Richardsville Elementary School

Bowling Green, Kentucky

From its conception, Richardsville Elementary—the nation's first total net-zero-energy public school—was designed to be an affordable net-zero facility. The Warren County Board of Education challenged the design team with the task of incorporating sustainable and energy-saving strategies to reduce consumption to 17.5 kBtus (whereas the ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCAPACITY550COST PER SQ FT$192.74CITATIONSpecial CitationFEATURED IN2011 Architectural Portfolio school in the nation uses 73 kBtus). A 348kw photovoltaic array can produce as much energy as the building uses—all for the cost of a conventional school.

The design focused on six aspects of a building’s potential energy conservation:

1. High-performance building envelope.

2. Active daylighting.

3. Geothermal HVAC/hot-water generation.

4. Alternative renewable-energy source.

5. Efficient kitchen cooking strategies.

6. Operations/management plan.

Equally important to the school district was the goal for the school to be a teaching tool. Hallways with geothermal, solar, water conservation and recycling themes help integrate the school’s energy-saving features into the curriculum as students learn conservation principles from the building.

With a goal of earning LEED certification, the building has sustainable features that help create an affordable building with a sustainable site, net-zero energy demand, water efficiency, materials and resource conservation, as well as an indoor/outdoor environment. It promotes a healthful, progressive learning atmosphere, while reducing life-cycle maintenance costs and "zeroing out" energy costs.

"This is an exceptional demonstration of a net-zero school--they have delivered on this commitment. It simply puts to rest th estatement 'It can't be done.'"--2011 jury