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Environmental Education

A Lexington, Ky., high school that opened its doors in 2011 has a green sensibility and an even greener net zero campus design. Set on an 82-acre farm, the $18 million Locust Trace Agriscience Farm is designed to meet Energy Star and LEED Gold standards and net zero requirements.

It has a classroom building, horse barn and arena, veterinary clinic, aquaculture lab, greenhouse, orchards, vineyards, gardens and wildlife habitat. Students can delve into equine, plant, land and environmental science, biotechnology, agricultural power mechanics, and small and large animal science. The school also offers English, math and science classes with an agricultural focus.

But its most important and unique attributes are the energy and environmental factors built into its design. It even has touchscreens that are used as a teaching tool to show students what energy is being used and generated. Eventually the screens will be able to show energy usage in each classroom, with the information being accessible online.


Let the sun in

Utilizing the sun helps the school keep green. The school has the country's third-largest solar-thermal array to help heat buildings and a photovoltaic system to generate the farm's own electricity from sunlight. "The photovoltaic panels [from SunPower in San Jose, Calif.,] capture the sun's energy for conversion to generate electrical power," says Susan Stokes Hill, AIA, LEED AP, architect and principal at Tate Hill Jacobs Architects in Lexington. "This process provides for site-generated renewable energy, making a major contribution to the facility's goal of reaching net zero energy. The metal standing seam roof [from Fabral in Lancaster, Pa.,] allowed the team to utilize [Colorado Springs, Colo.-based] S-5! clamps for an easy and durable installation. It was very important that we had the right integration between the photovoltaic and metal roof. If we had a low-seam or no-seam metal roof, then we would have to create a whole new fastening system and penetrating the metal roof is something we didn't want to do for moisture and energy reasons."

In addition to being an integral support feature for the photovoltaic panels, the standing seam metal roof provides long-term performance with minimal maintenance, offers high-reflectivity and provides recyclable opportunities. These attributes are critical to the success of reaching sustainability and net zero energy.

Sunlight and prevailing winds were analyzed to orient the classroom building. Aluminum sun louvers from Industrial Louvers in Delano, Minn., capture natural daylighting at appropriate orientations. On the west-facing building elevations they shade the high-angle summer sun and prevent heat infiltration into the building. This reduces the amount of energy required to cool the space. "They are stationary and fixed, based on the regional location of the facility," Hill says. "They function efficiently, keeping the direct sunrays out during the warmer summer months while keeping the direct hot sunlight from getting into the space or striking the glass while allowing indirect daylight into the building spaces, which are all goals. This winter the louvers definitely did allow that nice warm light into the building to supplement the artificial heat and lighting that was provided."




Schooling in metal

According to Hill, metal siding panels from Fabral at the front entry that provide a focus to the primary public entry are architecturally compatible with the adjacent masonry [brick and stone] elements. The vegetated roof canopy and the architectural metal panels create clear visual definition for this entry area.

"The metal wall panels were less expensive than doing a full cavity wall or brick veneer masonry wall, so cost did have some implication," she says, "but it was primarily establishing a strong sense of entry at the main public entrance; it was a design feature."

The aluminum storefront from Norcross, Ga.-based Kawneer Co. Inc. at the three major entry areas provides natural daylighting during school hours, which reduces artificial lighting and energy use. It provides views out to the farm site to see curriculum components like fields, gardens, livestock, and a clear view of approaching faculty, students and visitors.

"Aluminum was chosen for the storefront because of its longevity and ease of maintenance," Hill says. "It provides minimal maintenance and has a durable life. The only other option that we were looking at all was a hollow metal frame. Since this is an all-new school there really weren't any materials that we were recycling in the project. With aluminum storefronts, I know many manufacturers will utilize a percentage of pre- or post- consumer materials and that was important to us as we looked at the type of materials we had. Making certain they weren't all new first-generation materials, which is true with the storefront, windows and roof systems."

Large metal, overhead, high-performance fans from Lexington-based Big Ass Fans reduce energy use, facilitate natural ventilation and air movement, and reduce air-conditioning requirements. "The metal fans need some adjustment from the staff because any kind of natural ventilation means the owner has to be more 'hands-on' in thinking about how they use it and when they use it," Hill says. "Some of the natural ventilation is on sensors, so when it gets to be a certain heat level in the space, it triggers an automatic opening of the vents allowing ventilation flow. But much of it is about owner comfort and that is a much more hands-on activity."


Permeable pavement, rain gardens and the vegetated roof manage water runoff. Metal elements like standing seam roof panels, gutters and downspouts from Fabral also play a role in rainwater collection and harvesting. Rainwater is stored in underground tanks for use in livestock watering and crop irrigation.

Net zero efforts are accomplished by collecting and processing all liquid and solid waste on-site through a constructed wetlands bio-system which then returns appropriately filtered water back into the watershed. The school is minimally hooked up to water municipalities. Local and regional material production has helped reduce carbon footprint and the cost to the owner in terms of transportation, Hill says.


So far, so good, so green

At Locust Trace, this project's metal components have provided opportunities, not problems. "The greatest challenges and rewards of this project relate to the comprehensive, integrated net zero goals of the school; constructing all the components to fully integrate and tie together to create a facility capable of meeting these sustainability goals with informed, involved occupants," Hill says. After a year up and running, this very unique Agriscience school has all its controls in place and administrators are currently fine tuning their commissioning to meet all net zero energy requirements.


Locust Trace Agriscience Farm, Lexington, Ky.

Developer: Fayette County Public Schools, Lexington
Architect: Tate Hill Jacobs Architects Inc., Lexington
General contractor: Messer Construction, Lexington
Steel beam fabricator: Harry Gordon Steel, Lexington
Aluminum storefront: Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga.,
Aluminum sun louvers: Industrial Louvers, Delano, Minn.,
Fans: Big Ass Fans, Lexington,
Metal wall and roof panels/gutters and drainspouts: Fabral, Lancaster, Pa.,
Photovoltaics: SunPower, San Jose, Calif.
Roof clamps: S-5!, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Steel deck/trusses/joists: New Millenium, Butler, Ind.,
Steel wall framing: Clark Western, West Chester,