Sacred Heart Stevens Net-Zero Library: First In The U.S. To Achieve Net Zero Energy Building Certification
The Stevens Library at Sacred Heart Schools is the first library in the U.S. and the first school building in California to achieve Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a nonprofit committed to the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.
The 6,300 square foot library, part of a larger sustainable campus initiative, met the NGO’s rigorous requirements of exceptional energy conservation, demonstrating it generates more energy than it consumes annually while showing that renewable energy systems can be incorporated into a building in attractive and inspiring ways. The library was also part of the PG&E Zero Net Energy Pilot Project. In addition, it is on track for LEED® Platinum and Petal Certifications. However, the really exciting aspect of this project is how the building itself serves as an educational resource, empowering teachers to help educate tomorrow’s future environmental stewards.
Sacred Heart Schools
Tracing its heritage back to the 1800s, Sacred Heart School‘s (SHS) mission from the onset has been to educate children to become exceptional leaders and to respect creation. When rebuilding their K-12 campus, SHS wanted a space that would reflect their values of social awareness, sustainability, and community. As a result, the library was designed with a dual purpose — to make resource conservation part of the everyday experience while inspiring and educating the community about the importance of environmental stewardship and beauty.
“Sacred Heart Schools challenged us to create a space that would reflect their values of social awareness, sustainability, and community. In support of that mission, we designed the library with a dual purpose – to make resource conservation part of the everyday experience while inspiring and educating the community about the importance of environmental stewardship and beauty.” —WRNS Studio Partner, Director of Sustainability and Project Manager Pauline Souza
Model of Sustainability
The facility’s flexible design highlights the links between energy and water and serves both as a model of sustainability and as an educational resource. The library’s design focuses on energy-saving strategies, including a photovoltaic system that provides all the library’s needed energy, solar tubes to maximize daylighting within interior spaces, daylight monitoring systems and lighting occupancy sensors to minimize electricity usage, a high-efficiency mechanical system, interior air distribution utilizing displacement ventilation, low-flow water fixtures to minimize water use and domestic hot water heating energy, high-performance envelope utilizing continuous rigid exterior insulation, building shading systems, and a rainwater collecting system for campus irrigation.
During the annual performance period, the PGE and ILFI crew monitored these systems and found that the building used 24,394 kWh and generated 56,811 kWh, delivering back to the grid more than it consumed by 32,417 kWh. To further set the standard in sustainable design, the building was part of a larger review, the PG&E Zero Net Energy Pilot Project, which measured actual performance over a calendar year ending in 2014, finding that the library consumed less energy than it generated.
Design Serves as an Educational Resource
In an effort to bring the school’s sustainable story to the forefront, the energy systems are placed on display as learning tools. The harvested rainwater is filtered and stored in a 3,000- gallon tank that is accessible from the library and used as the primary water source for the nearby eco-orchard, which students harvest. The rainwater management and greywater waste treatment systems are made visible by a folding glass door and can be easily viewed, providing access for use in educational efforts. Environmental graphics are integrated into the glass door, illustrating the water story and potable water availability. Additional dynamic signage highlighting photovoltaic capture, energy usage, and daily trends, are on display within the library for young scientists, parents, and the public to observe.
“We wanted to pay homage to the school’s academic hub and turned the library into a hands-on learning facility. By exposing the building’s sustainable strategies, we are able to teach students about conservation and help them build good habits at a young age.” —Adam Woltag, Lead Designer
The facility consists of seven workspaces, two meeting rooms, two technology labs, a conference room, office, workroom, and open library space, and boasts an adaptable floor plan with modular furniture that can be easily reconfigured into different learning areas. The Stevens Library is one of four new buildings on the school’s campus a Performing Arts Building, Lower Classroom Building and Upper Classroom Building.
A New, Sustainable Paradigm
The Stevens Library, a tangible example of a net zero energy building, defines a new paradigm for K-12 schools. The building has become part of the curriculum, helping educators teach our next generation of environmental stewards.