10 February 2012

Educating Our Future LEEDers

My hometown of Boulder, Colorado, is a leader in green everything.  It's because I grew up there that I've been recycling since the 1980s, and the city has only gotten greener since then (more on that here.)

So it's not entirely surprising that a middle school in Boulder (not the one I attended) would be one of the first two in the country to receive a platinum rating (the highest) from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.  LEED is known as the most rigorous green certification program for  houses, office buildings, etc., and in 2006, they started a program for schools as well.  That same year, Boulder Valley School District passed a $300 million bond package that included $33 million to renovate historical-and-stately-but-kind-of-tired Casey Middle School.

(Photos shamelessly snagged from Casey's oh-so-green website.)

With the help of an additional $1.8 million from the Boulder City Council for green upgrades, school officials got to work reimagining the school, keeping the 1924 facade while bringing the rest of the building into the 21st century.

In 2010, Casey reopened.

Students riding their bikes to school can park under these carport-like structures that support nearly 27 kilowatt hours of solar panels:

But that's just the outside.  Inside the school, features range from low-flow plumbing fixtures to a geothermal system with 68 heat pumps and countless loops running 370 feet underground:

(For comparison, our geothermal system has one pump served by three loops.)

The school's electricity needs are reduced by over 100 solar tubes...

...and daylighting windows galore.

Can you imagine having that view out your middle school windows?  (I had that very view from some of my high school classrooms, but there were vastly fewer windows.  In fact, it was said that my high school was designed by an architect who specialized in prisons...but maybe that was just certain students' editorializing about their high school experience.)

There's even a green roof, which not only keeps the building cooler but also provides educational opportunities for the students (you can see six of the solar tubes poking out from among the plants):

And then there are the other measures that Casey is taking, unrelated to LEED.  Through the local recycling organization's Green Star Schools program, Casey and 28 other area schools are teaching students to reduce, recycle, compost, and generally become more aware of their impact on our world.

Pretty amazing, huh?  (Want to know more?  Check out this cool website about the school's green features and this article from the Boulder Daily Camera.)


  1. Cool!

    Your mention of the legend of your high school having been designed by an architect of prisons reminded me of a game my wife and I sometimes play when driving, called "School or Prison," in which we see a compound appear ahead in the distance and we try to decide in which category to place it. Sadly, it can be a difficult game.

    Casey Middle School, though, wouldn't pose much of a challenge!

    1. Love it. The only thing about my high school that suggests that it isn't a prison is the setting on top of a hill, overlooking Boulder's iconic Flatirons.


      The side facing the mountains has more windows, but they're tall and skinny and fortresslike. (Our mascot was the knight, by the way.)