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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Phillips Exeter’s Green Academy Awarded Sixth Leed Certification

The Thompson Field House at Phillips Exeter’s Academy. All photos courtesy of Architectural Resources Cambridge.

George Harvey

Phillips Exeter Academy has nearly 1,000 students in grades nine through 12, and it has an outstanding reputation. Describing itself, it says, “The Academy is committed to creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion and being an anti-racist community. Environmental and fiscal stewardship are also strong values that we teach and live by. Our built environment should support our mission, values and programs.”

For athletics, the academy has 22 different sports with 62 interscholastic teams. Some attention has to be put into both the buildings used for sports and the efficiency of those buildings. One of these is of particular interest.

The solar array on the roof of the Thompson Field House.

In early 2018, the academy opened its new William Boyce Thompson Field House. In its 85,000 square foot area, it has a 200-meter, six-lane indoor track, within which are four tennis courts. It has separate dedicated areas for shot put, high jump, long jump, triple jump, and pole vault. The mezzanine has an 8,000 square-foot area for wrestling along with 4,000 square feet for other purposes. There are bleachers for 500 spectators. Beneath the building is a parking area for 169 cars.

The environmental approach of Phillips Exeter Academy is impressive. On a campus of this size, there will always be projects in development. For several years, the school has undertaken to see that the environment is a central issue for each. It is an issue that has also become part of the curriculum and the way of life at the school. Anyone interested in this might enjoy reading an article that appeared in the spring 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin, “How green is Exeter?” This can be seen online at

Among the things we learn from that article is that the school has a number of LEED-certified buildings. The Thompson Field House follows other buildings that have been awarded LEED certification; there are now six all told.

The new field house was designed by Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC), which was given instructions to be “flexible and creative to develop beautiful and functional and regenerative landscapes surrounding the project.” It was also designed to meet the LEED standard for gold certification. This is not a trivial process, and the project under design was very large, so ARC also used the services of Steven Winter Associates, Inc. as a sustainability and energy consultant.

The design of the Thompson Field House had included good insulation, efficient heat, and carefully engineered lighting. But it had to go further in ways that many people do not think about much. For example, there were materials reserved for reuse from the deconstruction of the previous building at the site. One case is wood flooring used for the older building’s wooden track, which ended up being given a new life in the new facility’s multi-purpose room.

The pole vault area in the Thompson Field House at the academy

As we might imagine, water use was an issue that needed to be addressed, but in this case, there were special considerations. Because of the proximity of two rivers, pervious pavement was used and areas devoted to cars were reduced to allow for a more natural landscape. This was a reason why an area for cars was included in the basement. Also, buffer areas are maintained on the bank of the nearby Little River. Part of the effort is a 10,600 cubic foot bio-retention facility to handle stormwater runoff.

The new building is designed to fit in visually with other nearby structures, in a way that is similar to the building it replaced. This could have been done by using limestone, as older buildings did. The aesthetic could be achieved at a much lower cost by using glass-fiber reinforced concrete, which can be made to look quite similar.

Crowning the design of the Thompson Field House is a solar array on the roof. The array has 1,552 panels giving it a capacity of 535 kilowatts, and it can provide 75% of the building’s electricity needs. It was installed by ReVision Energy, a company well known to the readers of Green Energy Times. In the article mentioned above, we learn the rather interesting fact that over its lifetime, this array will generate enough electricity to provide for a day’s use by New York City. A more conventional statement is that each year it will offset the equivalent of driving cars about a million miles. This array produced 608,000 kilowatt-hours in 2020, and is expected to save the school about $2 million over its lifetime.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thompson Field House has not had a formal post-occupancy evaluation. Nevertheless, it is clear that both Phillips Exeter Academy and Architectural Resources Cambridge intend to use the field house as a model for later design projects, both on this campus and at other schools.

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