Kellam High School Replacement – Slated for LEED® Platinum

The new 2,000 student Kellam High School will be the pilot facility for a problem/project-based learning curriculum recently adopted by the School Board of the City of Virginia Beach. This educational facility has been designed not only as a teaching tool, but as a community facility dedicated to 21st century learning. Encouraging learning, exploration, and civic engagement this project will foster the development of students in a traditional academic sense while simultaneously encouraging them to act as responsible citizens and stewards of the environment.

Through daily experiences in a building filled with natural daylight, built with recycled materials, and interacting with the natural environment, the students, faculty and staff that come to learn and work in this facility will come to appreciate what can and should be done to ensure that our future has a future. Designed with the health of the building occupants and our Earth in mind, this building boasts numerous sustainable initiatives and strategies.

This facility will collect 100% of the rainwater on this site (based on a 10-year storm).  The rainwater from the building will be collected and stored in cisterns (designed in the “barn” vernacular of the school design aesthetic). This collected rainwater will be used to flush toilets and urinals and fulfill other non-potable water needs in the building.  The “blackwater” waste will be processed by a Living Machine, and the output water will be used for drip-irrigation of the playing fields.  The Living Machine will be a prominent feature on the site near the building’s main entrance, serving as a constant reminder of what can be done for our environment while also serving as a learning tool for the students who will be monitoring its function.

Three courtyards in the center of the building will also enhance the building’s function as a learning tool. The first, a terraced vegetable garden (to be designed by the Fall 2010 High School Environmental Science class) will depend on gravity fed irrigation.  This “edible garden” will produce food that will be prepared by the Culinary Arts students and served in the school cafeteria.  The second courtyard, emulating another habitat, will encourage interaction.  The dry stream beds designed into this area will fill up only during rain events, serving as a demonstration of the local precipitation patterns and the path rain takes on its journey to the Atlantic Ocean. The third courtyard will serve in an observation capacity. This “raingarden” wetland environment will encourage investigation by allowing science classes to take samples and conduct experiments allowing the students to understand the ecosystem they are a part of.  A vegetated roof overlooking these courtyards will also be an accessible area for educational opportunities while also affording the building the added benefits of insulation efficiency.

Coupled with these sustainable technologies, the project also includes bio-swales, interactive rain gardens, a geothermal/ chilled beam HVAC system, increased insulation, recycled building materials, regional building materials, on-site renewable energy, protected and restored habitats and more. The forested portion of this project has been set aside as an animal habitat and an outdoor classroom to include an interpretive trail system that can be used by the public as well as the students.

This facility, designed through a collaborative process involving students, staff, community members, parents and teachers along with our design team and client representatives will be the first of its kind, setting the stage for the future of education.

This project’s relevance comes in the sense that it is an educational facility fostering environmental stewardship, designed to the highest levels of sustainability in its class. Including public gathering/assembly space, classroom environments designed to integrate with laboratory space and multi-purpose rooms, this building embodies educational and environmental goals and needs in a cutting edge green facility that serves as a model of sustainable building design for Hampton Roads, its residents, businesses, officials, and visitors alike.

– John Den Boer