First Net-Zero School in Arizona to Open in 2012

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz.— Col. Smith Middle School, part of the Fort Huachuca Accommodation School District (FHASD) in Arizona, will be the first net-zero energy school in the state.

The $20 million project broke ground in August 2011 and is targeted for completion in August 2012.

Mesa, Ariz.-based Emc2 Group Architects Planners, PC is the architect of record and Fanning Howey of Indianapolis, Ind., is the architect of design for the project. 3W Management based in Mesa, Ariz. is the owner’s representative and program manager. Turner Construction Co.’s Tempe, Ariz., office is also working on the project as the construction manager at risk. It has taken one year of conceptual design and a total of three years in the making to break ground at the site.

The school will achieve net-zero energy through methods including sensor-controlled lighting, watching plug loads, and producing energy through solar panels and wind turbines, as well as a cost-effective layered daylight program.

Tony Wall, president of 3W Management and program manager, says the school will accumulate an estimated 30 to 40 percent savings in energy costs per year and that many schools are interested in the money saving aspect of the design. The positions of the windows and the use of skylights throughout the 95,000-square-foot school will provide natural lighting that will significantly reduce energy costs by eliminating the need to turn on classroom lights.

Col. Smith will be the third school in the FHASD and includes sixth through eighth grades. A total of 450 students are expected to enroll for the Fall 2012 semester.

Fort Huachuca is also home to an army base with future plans of having a net-zero energy installation that focuses on zero energy, water and waste by 2025. The army project is much bigger than the middle school but both look to save money and reduce carbon footprints.

Col. Smith will be the first school in Arizona — and only the twelfth in the United States — to reach net-zero energy.

“Everyone in the community is very excited about it. It’s a military community and it really fits with the energy goals of both the school and the army base,” said Dr. Ronda Frueauff, superintendent of FHASD.

Energy-efficient features include water harvesting, green products and a naturally illuminated building, as well as a dashboard that will allow students to monitor energy conservation. Classrooms will be equipped with iPad 2s that visually monitor energy use throughout the school.

“The building of a net-zero school will also have benefits for the students by providing them real world information for projects regarding energy and they’ll be able to analyze the information right in front of them,” said Wall.

Wall says the use of net-zero energy is a big step for Fort Huachuca and there’s been interest from other schools about the steps they need to take to create a net-zero energy campus’ of their own.