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Lesson in Sustainability

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School design's deep overhangs, sunscreens and other features conserve energy

Photo: Jerry Gregg, Swift Lee OfficeThe judging panel said Twin Rivers Charter School's design elevated the use of metal buildings several ways. Passive elements are used to conserve energy, many functions are integrated and consideration was given to the building's environmental impact.

 

Passive Design

The two-building elementary school in Yuba City, Calif., is designed to benefit from daylight, and mitigate solar heat gain and glare. The judges noted the design's thoughtful placement of apertures and openings.

Clerestory windows, prismatic skylights and light scoops direct daylight into all the classrooms. At the same time, passive elements including deep overhangs, perforated sunscreens and metal curtains reduce heat and glare.

Blue, perforated sunscreen panels on Z-shaped frames shield windows on the south, west and east sides of the school buildings. Hanging down over clerestory windows, yellow, perforated metal curtains diffuse direct sunlight. Hilbers Inc., Yuba City, installed Tarzana, Calif.-based Steelogic LLC's 0.04-inch-thick, perforated aluminum Rib Panels in Blue and Yellow with a Kynar 500 finish for the sunscreens and curtains.

Gloria Lee, principal at Swift Lee Office Inc. in Pasadena, Calif., says, "In our case, it starts with providing abundant daylight via the dual-glazed, prismatic acrylic, domed skylights so we can have a nice learning environment as well as lower electrical usage."

But the windows, which supplement the skylights, can cause glare and solar heat gain. "So we've provided a solar screen that is perforated just enough so that it can block and diffuse the light," Lee says.

Further reducing the school's energy demand, Hilbers installed light-gauge metal framing, batt insulation and Lewisville, Texas-based Metl-Span's 2 1/2-inch-thick Santa Fe Series insulated metal panels (IMPs) in Silver Metallic and Harbor Blue with a Kynar 500 finish. "You have the IMP, but we also are using perforated metal panel for solar control; so it's always double," Lee says.

 

Function Integration

Photo: Jerry Gregg, Swift Lee OfficeThe project's two buildings are a 28,500-squarefoot K-5 building with media library and cafeteria, and 21,500-square-foot building with classrooms for grades 6-8 and gymnasium. It was completed in January 2016 and utilized Kansas City, Mo.-based Butler Manufacturing's metal building systems with hot-dipped galvanized steel and Butler-Cote 500 FP finish. In between the buildings is a landscaped plaza with shaded seating spots.

Lee says using metal building systems provided multiple advantages. Pre-engineered systems and components that are designed to work together create energy-efficient structures that are flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of uses and make future renovations less costly to execute than with conventional construction.

"With the metal building system, it's all very integral at the building component and structural levels," Lee says. "The gym and lunch shelter aren't additions, a separate wing that has a different structural system. Whether it's the tall gymnasium with the classrooms or lunch shelter with the admin and classrooms, we were able to create it with one building."

Lee says her firm's systems-based approach to the project made it possible to include the numerous skylights, displacement ventilation and other sustainable elements.

"The details are made to go together, so it's very quick and easy construction and highly waterproofed, very solid construction," she says. "You're not building curbs, you're not dealing with flashing issues and details. They're kind of clickable, a lot of these are meant to go together, so we're taking advantage of the details and technologies that are used mostly in other building types for a school." The metal building systems-based design also gives it the ability to reconfigure the interior or addon in the future.

"Particularly for school design, it was very important to keep it flexible because technology is changing so quickly," Lee says. "If you have to do any renovations, you don't have to worry about the structural walls, or shear walls, to impede the schedule."

 

Environmental Impact

Photo: Jerry Gregg, Swift Lee OfficeLee says the school was designed with its impact on its environment considered from multiple angles, including from students' perspective. Many of the building components were left exposed so they can be seen at work.

"It is our intent using metal architecture components and having more of the systems exposed, those are opportunities for [students] to learn about how the systems work, and may be more integrated into their curriculum," she says.

Sustainability is more than the use of a recyclable material, Lee notes. "I think sustainability has to be thought more broadly, not just about getting LEED points, or just using recycled material. But really about holistically seeing how sustainable is it to provide a learning environment for children who we want them to grow up to be stewards of our planet."

Twin Rivers Charter School, Yuba City, Calif.
Completed: January 2016
Total square footage: 50,000 square feet
Owner: Erik Karlshoej Education Foundation, Yuba City
Architect: Swift Lee Office Inc., Pasadena, Calif., www.swiftleeoffice.com
General contractor/installer: Hilbers Inc., Yuba City, hilbersinc.com
Light-gauge framing supplier: Wright Brothers Supply, Chico, Calif., wrightbrossupply.com
Metal building systems: Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., butlermfg.com
Metal wall panels: Metl-Span, Lewisville, Texas, www.metlspan.com
Sunscreens: Steelogic LLC, Tarzana, Calif., www.steelogic.com

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Photos: Jerry Gregg, Swift Lee Office