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CEED Passive House Certified in Virginia

Credits: ©2011 CEED

Tucked into the verdant hills of rural Franklin County, Virginia, is a high-tech learning facility that is the first public school in the US to meet the stringent Passive House standards. The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) is a state-of-the-art green building educational center housed in one the country’s most energy-efficient buildings. Using technologies that include passive design, earth berming, south facing orientation, thermal mass, geothermal energy, photovoltaics, solar water heaters, electricity-producing wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, energy-efficient appliances, and daylight harvesting, this building provides a template for residential and educational construction for the 21st century. Sustainable building materials include the trellis on the building façade that is made from recycled grocery bags and plastic water bottles, and carpet made from recycled airplane tires. Using the building components themselves, CEED acts as a regional resource to teach students, architects, builders and homeowners in the local community in Southwestern Virginia, about extremely energy efficient design. This building also helps spur innovation and economic growth throughout Southwest Virginia, as it moves towards a “greener” economy. Most importantly, it teaches the children of Franklin County and the region the fundamentals of creating a greener world for themselves and the generations to come.


CEED Gereau Solar Hot Water

Solar hot water is provided to The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Development in Franklin County, Virginia, where its Center for Energy Efficient Design is the first public school facility in the US to certify to the Passive House standard. ©2011 CEED

CEED focuses on environmental studies, engineering and architectural design in its coursework, which fits with the Franklin County school system's goal of offering curricula that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. The building provides a test-bed for the concepts studied, as well as a hands-on laboratory for working with renewable energy technologies and passive design principles. The $1.4 million (in 2010) facility was funded through federal grants, donations from community businesses and savings from the construction of another local elementary school.

The programs at CEED are also available to students from other school districts in Virginia. In addition to student use, the building will be open to the general public to learn about how they can incorporate energy efficient principles in their existing or future homes. Builders and contractors can see the systems in action to advance their knowledge of building and renewable energy technologies and how they can be applied.

Designed and built by Structures Design/Build of Roanoke, Virginia, the CEED building is part of the campus for The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration. It is also a green public school facility with a compatible agenda for using technology to advance careers for the kids. Both buildings have a corporate look and feel as part of an intentional design to expose students to a type of work environment with which they are not already familiar in this rural area.

Geothermal energy is thermal energy stored in the Earth. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation.

Photovoltaics (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels comprising a number of cells containing a photovoltaic material. Due to the growing demand for renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced considerably in recent years.

Rainwater harvesting is the storing of rainwater. Rainwater from the roof of the CEED and from the permeable pavement is collected in a 3400 gallon underground storage unit. Rainwater harvesting systems can be simple to construct from inexpensive local materials and are potentially successful in most habitable locations. It can be used to flush toilets, wash clothes, water the garden, and wash cars.

A green or vegetated roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Also known as living roofs, green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and combat the heat island effect.

Passive House refers to the rigorous, voluntary, Passivhaus or Passive House US standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. Passive design is but an integrated architectural design process that results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. As of August 2010, there were approximately 25,000 such certified structures of all types in Europe, while in the United States there were only 13, with a few dozen more under construction. The PassivHaus design standard for CEED will reduce heating and cooling demand by an estimated 94 percent. It also reduces carbon dioxide (C02) emissions from the building by as much as 78 percent. Passive House, also known as Passivhaus, is a building technology developed in Germany that helps create buildings with ultra-low energy consumption.

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electricity, wind mills for mechanical power, wind pumps for pumping water or drainage, or sails to propel ships. CEED demonstrates both vertical axis and horizontal axis systems.

Building orientation can maximize opportunities for passive solar heating when needed, solar heat gain avoidance during cooling time, natural ventilation, and daylighting throughout the year. For example, southern exposure is the key physical orientation feature for passive solar energy in the northern hemisphere. The basic considerations for optimizing the solar heating potential of a sunspace include the directional orientation and the angle of the glazing (glass or windows).

Solar Thermal Systems are used for water heating and make it possible to heat a large amount of water, and then naturally disperse it to other locations. CEED includes hot water systems and a thermal-assisted heat exchange. The concept is similar to a normal water hose that can hold water in it even when shut off. The heat of the sun heats the water and that water will be significantly hotter than the water that will be displacing it for a few seconds to a few minutes.

A Building Monitoring System records data from a variety of sources within the building, as well as the weather, so that the information can be analyzed and incorporated into learning modules. Students use that data to compare technologies, compute energy usage, and predict energy savings. The students who tour the CEED are involved in hands-on activities that use the real-time data produced by the applications in the building.

The CEED Website allows teachers from around the country to download more than 100 lesson plans that use the building as a teaching tool. The lesson plans help prepare students for Virginia's Standards of Learning tests. The CEED website also posts current data gathered from the monitoring systems for students to remotely conduct studies on the energy production and energy use of the building.

Local Economy It's a hope that local businesses, many of which contributed to the construction of CEED, will find this building is a springboard to producing energy efficient products such as solar panels and thermal windows, helping to spur a local green economy.

The following article is from Virginia Journal of Education
Planting a CEED

In Franklin County, educators, students and the community join forces to create a 'zero-energy' building.

by John Richardson and Neil Sigmon

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but as Franklin County can attest, it truly takes a community to plant a CEED. The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) was first conceived in late 2002, and through an all-out community effort, it has finally sprouted in the rich soil of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A zero-energy building that will produce more electricity than it uses, the CEED will be an educational resource for the region, state and entire planet. Using techniques and technologies that include wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays for electricity; earth berming and solar orientation for heat and light; and rainwater harvesting and geothermal energy to conserve all of its resources, the CEED will truly be a one-of-a-kind facility.

After an alternative energy conference in 2002, we decided we wanted to bring these renewable energies back to our school and students in a real way, and the idea of the CEED was born. As teachers at The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration in Rocky Mount, we knew what kind of reception such an ambitious idea would receive. The Gereau Center is an innovative middle school/high school hybrid founded on a holistic Problem-Based Learning model. The response from the faculty and administration was overwhelmingly positive. As Kevin Bezy, Gereau’s principal says, “This is what The Gereau Center is all about, what makes it so special.” Encouraged by fellow Franklin County Education Association members Susan Montgomery and Elaine Hawkins, we began the work of putting together community partners.

First to help was now-retired U.S. Representative Virgil Goode from Virginia’s 5th District. Rep. Goode saw the educational and economic impact such a project would bring to the area and beyond. “This is a wonderful teaching tool,” he says. “Someone will be building the wind turbines and solar panels of tomorrow. Why not here in Franklin County? Why not now? The CEED will be a perfect example of what we can build today.” Goode was instrumental in getting a U.S. Department of Energy grant for the initial stages of development.

Additional help came from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Ken Jurman, the department’s director of renewable energy, was invaluable in getting state funding for demonstration projects including a residential wind turbine, solar panels and solar hot water heaters. He is continuing to work to bring additional stimulus monies to further the educational component of the CEED.

Local businesses were also eager to help, even in times of economic slowdown. MW Windows of Rocky Mount, a nationally known manufacturer of energy-efficient windows, volunteered to design, build and donate special, eco-engineered windows especially for the CEED. Other local business, from concrete producers to carpenters, plumbers and electricians donated time and materials, as well.

Perhaps the biggest break came in early 2008 when one of John’s students mentioned that his father worked for one of the most respected “green” architects in the region, Adam Cohen. Cohen is one of only a handful of American architects trained in the German-inspired building concept PassivHaus, an energy-saving strategy. He was very enthusiastic about working on the CEED. “I knew this was just what I was looking for, a project that can truly help to change where we as a nation, a culture are headed,” he says. “This is an incredible concept—a building that teaches.” PassivHaus was just the tool that could really bring the CEED to true “zero-energy” status and Cohen willingly donated his services to the project.

The final piece fell into place when the Franklin County Board of Supervisors gave their blessing and allocated over $400,000 to finish the funding quest. Board member David Cundiff says, “This is a wonderful addition to the county’s school system and will bring our children into the 21st century with a skill set that is truly without compare.”

Students have been intimately involved from the very beginning, helping pick out solar panels and hot water and geothermal systems, and learning the concepts and theories that underlie the science involved in the planning and construction of the building. But they also understand the bigger picture as well. Kayla Hurley, now a junior at Franklin County High School, has worked on the project for four years. “We want to leave our mark, and leave something of worth behind,” she says. Invoking the Law of the Great Iroquois Nation, she adds, “We need to leave something for the Seventh Generation…our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

So finally, on August 29, 2009, ground was broken and the CEED was planted. But the job of reaping the fruit has just begun. Teachers are writing curriculum for all students, K-12, to benefit from the CEED. Through an interactive website, students, teachers, parents and others will be able to avail themselves of real-time data, downloadable lesson plans and ideas on how to use the CEED in their own classrooms, even if it’s on the other side of the world. We envision kids in Australia, for example, checking out our website to see how well our solar panels or wind turbine are working, or checking to see how much rainwater we’ve collected in the last month.

Understandably, the entire community is excited and proud of the CEED and its impact locally and globally. Students are already working on plans to write hundreds of letters inviting President Obama to the August 2010 opening. But the community is most proud of the way they have come together. As Franklin County Superintendent Charles Lackey says, “This is such a great example of what a community can do when a sense of common purpose is felt. Bringing private and public stakeholders together, combining local, state and federal energies…that’s what the planting of the CEED is all about.”

Authors Richardson and Sigmon, members of the Franklin County Education Association, teach at The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration.

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  CEED Passive House School Article - GMC Magazine MAY 2011 (553 kb)

  CEED Center for Energy Efficient Design Presentation PPT (5,386 kb)


Center for Energy Efficient Design (Virginia, USA)

The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration (Virginia, USA)

CEED Building Video Link

Structures Design Build (Roanoke, Virginia, USA)