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Bertschi School Science Wing Goes Net Zero (Seattle, USA)

Credits: ©2011 Bertschi School

Bertschi School in Seattle created an addition to its already green school by building a net zero energy and water science wing for its more than 200 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The new green building wing includes a 1,425 sq ft science classroom plus a 276 sq. ft. greenhouse dubbed the Ecohouse. The Science Wing is powered by a 12.5 kilowatt (kW) rooftop array that provides 100 percent of the power for the addition. Two other arrays on campus are connected to the school's 2007 Bertschi Center building: a 4kW array on the roof of one building and a 2kW array on pole mounts above a covered walkway. The roof assembly of the science addition is structural insulated panels (SIPs) that provide airtight insulation for an extremely tight envelope, and generated little on-site construction waste. The walls are 2-inch-by-12-inch wood framed with blown in insulation. Net zero water is achieved through the combination of rainwater harvesting, a vegetated roof, rain garden, a composting toilet, potable water treatment system and an interior vegetated wall to treat graywater. (Scroll to bottom for additional resources)


Bertschi School Science Wing

Seattle's Bertschi School Science Wing addition features a green roof, and a 12.5 kW rooftop solar array provides enough energy to power the whole addition. ©2011 Bertschi School

The vegetated roof on the Ecohouse provides biofiltration of stormwater runoff, and its 18-foot-high living wall of tropical plants treats graywater. UV and carbon filters further treat the water so that it is potable, and after the water is purified it’s stored and reused. A runnel - or water channel - is lined with stones set in a sand/cement mortar at the Bertschi School Science Wing. The Runnel is covered by removable glass tiles for educational water testing. The interior runnel and drainage from the vegetated roof feed water to an exterior runnel that terminates in a basin with a solar powered fountain.

A composting toilet collects and treats blackwater in a self-contained system that is not connected to the city water system. These systems are monitored and visible as a learning tool to the students. Outside, an ethnobotanical garden features native and drought tolerant plants that produce edible fruit and craft materials. The Science Wing allows the school to expand upon current components of the science curriculum, into topics such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy. In addition, students will learn about passive ventilation, net-zero water and net-zero energy consumption, concepts that push their thinking and understanding decades into the future.

With its science wing, Bertschi went for net zero energy and net zero water using private funds. The school sees the integration of sustainable practices into its curriculum as empowering the students to make a difference by learning, synthesizing, and sharing their newfound knowledge with the local and global community. In another building on campus - the Bertschi Center - there is a Green Touch Screen that allows the students - or anyone online - to see the Bertschi Center’s energy and water use, as well as green features, in real-time.

The new building also features an ethnobotanical garden to grow food; cisterns for rainwater harvesting; a green moss‐mat roof; composting toilet; natural ventilation and radiant floor heating; a living wall of tropical plants to treat grey water; and solar panels that produce all of the addition’s energy. These features provide students with an active learning environment where they’re encouraged to harvest native vegetation so they can understand urban agriculture, as well as interact with the building’s water and energy‐saving features.

The design of the Science Wing was completed by a multidisciplinary team led by KMD Architects. The building was designed and built to meet the requirements of version 2.0 of the Living Building Challenge, and is undergoing monitoring for twelve months of occupancy to become certified sometime in 2011 or 2012.

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Bertschi School’s Green Touchscreen

KMD Architects (San Francsico, California, USA)

Bertschi School Science Wing TV Video Link

Bertschi School Science Wing Radio Interview

Bertschi School (Seattle, Washington, USA)