ROCKVILLE, MD—It’s official now: Great Seneca Creek Elementary School is the first public school in Maryland to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.
The school opened in September 2006. Great Seneca Creek earned a top “Gold” rating April 18 after all the construction documentation had been reviewed by the council.
Great Seneca Creek is the MCPS Green Building Program’s (www.Schools2Green.org) first school built to green, high-performance design standards that also pursued LEED certification. The LEED rating system awards points in six categories for conserving resources, reducing air and water pollution and optimizing indoor quality. Little Bennett Elementary School, which opened at the same time as Great Seneca Creek, also incorporates many energy-efficient green school elements.
At Great Seneca Creek, the 82,500-square-foot facility is equipped with a geothermal mechanical system that harvests the constant temperature of the earth for heating or cooling the building. This is expected to reduce energy use by more than 35 percent, for an estimated $60,000 in annual energy savings.
Because of the energy efficient design, Great Seneca Creek is expected to earn an Energy Star from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Program for schools this fall, when the energy bills of the first year in operation can be submitted and compared with the national database of energy efficient schools.
The building’s plumbing uses no-flush technology and low-flow water fixtures that will reduce drinking water demand by at least 43 percent, compared to other buildings of its type—an estimated savings of 360,000 gallons of water each year.
The MCPS Department of Facilities Management used the LEED system as a roadmap in designing the energy efficient green school. Ninety-five percent of the packaging and construction waste from the school were recycled. Most building materials came from local sources within 500 miles of the site. Some of the buildings components, such as bathroom partitions, are made of recycled materials such as plastic from soda bottles and laundry detergent containers. Cabinets are made of wheatboard, a rapidly renewable material that is an alternative to particle board (which is made of wood and mature trees).
The school is also piloting a healthy, high performance “green” cleaning program, where several cleaning products have been replaced by a healthier alternative.
Green signs and school tours create a hands-on connection between the building and its users. Students and staff, neighbors and the Germantown community are learning how a building and its features impact the environment, and how negative impacts can be reduced or even avoided by building greener.
Montgomery County’s first LEED school also provides a three-dimensional textbook and teaching tool that advocates environmental stewardship. A web site dedicated to the green features of the school can be viewed at www.Schools2Green.org.
Tours of Great Seneca Creek can be arranged by contacting the Green Building Program Manager, Anja Caldwell at 240-314-1095 or by e-mailing Anja_S_Caldwell@mcpsmd.org.
Based on the latest Montgomery County legislation, all public buildings beginning design in FY 2008 will be required to achieve a LEED certification, including schools.