Discovery Elementary School is the largest zero-energy school in the country and the first in the Mid-Atlantic region. The school’s design inspires positive behaviors such as love of learning and stewardship of the environment by providing a setting that experientially engages students in the learning process. An important and lasting link between the built environment and the learning environment at Discovery is a custom-designed, publicly-accessible building dashboard system.
The system tracks consumption, production, and overall zero-energy performance data and helps translate the school’s energy performance into hands-on learning opportunities for students. The data is published on a touchscreen dashboard installed near the school’s entry and is available on any wireless device – making the energy data available to anyone. The dashboard can be viewed at this link.
Student-gathered data is also displayed on the dashboard, including the weight of trash produced by the kitchen, weight of food donated to the local food bank, overall paper usage, and data on the number of walkers, bikers, bus riders, and vehicular drop-offs that occur. 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 contribute to the school’s sustainable mission and culture.
A unique feature of Discovery’s dashboard is a three-dimensional tour that can be taken of a classroom or the solar lab, but also of the kitchen, mechanical spaces, and roof – many spaces that are off limits to students. Users can hover over icons to bring up building factoids or energy data. All of this is coordinated with the physical environment and educational signage found in the school, combing virtual and real into a comprehensive teaching tool accessible by anyone, anywhere.
A centerpiece for the community, Discovery demonstrates how creative design strategies can translate into real value for schools, communities, and the environment through positive behavior change.