LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2009
Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
Philadelphia, PA 19120
LEED Certified 2011
The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:
SSc2, WEp1, WEc2, EAc3.1, MRp2, EQp1, EQp3, EQc1.1, EQc3.1, EQc3.3, EQc3.4, IOc1
Goals and motivations
What were the project sustainability goals?
One of the most important sustainability goals for this project was to provide high-performance learning environments for students, teachers, and staff. In 2005, the school district partnered with the Philadelphia Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN), Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to evaluate asthma prevalence in West, Southwest, Olney, Logan and Germantown neighborhoods. Thurgood Marshall was included in screenings of over 5,798 students that found one in four students diagnosed with asthma and/or admitted to the hospital for wheezing, compared to the national average of one in 10.
The school-based team, including principal, counselors, and teachers, embraced sustainability beyond LEED certification. Many books used in classrooms have an environmental subject or message.
Another important goal was to save utilities and associated energy costs. The School District of Philadelphia is a financially-distressed district, and savings accrued can be applied toward educational resources. The school district is always trying to do more with less.
Lastly, it was important to improve the building's energy-related systems. The LEED process identified several mechanical and electrical equipment issues that required repair or upgrade. Resolving these issues was a priority to ensure that equipment was operating properly to meet energy performance and thermal comfort goals.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
The custodial staff of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are school district employees. Led by the school's building engineer, the enthusiastic staff does an excellent job cleaning and maintaining the building, which is a large task considering that community groups use the building in the evenings and on weekends. At the beginning of the LEED certification process, the project team realized that the district was already using green cleaning products. Approximately 30% of cleaning products are Green Seal certified and use environmentally-preferable packaging. During the LEED performance period, Thurgood Marshall's custodial staff acquired a new floor scrubber that uses ionized water with zero cleaning chemicals, thereby reducing the amount of chemicals potentially contaminating indoor air quality. The team also began using a microfiber cleaning system, a pilot program that may be implemented across the district that replaces heavy buckets of water with light mops of pre-moistened cleaning cloths. In addition to reducing water use, the new system reduces operator fatigue and minimizes potential for slips and falls.
The custodial team utilizes an innovative floor scrubber that uses ionized water and zero cleaning chemicals. This scrubber was an important part of the green cleaning program.
Indoor Environmental Quality:
During the LEED performance period, the School District of Philadelphia began rolling out an innovative IEQ program; Thurgood Marshall was included as one of its first participants. In association with the district's Environmental Management and Services Department, an industrial hygienist inspected Thurgood Marshall for indoor air quality, identifying issues such as roof leaks causing water damage to ceilings and walls; unit ventilators blocked with clutter and not effectively ventilating classrooms; unit ventilator drain pans needing cleaning; and filters requiring replacement. Within six months of the initial inspection, over half of the issues were resolved. This process was an important tool for educating staff members about the importance of identifying and remediating indoor air quality issues.
An important part of maintaining the building's energy performance was repairing the building automation system and lighting control system. These systems broke several years prior to the LEED performance period. During the LEED process, they were fully repaired, thereby allowing greater control over equipment and schedules.
Proper snow removal is important to ensure safety. Instead of traditional rock salt, Thurgood Marshall uses potassium chloride, an environmentally-friendly alternative that is tinted blue to ensure even application and to reduce waste. In maintaining small areas of landscaping, the building engineer previously used gas-powered equipment; as part of the LEED process, this was replaced with battery-powered equipment that is ergonomically-enhanced to reduce operator fatigue.
School as a Teaching Tool:
Borrowing a credit from the LEED for Schools Rating System, the project team implemented a School as a Teaching Tool Program to contribute toward an Innovation in Operation credit. On staff development days, district personnel and the district's sustainability consultant presented to teachers on how to incorporate sustainability into the classroom. Specific data related to the building and the LEED certification process is provided for lesson plans. The project team scheduled assemblies for students to teach them about recycling, both in the classroom and at home. The assistant principal implemented the Green Monitors program, in which each classroom assigns one student to be the Green Monitor, or environmental student ambassador. Each Green Monitor reminds teachers to turn off lights and close windows at the end of the day, and also helps his/her classroom with properly sorting recyclable materials from everyday trash.
Water Use Reduction:
Like any LEED project, Thurgood Marshall was required to meet the prerequisite of reduced potable water consumption. The school was only 14 years old, so plumbing fixtures did not require replacement, but they were not particularly water-efficient. To meet this prerequisite, the school district installed low-flow aerators in all lavatory faucets and replaced existing showerheads with low-flow models. Based on these upgrades, which cost less than $100 and were easy to install by the on-site building engineer, in total, the building now uses 17% less water in restrooms than a comparable school. Lessons learned from tracking utility consumption and costs for Thurgood Marshall will be shared with other facilities across the district.
What one strategy or approach best maximized efficiencies of cost, time, or effort?
The most important part of successfully implementing LEED certification at Thurgood Marshall was the tremendous participation of the school-based team, including the principal, assistant principal, building engineer, counselors, and teachers. The school-based team provided purchasing receipts, distributed surveys, scheduled sustainability education events, and provided a warm welcome to the many visitors involved in the certification process. The assistant principal implemented the Green Monitors program, which assigns one student in each classroom to be an environmental student ambassador. Lastly, one teacher baked cookies with green sprinkles for students and guests who attended the LEED plaque ceremony.
Aside from LEED certification, what were key successes?
When the School District of Philadelphia was accepted into USGBC's LEED in Existing Schools Pilot Program, it needed to select one school to pursue LEED for Existing Buildings certification. To begin the process, 30 schools were identified as potential participants and entered into ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager to assess energy performance. Thurgood Marshall was selected because of its excellent energy performance and ability to meet LEED ventilation requirements.
Built in 1997, the 114,000-square-foot school serves more than 700 students in grades pre-K through 8 with over 100 teachers and staff members.
The preliminary energy investigation of all 30 schools was very informative to the school district. The district's total portfolio is comprised of more than 370 buildings with an average building age of 66 years old. While many of the older masonry buildings achieved excellent ENERGY STAR ratings, they could not meet LEED's ventilation prerequisite with their existing, outdated mechanical equipment. Also, this investigation required the district to examine energy performance on an individual basis; previously, energy performance and costs were assessed across the entire portfolio. While the investigation indicated that many schools were performing well, there was room for improvement and this process identified where the needs were greatest. Lastly, the investigation aligned with the district's Master Facilities Plan, which will be implemented within the next five years to upgrade existing facilities and improve operations and maintenance procedures, but most importantly, to reduce energy consumption and cost.
What were the most significant LEED outcomes and related savings?
In 2010, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School achieved the ENERGY STAR label with a superior rating of 81, which equates to 28% energy savings when compared to typical school buildings nationwide.
Also, Thurgood Marshall carefully purchases durable goods to consider energy efficiency and the environment. 100% of computer equipment purchases completed during the performance period were ENERGY STAR labeled. The school continues to purchase more computers each year, and it is important to balance educational technology with energy conservation goals.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
One of the most challenging aspects of the certification process was the ventilation testing required under IEQ Prerequisite 1 (Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance). In contrast to commercial office buildings, which typically have just three to four air handling units, Thurgood Marshall is equipped with a hydronic heating and cooling system that is connected to more than 60 air handling units, including rooftop units, fan coil units, and unit ventilators. Additionally, the mechanical systems at Thurgood Marshall are 15 years old. As a result, the systems were not capable of meeting the ventilation rate established in ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007, so the project pursued Case 2 to confirm that the systems provide minimum 10 cfm of outdoor air per person under normal operating conditions.
Because the school district did not have the expertise on staff to conduct testing, an outside consultant was hired, which incurred soft costs that represented one of the project's greatest expenses. Each of the 60 systems had to be tested, taking several weeks to complete. It was also difficult to schedule the ventilation testing so as not to disrupt classroom activities.
During testing, the consultant confirmed that many air handling units did not meet the requirement of 10 cfm per person and he adjusted outdoor air dampers to bring in more outside air. However, while this process ensured better indoor air quality for occupants, it also required more energy to condition increased amounts of outside air. As a result, the building's energy performance decreased slightly. The team is implementing other energy saving strategies so that the project can maintain adequate outdoor air amounts while continuing to achieve the ENERGY STAR label. As a LEED for Existing Buildings project, Thurgood Marshall must pursue recertification at least once every five years to maintain certification status. This means the team will have to re-test all 60 air handling units again soon.
The team is actively documenting the next performance period. It is important to stay on top of LEED documentation and continuously implement LEED policies; therefore, the team meets quarterly to touch base. Over the course of this certification process, new challenges have arisen with changes in leadership, budget, and schedule. For example, the district is currently facing budget cuts that may affect its ability to fund LEED strategies. In response, the team is partnering with outside organizations to provide much-needed resources, such as funding for schoolyard upgrades and sustainability education for teachers.
What was the value of applying LEED to this project?
As demonstrated by the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools initiative, sustainability in classrooms is a nationwide movement. Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is known for its strong community connections, including to several groups that use the building after hours. Implementation of sustainable strategies in Thurgood Marshall classrooms has had tremendous impact on the surrounding community. One parent noted that since Thurgood Marshall implemented its recycling education program, he noticed more households recycling in the neighborhood. Eighth-grade students select a community service project each year to implement in the surrounding neighborhood, and the past several years, they have selected environmental topics such as recycling and littering.
We have a renewed sense of excitement for the coming school year as we continue along our path to sustainability and environmental awareness. The example set by the eighth graders has filtered down to the lower grades. We proudly tout new partnerships with two organizations that share the common mission of social awareness. When the question arose as to an intended area of focus, our sixth and third grade teams each indicated an aspect of sustainability as their cause.
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