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Greenwood Elementary School

Henrico County, Virginia

The Green Red Brick Schoolhouse


Merit Award, AIA Virginia Chapter 2005
Merit Award, AIA Richmond Chapter 2005
State Excellence in Design Award, Virginia Educational Facilities Planners (VEFPI) 2005
Regional Excellence in Design Award, Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) 2005

Green building seems like second nature now but in 2001, after being selected to design a new elementary school for Henrico County, it was a challenge.  LEED was out of the question and sustainability was still a foreign word. But work on creating a sustainable school began nonetheless. The construction market was ideal and this green building came in under budget at $120/sf. Many of the green strategies and materials listed here were firsts for a Henrico County. Notably, gypsum wallboard and metal framing was used in place of CMU. We also worked on changing local and state codes for fire stairs and artificial lighting requirements. We were able to work with the Commonwealth to reduce required lighting level requirements for direct/indirect lighting in classrooms statewide so schools could save energy (and money) and provide higher quality classroom lighting. We were also able to limit the requirement for fire stairs versus open stairs so that sensible pathways and more secure supervisory sight-lines could be achieved.

Outside the building we started our sustainable site approach  with Xeriscaping, modified bioretention, grasscrete replacing access paving and exterior hard surfaces, zero-cutoff site lighting, and low height walkway lighting. Mechanical equipment was not hidden but celebrated and integrated into the building vocabulary, thus providing another teaching tool for educators to utilize.

The simplest and most effective way of saving energy is to properly orient and protect building surfaces and window exposures.  The building’s footprint, and thus roof surface area, was reduced by more than 30% by using a two-story plan.  Highly reflective roof finishes and insulated walls help reduce heat gain. The brick used is local and the metal roof and walls are produced in nearby Pennsylvania. Context is (was) rural, agricultural of silos of terra cotta & barns of brick and metal panel. There is virtually no exterior paint by design – only a few painted metal doors.

On the inside, low or no-VOC paints, carpet tile, natural wool wall carpet in corridors for tacksurfaces and seating backdrops help keep air clean and interiors comfortable. Natural lighting and limited sunlight activate spaces and brighten minds. Carefully designed exterior solar shading devices admit sun in the winter and daylight in the summer, while frosted glazing bathes classrooms in diffuse natural light, reducing or eliminating the need for artificial light for much of the day.  Linear and compact fluorescent fixtures provide efficient, even light where necessary.

Completed: 2005
Architect of Record: BCWH Architects
Project Manager/Designer: Scott Kyle, AIA, LC, LEED