Discovery Elementary School is the first new elementary school built in Arlington, VA in more than a decade. The goal of the PreK-5 project is to address growing student enrollment while reaching for the highest standards possible – in instructional space as well as sustainability, operating costs, and flexibility. Net zero energy design was a primary contributor to this mission. To date, the project is anticipated to become the first net zero energy school in the Mid-Atlantic and the largest in the United States.
In collaboration with the client, our design team has designed (pro-bono) a custom dashboard system that tracks energy data and measures it in real-time and against the energy model. The installation of an unprecedented amount of sub-metering throughout the school – for measuring plug load, lighting, IT energy use, and other expenditures of energy – allows data to be measured, tracked, and published on the dashboard and on every school device connected to the internet.
A screen installed near the school entry allows visitors as well as students, teachers, and community members to engage with the school’s low-energy culture on a continual basis via the dashboard. Publicly available and connected to an array of learning opportunities – such as the school’s rooftop solar lab, which allows students to conduct real time and on-going experiments – the dashboard motivates students and teachers to modify their behavior in order to help the building achieve not only net-zero energy status, but also net-positive energy status.
“The physical design of the school itself is very inspirational to students. They love coming here, they love being in this space, and they love learning in this space … The students know that they’re in a special place.” – Chris Vaccaro, Discovery Elementary School 3rd Grade Teacher