School Climate & Safety

School Seeks World-Class Rating for Energy Efficiency

By Joetta L. Sack — December 13, 2005 3 min read

For the Sidwell Friends School, environmental stewardship is a crucial part of exemplifying Quaker values and traditions.

So when it came time to build an addition to its middle school, the private school here looked to sustainable design—a form of architecture that uses environmentally friendly and energy-efficient strategies to minimize a building’s impact on the environment.

But Sidwell Friends, which serves students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, is taking that principle much further than other schools by building what is believed to be the most “sustainable” school facility in the country, if not the world.

The school is seeking “platinum” status in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, the top tier in a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington-based coalition of industry groups that promotes environmentally friendly buildings, to assess the environmental sustainability of building designs.

About a dozen buildings worldwide have achieved such status.

“There’s a long-standing interest that the Quakers have in environmental stewardship—you hold the land in trust, and leave it as rich as you find it, but preferably in better shape,” said Bruce B. Stewart, the headmaster of the school, which was founded in 1883.

Green Is In

Sustainable design is a trend that has grown steadily in recent years, as more schools look for ways to save money on energy costs and help the environment.

Features of such designs can range from long-lasting flooring made from renewable materials to systems that reuse rainwater and generate power to run the facilities. Some states, including Washington and California, now require publicly funded buildings to incorporate sustainable principles in their designs.

Many school architects and contractors are seeking “silver” or “gold” status on the LEED rankings for their projects, said Barbara C. Worth, the associate executive director with the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sustainable design “is definitely a growing trend, especially now that people are getting over being afraid that it’s going to cost a lot more,” Ms. Worth said.

Sidwell Friends’ project, which will add 39,000 square feet to the existing 33,000-square-foot middle school, will cost about 14 percent more than a conventional building, said Michael Saxenian, the assistant head of the school and chief financial officer.

Much of that cost is expected to be recouped by energy savings, but the health and environmental benefits are immeasurable, he added.

Used Wine Barrels

The Sidwell Friends project, scheduled to be completed this summer, incorporates many novel elements.

Most notably, the new structure will have a grass roof, where students will grow herbs to be used by the cafeteria staff.

The building will use natural ventilation for most of its heating and cooling, which reduces energy usage and improves indoor-air quality. The school is also creating an odor-free wetlands site that will treat sewage and recycle water to be used for toilets.

The new and existing buildings will be clad in red cedar, a long-lasting wood that is being recycled from used wine barrels.

Recycling of existing structures is another principle of sustainability. Sidwell Friends officials chose not to tear down the current middle school building, but to renovate it using sustainable materials and designs. In a separate project, the school is building an underground parking garage that will have athletic fields on its roof.

Ultimately, the school hopes to renovate all of its facilities on the 15-acre campus in the northwest section of the nation’s capital to incorporate environmentally friendly design.

The school officials first examined three strategies when they began to plan the middle school, said Mr. Saxenian. Ultimately, they decided they wanted an exemplary project that would not only benefit the 1,091-student school community, but would also serve as a showcase for other schools, and host visitors from around the world to learn about such issues.

Mr. Saxenian also wants the facility to serve as a teaching tool for students, who will study the mechanisms of the building as part of their science and technology classes. He said he will even lobby the District of Columbia Council to encourage environmentally friendly construction projects elsewhere in Washington.

“This is going to make a tremendous difference in [students’] values,” Mr. Stewart said. “It will change the nature of who you are and what you do, and it seems irresponsible not to follow these guidelines.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School Climate & Safety Sponsor
Putting safety first: COVID-19 testing in schools
Are schools ready to offer a post-pandemic place to learn?
Content provided by BD
School Climate & Safety How Biden's New Actions on Guns Could Affect Students and Schools
President Joe Biden announced steps to prevent gun violence through executive action and a push for state and federal legislation.
5 min read
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
High school students rally at the U.S. Capitol in February 2018, three days after a former student shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Teens Are Driving COVID-19 Surges. Can Schools Counteract That?
Teenagers and young adults are now driving COVID-19 cases in some states, and experts say schools may be critical in preventing outbreaks.
4 min read
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Empowering Teachers and Parents to Speak Up on School Safety
Rick Hess shares practical suggestions from Max Eden on how to ensure school discipline reforms are indeed keeping students and staff safe.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty