November 29, 2010 AdminHBA Design, Sustainability/LEED®, Technology

Sustainable features of Kellam High School: Part 1 of 2

Rarely does such a great design opportunity as Kellam High School come along.  This project has some pretty unique and interesting things going on from a sustainability standpoint.  Not only are we striving for a minimum of LEED Gold certification (aiming for Platinum), but we are fortunate enough to have been chosen to participate in the Sustainable SITES Pilot Program, a new, in-depth sustainability certification aimed specifically at the site, rather than the building itself.  The new design for Kellam High School is a goody-bag full of innovative sustainable design solutions.  We have a little bit of everything: rainwater collection systems, natural wastewater filtration systems, ground source heat pumps, chill beams, solar hot water collectors, even thermally-insulating and light-transmitting glazing!

One of the most interesting features is what’s happening with the water on the site.  In order to reduce the need for potable water use on site, rainwater will be collected from close to 100% of the roof and parking surfaces, and then filtered into one of two systems.  The first system stores the water from the classroom wing roofs in above-ground cisterns, and then distributes it throughout the building to use for flushing toilets.  The second system collects rainwater from the remaining roof surfaces as well as the parking lots and stores it in an underground tank.  Joined by the wastewater from the toilets, which will be run through a natural filtration and treatment system on site, the second system provides water for the irrigation of the playing fields.

The natural wastewater filtration system mentioned above constitutes another of Kellam’s unique design features.  This system, dubbed the “Living Machine,” is an on-site, sustainable way to treat the wastewater from the building.  It will help minimize the sanitary load on the city, save money on wastewater operation and management costs, and serve as a teaching tool for the school.  Here’s how it works:  wastewater will first enter a settling tank, from which the solids get sent to sanitary and the liquids are diverted into a tidal wetland.  The wetland cells will fill and drain on a cycle, allowing plants and microorganisms to break down and purify the water by natural processes.  After it’s all done the water is clean enough to drink (don’t worry – we won’t be doing that)!