TOWAMENCIN — With the future of North Penn High School now being planned, the school’s current students are looking for ways the future school could take the LEED.

Members of the high school’s EnAct (Environmental Action) club gave an update on green-friendly tactics that could help the high school achieve LEED status, or higher, once renovated.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The high school is over 50 years old, and the future is fast approaching. Sustainability is the future, and the solution to the problems that threaten our future,” said EnAct cabinet member Natalia Dello Buono.

Staff, the school board, and the district’s architect have discussed major renovations of the high school for the past decade, making the case most recently in a pair of presentations outlining the high school’s recent equipment failures in February, followed in March by a look at costs for two options, one that would add a new ninth grade wing of the school and include middle school renovations at an estimated price tag of roughly $400 million, and a smaller project to update the high school without a new wing for roughly $236 million.

Proposed “Option One” for a renovated North Penn High School with new classroom space for ninth grade students highlighted in red, as presented to the district’s school board on May 13, 2023. (Image courtesy of NPSD)

Last August students from the EnAct club told the board about green features they felt the new school could incorporate, including sustainable building materials, permeable pavement surfaces to reduce runoff, green roofs atop the building to better absorb rainwater, and composting in the school cafeteria to reduce food waste.

How to qualify

Since then, club members told the board’s facilities and operations committee on March 27, members of that club have met with the district’s architect to talk about possible designs, and dug into ways the new high school could qualify for LEED status, under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Following the framework provided would help us achieve our, and LEED’s shared goal of creating a building that is healthy, high-efficiency, cost-saving, and why we are presenting this to you — green,” Dello Buono said.

EnAct member Nicole Mattiacci said the LEED criteria could be used to design the renovation project, and showed how the certification program breaks down its requirements into several categories. A total of 31 LEED points are available under the energy and atmosphere category of the criteria, an additional 16 under indoor environmental quality, 15 more under location and transportation, with smaller numbers of LEED points available under the categories of materials and resources, sustainable sites, water efficiency, innovation, and regional priorities, and LEED rankings based on those points: 40 or more earn status as LEED certified, 50 quality for silver, 60 for gold, and 80 for platinum certification.

“Whether you’d like to go all the way and get a LEED certification, or simply use LEED as a guideline to implementing sustainable practices in the renovations, the end result is definitely worth it,” she said.

Dello Buono detailed the LEED criteria for the energy and atmosphere category, which could include seeking and sustaining an Energy Star rating as issued by the federal Department of Energy, using low-impact appliances, using renewable energy sources, and/or making the building more energy efficient during design.

“LEED points in this category are split into how you make your building efficient, as well as how you monitor it. From prior discussions, I’ve learned that we already do monitor our energy consumption, like our Energy Star rating, but it has been dropping,” she said.

Slide showing photos of various recent equipment failures at North Penn High School, as presented to the district school board on Feb. 7, 2023. (Screenshot of NPTV video)

Seeking sustainability

A future high school could qualify if its energy usage comes from renewable sources, while advanced features could include micro-wind turbines, solar water heaters, and heat pumps, while solar panels, added windows and green roofs could improve efficiency with minimal maintenance, she said. EnAct club junior Emily Ramos added that bonus points could also be scored under the transportation category via features including electric vehicle chargers, bike racks and lanes to cut down on driving, and one that drew board discussion: a parking garage.

“Another potential change we could do is parking garages, because you’re building up instead of out, which reduces the land that is used. And we could use permeable pavement, so that there’s less sheets of runoff, and then the water soaks into the ground,” Ramos said.

EnAct senior Kara Stringfellow said the “sustainable sites” category would “tie a lot of the things together,” including green roofs and gardens, pavement materials, and rain gardens and solar panels to help with water and energy conservation.

“In studies in hospitals, they found that if patients are looking at plants, they get better and have better mental health overall,” she said, showing photos of rain gardens and natural plantings that could be used on the site.

EnAct sophomore Sarah Cavanaugh said the “materials and resources” category could also score points by reusing materials from any old building, to reduce waste, while a new building could responsibly source materials and create a waste management plan.

“One resource that is very important would be concrete. Concrete is very versatile, as it can be used in foundation walls, columns, beams, for sidewalks, et cetera. It can also reduce our use of wood, and can be helpful in reducing our waste,” she said.

And EnAct sophomore Aayushi Kulkarni outlined the points available under the “indoor air quality” heading: using building materials that don’t contain volatile organic compounds, installing high-rating air filters, and thinking carefully about the pipes and windows that go into the new school.

“Having lots of windows, especially operable ones that you can open and close, means more natural light, and less electricity use, along with more air flow since you can open them,” she said, while modernized pipes could reduce moisture and prevent mold.

Aerial photo of North Penn High School, center, with district transportation garage at top center, North Montco Technical Career Center at top left, and former WNPV Radio site at top right, as seen in NPTV video “NPHS – A Building By Community.” (Screenshot of NPTV video)

“There are many ways for North Penn to use LEED as a simple framework to implement sustainability in our school district. However, by getting a platinum LEED certification, which is basically the highest stamp of sustainability, North Penn would be able to not only invest in our future, but the futures of our children who come to our schools to learn and grow,” Mattiacci said.

Cavanaugh told the committee that David Schrader, the architect who’s advised the board on possible designs, told the club he has helped develop a similar middle school renovation in the Council Rock School District that earned LEED gold certification. The state Alternative Clean Energy Program also provides loans and grants for projects based on LEED criteria, Cavanaugh said: “This is just another way to help our school with the funds.”

“There are ways in which we can make this a priority, make it sustainable, do aspects and components. Anything we do is better than we currently have. As one of you so eloquently said, our current score is zero,” Superintendent Todd Bauer said.

North Penn High School EnAct club secretary Samiha Alam shows a rendering of a school building incorporating solar panels, passive solar, heat circulation and stormwater management practices during the school board facilities and operations committee meeting on Aug. 29, 2022. (Screenshot of NPTV video)

Committee chair Cathy Wesley said she appreciated the student input, and asked if any LEED features were included in early concept plans for the high school renovations. District Director of Facilities and Operations Tom Schneider said no formal designs have been started yet.

“We are, at this point, at a very 35,000-foot view. We haven’t come down out of the clouds yet. Once we have the decision of which direction the board chooses to go, at that point we’ll start to formulate some concepts,” Schneider said.

North Penn’s school board next meets at 6 p.m. on April 13 at Pennbrook Middle School, 1201 North Wales Road in Upper Gwynedd, and the facilities and operations committee next meets at 7 p.m. on April 24 online. For more information visit www.NPenn.org.

Dan Sokil

?  Read More  Sustainability & LEED  ?…courtesy of NPSD) Last August students from the EnAct club told the board about green features they felt the new school could incorporate, including sustainable building materials, permeable pavement surfaces to reduce runoff, green roofs atop the building to better absorb rainwater, and composting in the school cafeteria to reduce food waste. How to… micro-wind turbines, solar water heaters, and heat pumps, while solar panels, added windows and green roofs could improve efficiency with minimal maintenance, she said. EnAct club junior Emily Ramos added that bonus points could also be scored under the transportation category via features including electric vehicle chargers, bike racks… thereporteronline.com Total Engagement: 5