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Kingsolver Elementary designed for green, innovative learning

Published April 14, 2016
Adaptable open spaces and a flexible stage, which can be used for theater-in-the-round performances were incorporated into the school to promote a versatile learning environment.

Adaptable open spaces and a flexible stage, which can be used for theater-in-the-round performances were incorporated into the school to promote a versatile learning environment.

Three energy dashboards throughout the school show energy and water use, allowing students to learn how the building around them affects the environment.

Three energy dashboards throughout the school show energy and water use, allowing students to learn how the building around them affects the environment.

Students at the new Kingsolver Elementary School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, will have the unique opportunity to learn about sustainability from the building around them. Every aspect of the new 115,000 square-foot school was designed with green features in mind—from energy dashboards that allow students to see how much water or energy their class is using to a composter that turns kitchen trash into plant food. 

“The building’s design is meant to be a learning tool for the kids,” said Patrick Drury, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Knox Resident Office Project Engineer. “All of the features aim at teaching the students the different environmental aspects of the building around them.”

The $32.7 million construction project, managed by USACE Louisville District, is being constructed by AWA Wilson Joint Venture to meet requirements for LEED Silver certification. Meeting LEED Silver certification means every aspect of the building’s design, construction techniques and its future use was taken into consideration, from using high-efficiency toilets to low-VOC paint on the walls. At least 75 percent of the construction waste must be recycled when removed from the site. 

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) 21st Century School will include 635 student stations within the new concept of learning hubs or neighborhoods, as well as learning studios and open-area common spaces for students. This type of innovative learning environment coupled with the educational green features is a game-changer for today’s students. There will be an interactive component to keep students engaged in the building around them and its effects on the environment with three energy dashboards showing energy and water usage for each neighborhood. 

“It really shows the kids how much energy and water is being used in their neighborhood or by their class and gives them an appreciation for it,” said Drury.

The building is estimated to have a 61 percent energy savings due to all of its green features. It includes a geothermal system using the ground to help heat and cool the school. LED and natural lighting with the help of tubular light wells bring the sunlight in through holes in the roof, and light-colored roofing helps reflect the sun’s heat away from the building. 

Twelve solar collection panels are on-site to heat more than 75 percent of the building’s hot water, which saves money and energy. 

The building’s position on the 14.5-acre site also plays a role in energy conservation. The school is positioned horizontally across the site for optimal light and heat during different seasons. Learning spaces have north and south facing windows to take advantage of sunlight and provide picturesque views of the landscape, adorned with native plants. 

Signage placed throughout the school will explain many of the features and green construction techniques. For example, one sign titled “Rain’s Journey” will be fixed to a large clear storm drain pipe coming from the roof so students can better understand the water’s path to the three large bioretention ponds for stormwater management.

Nothing has been overlooked. Even the kitchen has state-of-the-art equipment and a robust composter machine to grind up 90 percent of the school’s food waste and cardboard, such as milk cartons, into organic material that can be used for mulch in the landscaping. 

“All parties have endured and continue to make this project a success, including the designer, Fort Knox DPW, DoDEA, the contractor and USACE,” said Drury. “This completed facility will be a great resource for DoDEA, the surrounding Fort Knox community, and the students of America’s Soldiers.”

The construction project is expected to be complete in August 2016.