Letters to the Editor

Sustainability in Island school designs

I was delighted to read the article in the Mercer Island Reporter on 3/12 about “a green theme” for Island classrooms, but was confused about the standing of the proposed “green” ideas. I was not able to attend the open-houses offered and based on the article, was unclear if there has been a decision to include additional sustainability features into the school enlargement plans. The state has minimum requirements that new schools must now meet, but if Mahlum and Integrus Architecture are allowed to add more “Green” features show in the preliminary plans, the School Board would be wisely going above and beyond these requirements and would set an example for other developments on the island, in our region, and perhaps nationally. It seems very important for islanders to provide support for these Green concepts so that they can be incorporated in the final plans for the enlargement of our schools.

Of the three sights included in the development, the preliminary plans for the new fourth elementary school would represent the best example of what a sustainable building can include. The new elementary school would include on site gardens that could be used for growing food, geothermal wells for heating/cooling, rainwater collection for watering the grounds during summer droughts, a green roof to improve storm and rainwater management, grey water plumbing that would allow for re-use of water, and demonstration composting toilets that would provide nutrients for the surrounding landscaping.

Even so, the current preliminary plan would fall short of meeting the newest sustainability standards and principals embodied in the “Living Building Standards” such as those met in the recently completed Bertchi School Living Science Building on Capital Hill primarily because of omitting of the use of solar electric panels and solar hot water heating, but these plans would be a huge step in that direction. The Bertchi Living Science Building functions like a plant in that it generates al of its own electricity, collects all of its own water, and emits no waste. Functioning like a plant is the definition of “NET ZERO water, waste and energy” according to architect Stacy Smedley of Skansa, The SEED Collaborative, and the U.S. Green Building Council who managed the Bertchi project.

Changes to the Islander Middle School would be more minimal but important. These changes include better storm water management, daylighting, and skylights in the gym that will provide added “no energy” lighting. At the high school, rainwater harvesting would be added along with grey water plumbing as in the fourth elementary school.

Again, please let your voice be heard by the School Board if you support having our school enlargement plans include these and other sustainability features or attempting to meet the Living Building Standards.

Kim Kendall, Ph.D.

 

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