Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Unlocking Innovative Design for Better Schools

The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability, New York City’s first net-zero energy school building on the south shore of Staten Island. Image:

The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability, New York City’s first net-zero energy school building on the south shore of Staten Island. Image:

The Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings: Achieving Zero Energy (AEDG) was recently released to support elementary, middle, and high schools in their pursuit of zero energy performance goals for deep retrofits and new construction projects. The guide was published by ASHRAE and produced in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with funding support from DOE and analysis conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Zero energy buildings, as defined by the Building Technologies Office, are extremely energy-efficient buildings that produce enough renewable energy onsite to meet annual consumption needs through a combination of innovative design strategies, efficient technologies, and improvements in the management of building operations. The AEDG provides technical guidance for school districts to take energy-efficiency goals from conception to fruition, and is meant to complement existing resources and strategies.

“Energy consumption is the second highest operational expense to schools each year, second only to salaries – reducing wasted energy in schools frees taxpayers’ money to go towards more important and productive educational resources for students,” said David Nemtzow, director of DOE’s Building Technologies Office. “This new design guide brings together proven, best practices to help architects, operators, and schools districts across the country find solutions that save energy and money.”

The AEDG aims to demonstrate, as districts have already successfully exhibited, that zero- energy schools are attainable within budgets comparable to those of conventionally built schools, and provides project teams with the specific how-to knowledge, strategies, and solutions to design and construct better schools across the country. Prototypical models were developed through simulation software to determine target energy use intensity (EUI) for each climate zone in the U.S. and enable design teams to establish appropriate EUI goals for their own projects.

To support reaching specific EUI targets, the guide provides critical technical guidance for the design of building configurations and of building components, including the following:

  • Building envelope and siting
  • Fenestration
  • Lighting systems
  • Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Building automation and controls
  • Outdoor air requirements
  • Service water heating
  • Renewable energy generation systems

The guide is intended for school stakeholders pursuing zero energy goals, including educators, school administrators, architects, design engineers, energy modelers, contractors, facility managers, and buildings operations professionals. Recognizing that many schools have limited staff and resources, the guide provides step-by-step direction to ensure that users start off on the right foot by focusing on four key components:

  1. The Rationale for Zero Energy focuses on identifying the major stakeholders and outlining what it takes to successfully achieve a high-performance, zero energy school including key principles to implementation.
  2. Keys to Success details how to achieve zero energy from a procedural standpoint highlighting the steps necessary for plan, design, and build phases, and how to engage a variety of stakeholders vital to the process.
  3. Building Performance Simulation provides guidance on how to integrate building simulation into the design process.
  4. How-to-Strategies delves into more technical aspects, users will be able to pull from specific strategies and recommendations for the design, construction, and operational phases as well as leverage guidance on troubleshooting and achieving energy targets.

As demonstrated throughout the guide, setting measurable goals is the first commitment a school district will make on a zero-energy journey. From there, zero energy design and construction strategies are an opportunity for school districts to promote fiscal responsibility while redirecting saved tax dollars to improvements that benefit students, teachers, and the districts as a whole.

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