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Riverbend Elementary School – a Model for Energy Self-Reliance

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 http://www.chps.net.

Riverbend Elementary 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 bright day.

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 ridge cap.

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.”

Solar power 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.

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