A Transformed Timber Barn
Living building teaches students sustainability
| Photo: Design Imaging Studios
The Commons at the Harley School in Rochester, N.Y., is the
first PreK-12 education space in the country to offer students
multiple dimensions of education based on creating a sustainable
"Including the recycled frame of a 100-year-old timber
barn frame from Victor, N.Y., this 'living building' strives to
generate its own energy, heat and cold air with renewable nontoxic
resources, and capture and utilize water and carbon in its
greenhouse," says Aimee Lewis, director of communications and press
relations at The Harley School.
Students can learn about sustainability and develop real-world
skills such as solving problems, making decisions and dealing with
mistakes. A control center in the building allows students to set
the temperature of the building, monitor how much energy is
produced and track the building's energy use through the seasons.
The goal is initially to bring the building to net zero status in
energy, water and carbon dioxide consumption, and eventually to
produce more energy than it uses.
"Harley students are active participants, working toward a
net-zero operation in energy and carbon dioxide by managing its
operations," says Lewis. "This includes social aspects and an
understanding of the impact of one's behavior on both the
environment and personal social community. The Commons supports a
rich social curriculum that puts our students in charge of resource
use. Students are offered unique and creative educational
experience that challenges them to think differently about science
and our environment as a whole."
The building was designed to be a teaching tool. "The intent was
for the student to design and implement systems to enhance the
operations and sustainability of the facility," says Ken
Motsenbocker, CFO of The Harley School. "For example, a solar
chimney was designed into the building. However, the vents needed
to properly run the chimney were not automated. The students have
been working to understand how the system could work and build
their own solutions. There are a variety of such systems. Initially
one might think that it is unfinished. Several other examples
include: humidity control in the greenhouse, energy production and
monitoring, and occupancy sensors for the air circulation
| Photo: Design Imaging Studios
Insulated metal wall panels from Metl-Span, Lewisville, Texas,
played a part in this concept, says James Burm, senior project
manager, Nichols Construction Team, Rochester, the building's
general contractor and metal and tilt-up insulated concrete wall
panel fabricator and installer. "Four-inch metal wall panels
clearly became the material to accomplish the project's energy
criteria," he adds. "Not only that, but they (along with insulated
concrete wall panels) became the finish interior wall system saving
money on metal framing, drywall and finishing." "Metal just
naturally seems like a good choice for sustainable architecture,"
adds Christopher Costanza, RA, AIA, LEED AP, architect at 9X30
Design Architecture LLP, Rochester. "It performs well structurally
and thermally, lasts for generations, and can be recycled at the
end of its life cycle. We chose a standing seam, high-lock metal
roof (manufactured by All Metal Works, Gasport, N.Y., and installed
by Reliance Contracting, Rochester) for its ability to accept
photovoltaic panel mounting (from M X Solar, Somerset, N.J.)
without roof penetrating fasteners. Insulated metal panel siding
was chosen for its durability, ease of custom insulation values and
long-span capabilities reducing on-site installation time."
The roof is constructed with 8-inch structural insulated panels
provided by Thermal Foams, Buffalo, N.Y., with the standing seam
roof applied over these panels.
Costanza lists its sustainable building components as:
• Recycled and reclaimed materials
• LED lighting
• Two 24-foot solar chimneys
• 84 20-kW photovoltaic panels
• Geothermal heating
• A 300-gallon rainwater collection tank
• A green wall
• A 600-square-foot green roof
• A 1,000-square-foot greenhouse for sequestering carbon
"One hundred-year-old timber barn frames are actually much more
forgiving than you would think, so much so, that the Mennonite crew
assembling the barn frame used chainsaws to make many of the cuts,"
says Costanza. "The timbers are old growth wood and very strong.
And the barn was disassembled in such a way that each piece was
numbered and drafted into a CAD file. When the timbers finally came
to the site, a Mennonite construction crew familiar with timber
frames assembled the entire frame in a few days."
| Photo: Design Imaging Studios
The barn was framed on the third floor. "Panel attachments were
accomplished by adding metal and wood cleats to the timber framing
at fastening points," Burm says. "These cleats were positioned in
perimeter areas that would not be visible from the interior of the
building, and also allowed us to plumb and straighten the old
timber beams and columns."
New York City-based design consultant Tom Johnson is the initial
designer who Costanza worked with closely to develop the design.
"One day, after we had a design charrett, [Johnson] called me when
he got home and said, what if the greenhouse is just a monolithic
piece of glass that leans against the barn?'" Costanza says. "The
final design form progressed from there." While the monolithic
piece of glass was a design concept, the actual greenhouse (glass
and extruded aluminum mullions) came from Solar Innovations Inc.,
Pine Grove, Pa.
The 2015 Metal Architecture Award judges were very impressed
with the Commons, recognizing that everything about it is, top to
bottom, based on some type of sustainable method. They cited the
13-inch sandwich panel wrap used on the original building to retain
the form and not destroy it, while at the same time making it
energy efficient. "They started with conservation before
technology," they said. "Taking old structures and not destroying
the old form is ultimately exciting."
Sidebar: The Harley Commons, Rochester,
Completed: January 2014
Total square footage: 15,000 square feet
Owner: The Harley School
Architect: 9x30 Design Architects LLP, Rochester, www.9x30.com
General contractor, metal and tilt-up insulated concrete wall
panel fabricator and installer: The Nichols
Construction Team, Rochester, www.nicholsteam.com
Standing seam metal roof installer: Reliance Contracting,
Greenhouse (glass and extruded aluminum mullions) supplier: Solar
Innovations Inc., Pine Grove, Pa.,
Metal wall panels: Metl-Span, Lewisville, Texas, www.metl-span.com
Photovoltaic panel mounting: M X Solar, Somerset, N.J.
Standing seam metal roof: All Metal Works, Gasport, N.Y., www.allmetalworksinc.com