Green is not just the color of money, it is the color of social-responsibility

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hartford Opens State’s First Gold LEED School

What better place to learn about the environment than a school building dedicated to energy savings, ecological study and green initiatives?

Hartford Public Schools built the first LEED gold certified school in Connecticut for The front entrance to the Mary M. Hooker Environmental Studies Magnet School that opened Aug. 30. The $41-million facility taps into national trends of using ecology to teach basic elementary curriculum, putting students in eco-friendly buildings and creating environments conducive to learning.

The K-8 facility is a place where fish, butterflies and energy savings teach math, science and social studies.

“It makes sense to put that kind of curriculum in a LEED building like that,” said Charles Rothenberger, staff attorney for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Hopefully, this will be a trend with any new school.”

The Hooker elementary school first opened on Sherbrooke Avenue in Hartford in 1952, named after the first female state representative in Connecticut and descendent of Hartford founder Thomas Hooker. Although the school switched to an environmental curriculum several years ago, this is its first year as one of 12 Hartford magnet schools, meant to draw students in for its alternative learning methods.

The reconstruction of the facility toward the LEED green building certification program started in April 2009 and included 70,000 sq. ft. in renovations and a 30,000 sq. ft. addition. The innovative construction needed to achieve the gold certification required Bloomfield general contractor PDS Engineering & Construction, Inc. to grasp new techniques as the facility was stripped down and built up from its basic structure.

“It was a big learning curve for us, but we grabbed it and ran,” said Joe Lucia, PDS project superintendent.

Among the many features are a 60-kilowatt co-generation system to power and heat the building; sensors to adjust lighting intensity based upon the level of natural light; a heating and cooling system set at a constant 74 degrees that can adjust to various temperatures in different areas of the building; a white roof to reflect heat; and waterless urinals. All of the building’s components were made within 500 miles, and 98 percent of the materials demolished during the reconstruction were recycled.
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