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Bertschi School Center (Seattle, Washington, USA)

Credits: ©2009 Miller Hull Partnership

The Bertschi School is a pre-kindergarten through 5th grade independent school located on Capitol Hill in Seattle. The school has grown steadily since its inception in 1975, starting with the renovation of an existing church on the site, and adding more renovated structures as it grew. Miller|Hull reviewed with Bertschi their existing facilities and developed a phased green building renovation and master plan program for their entire site. With the completion of the new Bertschi Center, the school now occupies the east side of an entire block along a busy neighborhood street. The Bertschi School Science Wing is a zero energy addition, profiled separately on this website.


Bertschi Center (Seattle, Washington, USA)

Photovoltaics are part of a renewable energy system that supplies 6.6 percent of the building's energy requirements. The two arrays include a 4kW rooftop array and the 2kW array on pole mounts shown here. ©2009 Yoram Bernet/Miller Hull Partnership

The scale of the distinctive concrete form on the east facade of the new building on the south of campus acts as a counterpoint to the old church steeple on the north, anchoring the edges of the school with iconic elements. It contains a large glazed opening that allows views into the gym/performance space and reflects to the community the activities within the school. The 12,290 SF building also contains art and music classrooms, an art gallery and below grade parking. An internal site walkway provides a safe link to new and existing play areas and buildings, pulling the entire campus together.

A parent and staff passion for native habitat helped influence a design which fosters urban wildlife and provides areas for outdoor education and a connection to nature that is often missing on school sites. Large roll up glass doors open the gym to the all-weather synthetic turf playfield which eliminates irrigation, minimizes maintenance costs and allows all school events to take place here. Miller|Hull worked with the students to focus on other sustainable strategies. There is a high degree of environmental consciousness among the children, which has been fostered by the teachers.

All of the sustainable features of the building and its systems are recorded and made available to the children as part of the curriculum thru a touch screen monitor located in the art gallery. A rain water harvesting system stores roof runoff in large cisterns; one, below grade in the parking garage and two others, above grade in galvanized steel cisterns which have become playful forms in the play areas. Level indicators measure the amount of rainwater stored and flow meters record the amount of rain water used for toilet flushing and irrigation to the native, drought tolerant landscape. Photo voltaic panels displayed as tree-like elements are part of a renewable energy system which supplies 6.6% of the buildings energy requirements.

A weather station on the roof correlates daily conditions with energy use and production. A green roof covers the entry canopy. A conscious effort was made to choose building and site materials that are sustainable and have the lowest long term impact on the environment. Recycled and locally available materials were used and the life cycle of materials was also considered

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