Created on Wednesday, 09 May 2007 20:00
Last Updated on Friday, 11 May 2007 06:06
By Erin Post
The Green Mountain Valley School's new library and day student center blends right in with the campus's tan buildings overlooking athletic fields and ski slopes.
But the difference is in the details.
The roughly 6,000-square-foot structure -- attached to the existing Farmhouse Building -- boasts a number of features that lessens its impact on the environment according to a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBS). Called the LEED certification and ratings system, it's considered the "nationally accepted benchmark" for green buildings.
To pursue LEED certification for the new building, staff and students as well as parents and alumni pitched in to help research and develop plans.
It was a true group effort, said GMVS teacher and project manager Tim Harris.
"We've had a lot of support in the community to make it happen," he said.
Planning began in the fall of 2005, with teams of students and staff dispatched to research materials and technologies to incorporate into the building. Construction got underway last summer. In March, the new library opened its doors to students.
Now that the building--which includes the library and new electronic resources as well as two new classrooms and several study areas-is bustling with activity, GMVS plans to celebrate.
An opening event is slated for Saturday, May 19, with Governor Jim Douglas the keynote speaker for the occasion. The public is invited to attend the 1 p.m. event and tour the building.
The GMVS library and day student center is one of only a handful of buildings in Vermont constructed according to LEED standards, school officials said, joining a list of institutions that includes the ECHO Center in Burlington and NRG Systems in Hinesburg.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED ratings system focuses on five areas: Sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Projects must meet certain basic prerequisites as well as earn credits in the five focus areas to be certified LEED.
For GMVS, this meant a host of innovations.
Bathrooms boast toilets with two flush options to reduce water consumption, especially important for a school that depends on wells for its water supply, Harris pointed out.
Lights using high-efficiency bulbs operate on sensors. Huge windows overlooking athletic fields take advantage of daylight, cutting down further on electricity consumption.
A wraparound porch features decking made of recycled material; a durable fiber cement siding is used on the exterior of the new building.
Maple harvested from property owned by GMVS headmaster Dave Gavett was used in study carrels, window moldings, and other places.
The maple was milled on site, Harris said, which reduced trucking and made use of wood that otherwise might not be considered viable for construction.
In the GMVS building, the wood adds character and a taste of Vermont history: Visitors can run their hands over old tap holes.
Low VOC paints and materials cut down on the noxious fumes visitors breathe, said GMVS teacher and LEED project leader Kerry Litchfield. For the LEED certification, all materials used within the building envelope --including caulks, glues and sealants -- had to be considered low VOC (volatile organic compounds).
This required some digging into what products are available, Litchfield said, a process that was slow at first but became easier as the project moved along. The payoff was immediately evident.
"The building never smelled bad, which is incredible," she said.
A high-efficiency propane boiler provides heat and is controlled through a software program that allows careful monitoring of temperature throughout the building. Spray foam insulation reduces heat loss.
Carbon dioxide monitors and an air circulation system keep indoor air quality high.
Outside, native plants and stone walkways, as opposed to asphalt, will be used for landscaping.
The building also incorporates a new teaching tool called a technology-enhanced, or smart, classroom. A special white board at the front of the room allows teachers to interact with information projected from a laptop. A camera attached to the board takes digital photos of the lesson presented, which is especially helpful for a school like GMVS, where students are often on the road for sporting events.
"Students can log onto the internet and pull up class notes for the day," Harris said.
The project also created a designated space for day students, Harris said. In the building attached to the new library, students who commute to the school now have an expanded study area as well as locker rooms.
Although there are five buildings in Vermont that have been LEED certified, GMVS leads the way for primary and secondary schools, said GMVS teacher and development coordinator Brian McCurdy.
Not only is the building a model for other schools, GMVS students may serve as a resource for their peers now that they've helped to plan a green building.
Local companies involved with the job also learned about green materials and technologies, Litchfield pointed out, adding that their knowledge may help others in the construction field adopt some new practices.
A capital campaign at GMVS helped pay for costs associated with the building project, estimated to be just over $900,000.
Fund-raising efforts are ongoing, according to a newsletter from the school.
In addition to the generosity of donors, GMVS benefited from partnerships with several area firms, including Hinesburg-based Bast and Rood Architects and Salem Engineering of Charlotte. The builder for the project was Camerand Inc. of South Burlington.