Zero Energy Schools Capture the Attention of Policy Makers

02.19.19

Discovery Elementary is one of only four schools nationally and one of the largest building of any kind, anywhere in the world to receive zero-energy certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and New Buildings Institute (NBI). Recently, Discovery received LEED Zero certification from the USGBC, making the project the first school and third project to receive this certification

The school continues to inspire change at local, state, and national levels since its opening. At the local level, Arlington Public Schools has made net-zero energy a requirement for the procurement of new construction. At the state level, the leaders of the aforementioned policy successfully lobbied the Virginia Assembly to pass legislation that allows net-positive schools to sell and keep the funds generated from this excess energy. At the national level, the Department of Energy launched the Net-Zero Accelerator at Discovery – a national partnership aimed demonstrating how investing in renewable energy translates into cost savings and enhanced learning environments.

  • Videos about Discovery, including a piece created by the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), can be viewed here
  • A website created by the DOE and NREL about net-zero building design, which features Discovery, can be viewed here.
  • The Advanced Energy Design Guide—Achieving Zero Energy, which features Discovery, can be downloaded here.
  • The New Buildings Institute released its 2019 Zero Energy Schools Watchlist, which announce an 850% growth rate in US zero energy schools since 2010.

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 net-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. Engaging students in the learning opportunities inherent in zero energy schools offers a way for their vision for a greener future to become a reality.

Discovery Elementary School’s building energy dashboard can be viewed here.


Discovery Elementary is one of only four schools nationally and one of the largest building of any kind, anywhere in the world to receive zero-energy certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and New Buildings Institute (NBI). Recently, Discovery received LEED Zero certification from the USGBC, making the project the first school and third project to receive this certification

The school continues to inspire change at local, state, and national levels since its opening. At the local level, Arlington Public Schools has made net-zero energy a requirement for the procurement of new construction. At the state level, the leaders of the aforementioned policy successfully lobbied the Virginia Assembly to pass legislation that allows net-positive schools to sell and keep the funds generated from this excess energy. At the national level, the Department of Energy launched the Net-Zero Accelerator at Discovery – a national partnership aimed demonstrating how investing in renewable energy translates into cost savings and enhanced learning environments.

  • Videos about Discovery, including a piece created by the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), can be viewed here
  • A website created by the DOE and NREL about net-zero building design, which features Discovery, can be viewed here.
  • The Advanced Energy Design Guide—Achieving Zero Energy, which features Discovery, can be downloaded here.
  • The New Buildings Institute released its 2019 Zero Energy Schools Watchlist, which announce an 850% growth rate in US zero energy schools since 2010.

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 net-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. Engaging students in the learning opportunities inherent in zero energy schools offers a way for their vision for a greener future to become a reality.

Discovery Elementary School’s building energy dashboard can be viewed here.