February 23, 2024

NET ZERO: First Verified Net Zero Public School in New England - Buckley Elementary School

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The New Building Institute (NBI) defines a Net Zero Building as having “metered data which show[s] net zero or positive energy generation over a given year.” Buckley Elementary School in Manchester, CT, opened in the Fall of 2022. With over a year of data tracked, it is officially verified by the NBI as the first Net Zero Energy Public School in New England.

Schools can contribute to a sustainable world through their operation, curriculum, and engagement with a broader community, setting the tone for environmental stewardship. Electing to renovate this 1950s school, rather than demolishing and starting from scratch, the project saved an estimated 75% of the embodied carbon compared to new construction. It used no operational carbon (zero fossil fuels).

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There is more to NetZero than putting solar panels on a roof. The building design maximized passive strategies, then determined how much energy the active systems like photovoltaics and geothermal needed to generate.  The original 55,000 SF building was gutted down to the framing, while a 9,000 SF addition allowed space reconfiguration to meet 21st-century learning goals, including a STEM center with Art and Project labs. Students monitor and track energy consumption and production through an electronic dashboard in the school lobby.

The exterior walls were furred out with a combination of rigid, mineral wool, and spray insulation to improve the R-value and eliminate thermal bridging. All windows were replaced with low U-value insulated glazing and polycarbonate sandwich panels, allowing for views and daylight while carefully balancing solar heat gain along the south elevation and mitigating heat loss along the north elevation.

Prominently featured at the main entrance is a Smart Flower that tracks the sun and teaches students the basics of solar energy, producing 4000 – 6000 kWh yearly. Other features include:

·        60 geothermal wells beneath the playfield

·        400 kW rooftop photovoltaics

·        Efficient mechanical pumps with variable-speed motors and two-stage compressors

·        Bipolar ionization technology for contaminant-free air

·        An all-electric commercial kitchen

At completion, a whole-building blower door pressure test and a thermal scan validated the tightness of the construction. The school consumed 334,131kWh and produced 408,772kWh from January 2023 – December 2023.

Case Study: Buckley Elementary School (Net Zero) - Manchester, CT

Read More on High-Profile Magazine: Manchester School Verified as First Net Zero Public School in New England


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