A Milestone for Montgomery Middle School

Montgomery Middle School students, administration and board members cheer on the debut of their modernized school

(Otay Mesa, Calif.) August 30, 2013 — Anticipated to be the first LEED for Schools Platinum public school building in the state of California, Montgomery Middle School and its 900 students are enjoying new, highly sustainable facilities on their Otay Mesa campus in San Diego.

On August 15, 2013, the school’s community gathered for a Grand Opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony with cheerleaders, music and plenty of fanfare.

“It was really great. They had hundreds of people there,” relates LPA Principal Wendy Rogers, AIA, LEED AP BD+C. “The students were giving tours and although they’ve only been in school for two weeks, they are already very comfortable in their new buildings. It was really impressive.”

Contending with the school district’s requirement that each classroom have its own individual packaged unit for heating and cooling – combined with the need to fully dedicate the rooftop for a large 217-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system – LPA came up with the idea of creating a two-story mechanical distribution hub at the center of each educational wing to house the high-efficiency HVAC units. With variable speed compressors and fans working in tandem with integrated air-side economizers, the system is tied into a campus-wide Energy Management System which controls the temperature and optimizes operation. After the rooftop PV system is installed later this year, LPA anticipates the project will be at or near net-zero energy, a very rare achievement for a public school facility.

Meanwhile, the roof form – with its PV system estimated to provide up to 100% of the school’s energy needs – wraps the south façade in order to minimize solar heat gain, while maximizing daylighting and views. The angled roof plane also sends stormwater to the southern bioswale where it is filtered and cleansed before being absorbed into the ground.

Also, by single loading the classrooms, LPA was able to put windows on two sides and take advantage of the cool ocean breeze.

Supplementing the outside air, the design team went with a thermal displacement ventilation system. “One large diffuser in each corner of the classroom gently delivers air at a low level allowing warm air to exit at the ceiling, so it’s a much healthier way condition a classroom,” explains Rogers. “You can also deliver air at a higher temperature, so it’s more energy efficient. And it’s a very quiet system, so the acoustics in the classroom are significantly better than traditional HVAC systems. Essentially, it promotes health, acoustics, and energy – a win-win-win.”

Additional sustainable design features include:

Energy-efficient lighting systems and controls.
Light shelves to bring natural light deeper inside the building.
Low-flow bathroom fixtures.
Environmentally-friendly, durable and safe finish materials such as carpeting with high recycled content; linoleum flooring made from rapidly renewable resources; and low-emitting adhesives, paints and finishes.
Drought-resistant, native landscaping and highly efficient irrigation systems.
Light-colored rooftop and hardscape surfaces to reduce the buildings’ cooling load and urban heat island effect.
Working with the more limited resources available in the public school realm, delivering a LEED Platinum project was no small achievement and required early and close collaboration amongst all the members of the building team, including Balfour Beatty Construction. The project is also projected to exceed stringent state energy standards by 40 percent.

All together, the $20.7 million, 37,500 square-foot project features 18 classrooms, a counseling center, library, cafeteria and covered lunch area.

Just thrilled with their new campus, Pearl Quiñones, board member, Sweetwater Union High School District, remarked, “We’re saving money, we’re saving resources, we’re saving our planet, and at the same time, we’re providing the best quality education for our students.”

About Sweetwater Union High School District

Founded in 1920, the Sweetwater District has grown to more than 41,000 students in grades 7 through 12 and more than 24,000 adult learners. The district’s 32 campuses are located in the cities of Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego, including the communities of Bonita, Eastlake, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and South San Diego.

About LPA Inc.

Founded in 1965, LPA has nearly 200 employees with offices in Irvine, Roseville, and San Diego, Calif. The firm provides services in architecture, sustainability, planning, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, and graphics. There is no “Sustainability Director,” at LPA. Instead, more than 80% of the professionals are LEED accredited, including the Human Resources Director, CFO, and several other support staff. With extensive experience in public and private architecture, LPA designs a diversity of facilities that span from K-12 schools, colleges and universities, to corporate and civic establishments. More than 500 major design awards attest to LPA's commitment to design excellence.

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