Dunbar Senior High School | U.S. Green Building Council
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LEED BD+C: Schools v3 - LEED 2009

Dunbar Senior High School

101 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

LEED Platinum 2015

America’s first public high school for African-Americans bridges the past to the present and becomes highest rated LEED Platinum school project in the country.

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC is a four-story, 276,000 square-foot facility which supports an enrollment of 628 students (2014-2015). The new building opened in fall 2013 and is a great example of how a school previously described by students as “dark and depressing” has become a leader in sustainable design and construction. Located in northwest Washington, DC, Dunbar High School was founded in 1870, becoming the first public high school for African-Americans.  The school has many notable graduates and has played a significant role in the history of public education in our nation’s capital. The school is now making history as the highest rated LEED school project in the country.
The design of the new facility sought to revive elements of the cherished 1917 building known as the Armory, which served the school before its demolition in the 1970s. The new “Armory” is an open atrium space that serves as the main public space and “heart” of the school. It connects the four academic wings with the athletic field, gymnasium, auditorium, pool, library, and cafeteria. The four academic wings are equipped with state of the art equipment to foster a more positive learning environment. Each wing integrates faculty offices to promote constructive interaction between students and faculty. Natural sunlight is provided to over 90% of the classrooms and not only saves on lighting costs but has been directly linked to enhanced achievement for students in the classroom. Low emitting paints, materials, furniture, and a dedicated outdoor air system were used to improve indoor air quality and support a better learning environment. Additionally, the link between the school’s past and present can be found on the 250 stainless steel floor plaques located throughout the school which honor successful Dunbar alumni, with half of them left blank to remind students that they can one day have their name engraved.
The new facility earned 91 points out of a possible 110 to achieve a LEED Platinum rating for school building design and construction. The design of the school incorporates the use of renewable energies including geothermal and solar. The geothermal system installed under the athletic field is the largest geothermal system in the District at 850 tons. The system includes 362 vertical wells drilled to a depth of 500 feet, requiring over 68 miles of tubing. Radiant flooring is utilized along the large glass windows in the “Armory” to maintain occupant comfort. The school also boasts the largest solar panel array in the District, providing up to 482 kW of power. These features along with many others result in a 27% reduction in energy usage and a 28% reduction in energy costs over baseline design. The reduction in energy usage produces an annual savings of $250,000 to $300,000 when compared to the average DC public school.
Click here to be directed to a website showing the instantaneous power production as well as the daily and monthly power production of the solar panel array.
Water usage was drastically reduced by collecting and reusing rainwater stored in two underground 20,000 gallon cisterns and through the installation of water-efficient fixtures. Water usage was reduced by 50% and the facility consumes 1,400,000 gallons less per year than the typical high school. Low VOC materials, recycled and regional materials were also used to decrease the carbon footprint of the new building.
In summary, the new Dunbar High School is a shining example of a project that successfully incorporated sustainability into the design and construction of the facility. All project stakeholders worked together to provide users with a state-of-the-art facility which continues in the historic tradition of the school.
Authors: Greg Lyons, Tommy Le, Kendrick Reynolds, Scott Beaver, Ameen Khouri

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Project details
251,486 sf
13 Feb 2015
Data Reporting
Energy Update
Water Update
Transportation Update
Waste Update
Human Experience Update

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