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March 30, 2015

Fauquier High renovation earns LEED Gold status

The new, four-story classroom building facing Waterloo Road.
VMDO Architects
A rendering of the rear courtyard, between the new and old structures.
Our goal was to produce a school building which minimizes stress upon the earth’s environment and is pleasant and productive for the people in it. In addition, learning about sustainability is good for the students’ future careers.
— Warren Darrell, the school system’s director of construction
The $37-million renovation of Fauquier High School has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, recognizing best-in-class building strategies and practices. To earn LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels: silver, gold and platinum.

“Our goal was to produce a school building which minimizes stress upon the earth’s environment and is pleasant and productive for the people in it,” said Warren Darrell, the school system’s director of construction. “In addition, learning about sustainability is good for the students’ future careers.”

Many “green” decisions went into the FHS project, according to VMDO Architects. Understanding how the building would perform got consideration in early-design decisions, with the addition of an energy-efficient geothermal heat pump HVAC system.

Contractors drilled 160 wells, 550 feet deep, to take advantage of the earth’s natural ground temperature. The geothermal heat exchange field lies beneath a parking lot just west of the school.

CFL and LED lighting fixtures save energy and money, as do lots of glazing and roof-mounted Solatubes to take advantage of daylight. Those elements earned energy savings averaging 32 percent in the newly-constructed areas and 28 percent in the renovated sections.

To conserve water, the project used reduced-flow fixtures, including high-efficiency water closets and ultra-low-flow lavatories. The plumbing changes achieved a savings of 43 percent water reduction over baseline performance.

The project earned LEED points with low-emitting materials to ensure healthful indoor air quality. Twenty percent of the building materials used recycled content; others came from within 500 miles of the site. And some products used Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.

Various design elements promote healthy activity within the school and serve as teaching tools for green design. The project earned the USGBC pilot credit, “Design for Active Occupants,” which encourages movement within the building, by including an open four-story central staircase with seating/activity areas near the stairs on each floor.

Along the central stairs, motivational sings encourage students to keep moving. The VMDO graphics team put the finishing touches on the Fauquier space by creating educational signs about the building’s sustainable design features and the benefits of environmental stewardship.

After opening in 1963, FHS underwent additions in 1972, 1979, 1989 and 1997. The most recent project was completed in 2014.

Prior to the renovation and addition to FHS, energy consumption at the school was approximately 70,000 BTUs per square foot per year – at a cost of about $1.33 per square foot per year.

The addition and the renovated media center, built to energy-efficient LEED requirements, consume energy at the rate of 44,000 BTU per square foot per year, a 37-percent reduction. At current energy prices, energy costs for the 98,400-square-foot new building addition and renovated media center are approximately $40,000 less per year than the energy cost for an equal area of Fauquier High which has not been renovated.

The renovated biology, music, and art wings also consume less energy than they did before the retrofit.

In addition to the LEED GOLD certification, the FHS project has achieved two additional honors. The Virginia School Board Association awarded it the 2014 Gold Design Award, and the Virginia Chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International and Virginia Department of Education awarded the project the 2014 Gold Design Award for Best Renovation Project.

“We applaud the vision and decisions that made this project possible and we are excited to see our students, staff and community reaping the benefits of a 21st-century design,” Assistant Superintendent Janice Bourne said.

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