A new middle school in Lumberton, N.C., serves as its own energy powerhouse, generating more electricity than it consumes and thereby achieving the rare status of being a "net positive" building.
The 75,930-sq-ft Sandy Grove Middle School, built via a public-private partnership, achieved the high-efficiency goal first by being designed to LEED-Platinum standards, and then by incorporating more than 2,300 solar panels that collectively generate 589.5 kilowatts of electricity annually.
That should exceed by roughly 30% the amount of energy that the school will need, project officials estimate. The project developer, FirstFloor K-12 Solutions LLC, estimates that over the next 40 years the county will save about $16 million on its energy bills—exceeding the $15.1 million that it cost to build the school.
The school's design and construction incorporates numerous energy-conscious measures. Conditioned air is provided by high-efficiency water-sourced heat pumps that are coupled with a geothermal heat sink, for instance. Additionally, Sandy Grove uses LED lighting and an automation system that controls all building systems.
Moreover, project designers opted for water fixtures that reduce consumption by an estimated 30%. In addition, the school added to its LEED points by installing electric car-charging stations.
One major design challenge involved planning for a future county sewer system that wouldn't be operational until several months after the school was scheduled to open. Since using the newly expanded Hoke County sewer line would be less expensive in the long run than using a higher-maintenance on-site system, the project team devised a plan to use a 15,000-gallon pump-and-haul septic tank on an interim basis.
By shifting construction sequencing and adding crews to accommodate owner and tenant design modifications, contractor Metcon Inc. was able to complete construction of the STEM school within its original 12-month schedule, and within the gross maximum price established at the project's outset.
Best K-12 Project: Sandy Grove Middle School
Contractor Metcon Inc., Pembroke, N.C.
Owner FirstFloor K-12 Solutions LLC, Raleigh
Architect SFL+a Architects, Raleigh
Civil Engineer Crawford Design Co., Fayetteville, N.C.
Structural Engineer LHC Structural Engineers, Raleigh
MEP Engineer Optima, Charlotte, N.C.