Riverbend Elementary School – a Model for Energy Self-Reliance
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The new 86,000-square-foot Riverbend Elementary School designed by Nacht & Lewis
Architects, a leading architectural firm in Northern California, is a model of
energy self-reliance. But Riverbend Elementary isn’t just a model of energy
efficiency it is also a school that carries the prestigious moniker of a CHPS
designed school – a school designed to meet the sustainable standards set by the
Collaborative for High Performing Schools.
Founded in 1999 as a collaboration of California utilities to address energy
efficiency in schools, the Collaborative for High Performing Schools is a
non-profit organization dedicated to make schools better places to learn.
Shortly after its inception, the program quickly expanded to include many
aspects of school design, construction and operation. Eleven other states
seeking better designed and healthier facilities for their students have adopted
the program. You can learn more about CHPS at
School designed by Nacht & Lewis Architects, is the first school
designed as a CHPS (Collaborative for High Performing Schools) school in
the Yuba City Unified School District
Nacht & Lewis Architects worked with the Yuba City Unified School District in
the design and construction of Riverbend Elementary. Riverbend Elementary is the
first CHPS designed school for the Yuba City Unified School District. The
architect pulled from the Collaborative for High Performing Schools’ Best
Practices Manual and from the U.S. Green Building Council LEED® (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design) program to achieve some of the highest levels
of sustainability. The school includes high efficiency mechanical systems, solar
power generation, natural daylighting, automatic lighting controls, and
low-water use plumbing fixtures. Riverbend Elementary exceeded the energy
requirement of California Title 24 by better than 30% and scored 38 points in
the CHPS rating system.
Solar power generates more than 45% of the campus’ annual energy needs. A system
using thin film photovoltaic panels integrated directly to the standing seam
roof system was installed. The PV system by Uni-Solar® is incorporated directly
into a R-Mer® Loc Architectural/Structural Snap-In Standing Seam Roof System by
The Garland Company, Inc. The photovoltaic panels ‘wake up’ earlier in the
morning and work later at night than glass solar panels. The PV system is
designed to provide up to 100% of the peak electrical demand of the campus on a
A high performance
translucent building system by Kalwall was utilized in the
Administration Building, Gymnasium, and Library filling the space
with subdued, diffused lighting.
Installation of the system is straightforward. The roof panels are cleaned and
then applied by peel and stick. A metal roller is then used over the panels to
make sure the adhesive is fully engaged. The wiring for the solar panels is
incorporated directly in the solar panel and runs up to the ridge of the roof
where they are connected to the main wiring and hidden by the metal roofing
The Garland roof is a sustainable system from the bottom up – the modified
bitumen system consists of recycled rubber from discarded automobile tires and
the roof panels are made from 50% recycled metal. The Garland system generates
the maximum amount of points for a LEED® project. All Garland roofs are
engineered to the job, a critical component to the success of any system. “It is
critical for all roof systems today incorporating solar into the design are
engineered to accept this technology,” states Joe Capone, sales representative
for The Garland Company.
The school campus provided a large amount of roof area – Gymnasium,
Administration Building and a Library along with 10 modular buildings by
American Modular Systems making the campus an excellent choice for this system.
The modular buildings arrived with the Garland roof already installed and ready
for the thin film photovoltaic panels. Rick Torres, of American Modular Systems,
Manteca, Calif. has worked with Nacht & Lewis Architects on several projects and
notes, “Nacht & Lewis Architects are great to work with and they always strive
to serve the customer properly from design through completion of the project.”
Daylighting along with automatic lighting controls optimize the school’s energy
performance. High performance translucent building systems by Kalwall fill the
Administration Building, Gymnasium, and Library with subdued, diffused lighting.
Trabil Enterprises, a commercial glazing contractor located in Carmichael,
Calif. installed the Kalwall systems. “The installation was unique at Riverbend,”
stated Randall Stephenson, President of Trabil Enterprises. The system is
usually installed in a curtainwall system but we were able to revamp the system
and install it into a storefront system thus reducing the cost by 10 to 15%.
Kalwall is a great product. We have been in business since 1985 and have
installed many installations using Kalwall. We are now working on a project, in
another school district, where we are removing the 50’s era steel sash windows
and replacing them with Kalwall translucent panels.”
generates more than 45% of the annual energy needs for Riverbend
Elementary. Thin film photovoltaic panels are integrated directly to
the standing seam roof system by The Garland Company.
Resource efficiency today is imperative. Low-water use plumbing fixtures are
becoming the norm in new construction said Terry O’Connor, Vice President of
Luppen & Hawley, Inc. of Sacramento, Calif. And Luppen & Hawley should know,
they have been in business since 1920. “The Yuba City Unified School District is
easy to work with. Riverbend is an excellent project,” stated O’Connor. “The
project specified low-water use fixtures by Sloan Valve Company. The water
closets and urinals are Optima® by Sloan and save between 35 and 40% from
regular non-saving fixtures. The faucets by Chicago Faucet are self-closing
metering faucets that use a half gallon of water per minute. The entire project
was designed with efficiency in mind,” finished O’Connor.
Riverbend Elementary School was completed in July 2007 and opened for students
in the fall of 2007. The school offers its students a multitude of programs as a
Kindergarten through 8th grade model in addition to being a model for energy
efficiency. Building and designing with energy savings is now becoming the norm.
Nacht & Lewis Architects are currently working on more LEED projects either
under construction or in the design phase. They include civic, corrections,
healthcare and higher educational facilities as well as a court project. “The
recognition of the value of sustainability is almost universal. 90% of our
projects are pursuing energy efficiency in some way or another. Not all are
seeking certification with CHPS or LEED or other certification avenues but
clients are understanding the benefits more and more,” said Andy McPherson of
Nacht & Lewis.