USGBC National Capital Region tours net zero school in Maryland | U.S. Green Building Council
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The net-zero Wilde Lake Middle School is also seeking to achieve LEED Platinum.

According to the Maryland Energy Administration, Wilde Lake Middle School (WLMS) in Howard County, Maryland, is the state's first net zero energy school. On June 15, USGBC National Capital Region took a tour organized by the USGBC community's Montgomery County Committee. The school is also currently seeking LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools.

Introductions to the project

  • Ally Dzelilovic, and Bala Srini, of the Montgomery County Committee of USGBC National Capital Region, welcomed attendees.
  • The Director of Construction for Howard County Public Schools, Scott Washington, gave a brief overview of the school’s planning and construction process.
  • Anne Swartz, Principal of WLMS, shared her experience in acclimating to the net zero energy school. She explained that her staff is developing a new curriculum related to energy and sustainability.  
  • The project’s architect, Robyn Toth, Principal, TCA Architects, spoke about the prototype middle school design developed in 1994, which HCPS wanted to build. The prototype design had to be taken to the next level due to the Maryland Energy Administration’s (MEA) Net Zero Energy Grant. The MEA NZE Grant required a net zero energy performance and that the building be designed to an Energy Usage Index (EUI) of less than 25 kBtu per SF. Toth defined net zero building for the audience, and discussed seven fundamental design strategies for achieving net zero.

Aspects of a net zero school

The attendees were then split into two groups for the tour. One was led by Robyn Toth and Patrick Morgan, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Electrical Project Manager, James Posey Associates. The other group was led by Scott Washington and Mike Sherren, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, James Posey Associates. The tour covered a classroom, geothermal room, gymnasium, cafeteria, kitchen, mechanical room, electrical room, outdoor classroom, science lab and the roof-level solar panels.

During the tour, the design team answered questions and gave insights in the design process that took the building to net zero. They showed participants enhanced controls and mechanical equipment and explained strategies that maximized the amount of PV panels on the roof. The tour ended near the entrance of the school, at the interactive energy kiosk with its environmental dashboard.

After the tour, Toth compared the EUIs of the existing school, the LEED baseline, the prototype middle school LEED Silver design and the net zero school. She elaborated upon the process to achieve net zero in all its categories. Then, Mike Sherren discussed the electrical and mechanical side of achieving a net zero transformation. The design team explained the life cycle cost analysis of the finishes and renewable energy system, and Toth concluded by discussing the educational aspects of the school and how it can help inspire the students to become stewards of the environment. Mark Bryan, director of USGBC National Capital Region, gave concluding remarks.

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