. There are no limitations to size or shape of your new object.

These newly-created treasures will be displayed during the first day of the EnvironDesign®7 conference at The Hilton Washington, scheduled for April 30 to May 2, 2003 (see pages 49 to 55 in this issue). A team of jurors will select the most imaginative entries and they and their creators will be photographed and acknowledged in the June 2003 issue of IS magazine. A silent auction of these treasures will be held during EnvironDesign with proceeds going to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to help "Save the Bay," the Mid-Atlantic's most treasured natural resource.

All entrants are invited to attend the evening reception on May 1 in the Product Learning Center at EnvironDesign7, where the winning bids as well as the juror's choices will be announced.

Here's how to participate:

  • Fill out the simple entry form that can be found at www.environ Entrants may be an individual or a team. Entry fees are $15 per person.
  • Mail form and check, payable to EnvironDesign, to: Penny Bonda, EnvironDesign Works, 800 25th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20037. In return, you will be sent an entry number, competition guidelines and confirmation of your participation.
  • All entries must be delivered to The Hilton Washington, 1919 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, DC on April 30, 2003 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.  

The Trash to Treasure exhibition is a joint project of the Washington, DC chapters of ASID, IIDA and AIA. For more information, call Tama Duffy at (202) 721-1689.

A Green Edge in Affordable Housing
Colorado Court, a 44-unit, five-story building in Santa Monica, CA, is one of the first affordable housing units in the United States to be 100 percent energy neutral. The building is designed to actually return unused power back into the energy grid. Located at the corner of 5th and Colorado off the Santa Monica Freeway, Colorado Court's solar-paneled exterior contributes a major urban element to Santa Monica's street-side aesthetic.

The flagship project is the result of a unique collaboration between architects Pugh Scarpa Kodama (PSK), the City of Santa Monica, the Community Corp. of Santa Monica and a team of expert consultants. It is hoped that Colorado Court will become an inspirational model for future affordable housing developments nationwide.

Innovative sustainable-energy technologies developed for Colorado Court include a natural gas-powered turbine/heat recovery system that generates the base electrical load and services the building's hot water needs as well. A solar electric panel system integrated into the facade and roof will supply most of the peak-load energy demand. This same system also captures and uses waste heat to produce hot water and space heating for the residents throughout the year. The unused energy from these passive solar
panels will be returned to the grid during daytime hours and retrieved from the grid at night as needed. Projected annual savings in electricity and natural gas are estimated to be in excess of $6,000.

In addition, PSK created a Green Addendum-specifications that will act as a guide for the building's actual construction, as well as the materials used. This addendum for contractors defines alternative, environmentally friendly, responsible practices that must be adhered to by all agencies involved in the construction of Colorado Court.

PSK also wrote an energy conservation policy for the building's future tenants. Compliance with this Green Sheet will enable tenants to receive a cash rebate for under-consumption of their monthly energy allowance.

PSK has been supported in its efforts to exceed the standard "green" energy conservation specifications required by the city of Santa Monica-already some of the highest nationwide-by grants totaling over $500,000. In addition to $400,000 from the California Energy Coalition and the City of Santa Monica, the California State Energy Commission awarded PSK a $72,000 grant, and more funding is expected from Southern California Edison.

Cal-EPA Project Receives Honors

Los Angeles, CA-based AC Martin Partners' (ACMP) new Sacramento, CA, headquarters for the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) was recently awarded the 2002 Design-Build Excellence Award in the Public Over $15 Million category by the Design-Build Institute of America. The award, which acknowledges all members of the design and building teams, is given to projects that use "design-build strategies resulting in a unique application of teaming to exceed the owners' need."

The jury noted that Cal-EPA blended "the environmental mission of the user and the
engineering rigor of the design-build team." ACMP designed an elegant, energy efficient, 25-story building that includes offices, a public hearing room, auditorium, conference rooms, child-care center, landscaped plaza and recreation/exercise facilities. A key point in the design and planning is the building's use of natural light and shade to boost energy efficiency. A post-occupancy survey of the employees reveals that more than 90 percent are satisfied with the environmentally friendly systems and materials.

Kirksey Fellowship Aims to Build Interest in Sustainable Design

As the population of Houston, TX, doubles in the next 15 to 20 years, area architects must become increasingly resourceful and socially responsible in what they build and how they build it, advocates Kirksey, a Houston-based architecture firm. To encourage the use of such "sustainable design," the firm is sponsoring a teaching fellowship at the University of Houston's Hines College of Architecture. Rives Taylor, the first recipient of the Kirksey Faculty Fellowship in Sustainable Design, has already taught a full summer session and is now creating a required course for the college that will teach these concepts.

Taylor has a bachelor's degree in architecture from Rice and a master's degree in architectural studies from MIT. He has been the campus architect and university planner for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston since 1994.

For more information about the Hines College of Architecture, visit its Web site at

HOK Headquarters Selected for Pilot Program
Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, Inc. (HOK) has completed and relocated to its new 34,000-square-foot Bay Area headquarters, located on two floors in the historic One Bush Street building in the heart of downtown San Francisco, CA. Incorporating elements in sustainable design while creating flexible, open floor plans to physically integrate the firm's scope of strategic business services, the new office has been selected as one of 39 current projects recognized nationwide in the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEEDTM for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) pilot program.

Among the project's more prominent environmentally friendly elements are:

  • a central location at the corner of Bush and Market Streets adjacent to public transportation that will provide easy access throughout the Bay Area for clients and the office's 120 employees;
  • use of sustainable materials, including Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, resilient flooring, laminate, fabrics, carpet tiles, ceiling tiles and paint; and
  • voluntary compliance to energy efficiency requirements outlined in California's Title 24, despite an exemption due to the building's registered historic landmark status.

The space combines planners, architects, interior designers, mechanical and electrical engineers on a single open floor. The groups are organized around flexible teaming areas that foster and facilitate interaction. The space also integrates HOK/Consulting, along with corporate executives, administrative departments and meeting and conference rooms.

HOK Interiors led the project team, which also included HOK Engineering; DOME Construction as the general contractor; Middlebrook and Louie as the structural engineer; MHC as the mechanical engineer; and Dynaletric as the electrical engineer.

Manufacturers in the News

* Armstrong World Industries reports that it has reclaimed its 10,000,000th square foot of discarded ceiling tiles as part of its Ceiling Recycling Program. It was received at the company's Beaver Falls, PA plant as part of a shipment that contained 57,143 square feet of discarded ceiling tiles from an office renovation project at the General Motors Tower in Dearborn, MI.

Armstrong's recycling program, introduced in June 1999, enables building owners to ship old ceilings from renovation projects to an Armstrong ceiling plant as an
alternative to landfill disposal. Under the program, Armstrong even pays freight costs for shipping the old ceilings, which it uses as raw materials in the manufacture of new ceilings.

The 10,000,000 square feet of used ceiling tiles is enough to completely cover 208 football fields. The total also represents 7,048,000 pounds, or more than 3,500 tons, of construction waste that would have normally been dumped in landfills.

* Baltix, a designer and manufacturer of office furniture made from over 90 percent sustainable materials, has completed a joint design project with the University of Minnesota. Baltix teamed with the university to co-design Baltix studio work stations for the new addition to the U of M College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Combining efforts from students, faculty and outside architects, the work station, known as the Buzz "U," was co-designed to provide students with a workspace that met their specific needs for studio classes. Like all Baltix products, it is made from sustainable materials including ag-boards from wheat and sunflower waste material and long-wearing linoleum laminates.

* BP Solar will market to California home owners a total solar energy solution that it says will reduce or eliminate monthly electricity bills, enhance energy independence and help clean the environment through the production of emissions-free electricity using the power of the sun. In addition to a highly efficient and reliable solar system, BP Solar will offer customers financing options; access to California Energy Commission rebates up to 50 percent of the purchase price; a full planning, installation and commissioning service; and an exclusive in-home display, enabling customers to track their system's electricity production.

It is reaching home owners through a campaign of direct mail, newsprint, radio and television advertising. By taking advantage of the Internet as a part of its outreach, BP Solar offers a Solar Savings Estimator on its Web site ( Simply by entering their zip code and utility bill, the on-line Solar Savings Estimator allows home owners to calculate their potential savings, the payback period and the environmental benefits of having a system for their home.

* Solutia Inc
. is expanding its Partners for Renewal program to formally recognize and work with companies that are leaders in the area of carpet sustainability. For example, Nylon Board Manufacturing, Medford, MN, has agreed to accept post-consumer carpet from Solutia's customers and recycle it into synthetic construction sheet materials.

"The strategy of our program is to promote collaboration and the entrepreneurial spirit to solve the challenging problems of landfill diversion," said Robert Peoples, director of carpet sustainability and business development for Solutia. "We are looking for new process and product technology to help accomplish our objectives."

The Liberty Bell Goes Renewable

Green Mountain Energy Co., a retail provider of cleaner energy, is now providing 100 percent renewable electricity service to one of America's best-known landmarks: the Liberty Bell Pavilion at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA. The Liberty Bell is the only national landmark purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy. A three-year contract has been signed to purchase 100 percent renewable electricity for historic buildings in Independence National Historical Park and other federal government-operated facilities in the Philadelphia region. The federal government will purchase a total of 11 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy Co. over the full term of the contract. That's equivalent to the average usage of over 200 homes.