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February 10, 2003

Re: Capital Improvement Program and Northwood High School Reopening

The Honorable Michael Subin:

Council President

Montgomery County Council

100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Dear Councilman Subin:

My name is Leah Haygood. I am the mother of a fourth grader at Pine Crest ES and a first grader at Kemp Mill ES. I have been a member of the feasibility study committee for the Northwood HS reopening and the current facility design committee. I am very supportive of the Downcounty Consortium and of Northwood's plans to include an environmental academy. I have participated in the planning for Northwood's reopening because I see it as key to the success of the entire DCC. Planning for the educational program at Northwood is proceeding well. I wish I could say the same for the facility planning. However, based on my experience on the committees, I am not convinced that Northwood will be reopened in a way that is educationally, environmentally and economically sound.

A bit of background: The feasibility study committee met during the summer of 2001. I participated because I am intrigued by the potential for the Northwood environmental academy and saw the facility design as an opportunity to demonstrate environmental leadership through the design of the facility. This would present exceptional opportunities for learning and community partnerships as well as give the facility some unique physical features that it is currently sorely lacking. The feasibility study committee that met during the Summer of 2001 was given an Alice-in-Wonderland charge to develop a master plan for the modernization of the facility û which is at minimum more than two decades away. There is some logic to this approach, because MCPS wants the additions needed to reopen Northwood to be compatible with an eventual modernization. However, it was not until the very last meeting that plans were presented for "phase II" û the reopening û with virtually no opportunity for review or comment. Based on that exercise, a budget for the reopening was established.

Even in the current round of discussions, it is hard to get information about what will and will not be done. But the emerging picture, which I'm sure others will document in more detail, is that Northwood is not planned to have the same educational facilities as other high schools in the consortium and that the vast majority of the budget will be consumed in the new additions and upgrades to basic systems. Very little will be available to touch the 1950s classrooms or to provide for an environmentally sound renovation. For example, the County Council made a special allocation to provide central air conditioning to the existing parts of the school. However, there are no plans to replace the original aluminum frame windows. Thus, the taxpayers will be paying for both an AC system and electricity that will pump cooled air out through the inefficient windows and doors. That is neither economically nor environmentally sound. More mundane, but also telling, is that the MCPS project managers have not committed to a new coat of paint in the aesthetically challenged older parts of the building.

I have attached a set of recommendations I have presented to the facilities committee to cover both basic and more innovative approaches to the environmental aspects of the facility reopening. What I ask of the County Council is to endorse the concept of reopening Northwood in an educationally, environmentally and economically sound manner and to provide the resources necessary to do so. The most equitable approach would be to assess Northwood for its need for modernization using the same objective criteria as were applied to other County schools. If the assessment shows that Northwood would earn a position on the list in the next decade or so, then a complete modernization should be done now, as that makes more sense than spending tens of millions now and tens of millions later.

If that is not possible, then the current reopening plan should be systematically reviewed to ensure that Northwood will open with facilities equivalent to other high schools in the DCC and in an environmentally and economically sound way. In addition, the County Council has the opportunity to show environmental leadership as it has in its recent commitment to purchase wind power. Northwood could be the testing ground for environmentally innovative technologies such as a "green roof" that conserves energy while reducing stormwater discharge and protecting water quality, or porous pavement, which allows natural treatment of stormwater rather than rapid runoff of polluted water into our waterways (such as the Northwest Branch, Northwood's watershed). These technologies might require additional funding or a commitment to provide the resources to seek outside funding (though they might save money in the long run).

I welcome your response to these ideas. Thanks for your interest.


Leah V. Haygood

11505 Colt Terrace

Silver Spring, MD 20902



To: Northwood Facility Design Committee

From: Leah Haygood

Subject: Environmental Design, Construction and Operation at Northwood

Date: January 22, 2003

There has been very widespread support from the Committee and other people I've talked with about making Northwood a model of environmental design and construction for the entire school system. A building with unique features and a unique learning environment could be an important element in helping Northwood compete for students with the other high schools that have received extensive renovation.

I'd like to make our general goals more specific and have found a number of resources that help define best practices. The range of possible features we could include in the Northwood project can be daunting. I propose that we plan to do five things (we can always add more, but this would help focus on a manageable set):

  1. Focus on indoor air quality through use of low-emission paints, coatings, furnishings, etc. This will help to address community concerns about renovation of an occupied building. Guidance is available through the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) ( and at an EPA site (
  2. Implement comprehensive energy efficiency measures including daylighting, high-efficiency lighting, efficient HVAC, etc. Guidance specific to schools is available through the EPA-DOE Energy Star program ( as well as CHPS.
  3. Pursue one high-profile, innovative environmental feature, possibly using grant funding. Examples include green roof, porous pavement, "living machine" (a type of greenhouse that recycles wastewater ( or solar photovoltaic system.
  4. Pursue certification by a third party of the building's environmental achievements. Possibilities include Energy Star, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification offered the U.S. Green Buildings Council ( or recognition through CHPS. This would reinforce that the school is a leading example of environmentally conscious design.
  5. Structure the design and construction effort as a pilot for all of MCPS. By documenting practices, costs, and savings, we may be able to identify practices that would benefit future construction and renovation projects. If "doing the right thing" environmentally would have impacts on the capital budget, we should document those and inform the School Board of those costs (and potential long-term savings)

    A matrix of resources is attached.

Resources for Environmentally Sound School Construction and Renovation


What's Available Contact Information
Energy Star Program In schools û interactive tools û target finder is a tool for benchmarking, target-setting and projecting savings; in schools û software,

Quikchill addresses cooling systems.

Resources provide guidance on energy management and practices for new building design. Energy Star also has an award program û one step beyond target finder û after school has been operating, can benchmark and get a score û if 75+, can be recognized with label, name on website. If it's built well, should be possible to get recognition.; for resources specific to schools, click on "schools". Leah Haygood has spoken about the Northwood project with Melissa Payne, National Manager, Education Sector Energy Star Buildings; 202-564-9183; email: She is very supportive.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools Provides a complete set of guidelines and tools for environmentally high-performance schools ûaddresses materials, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, waste management, etc. Scoring system allows recognition as a high-performance school.

U.S. Green Building Council Another set of comprehensive guidelines and tools. USGBC runs the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design recognition program, which is quite high-profile.

Indoor Air Quality EPA guidance and tools on indoor air quality for schools

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council Publication on high performance schools aimed at school administrators; video with 10 school case studies
Alliance to Save Energy Green Schools Program focuses on saving energy in existing schools and integrating these efforts into the curriculum.

Ford Motor Company Ford is undertaking a major project to make its Rouge manufacturing facility a "model of sustainable manufacturing." Environmental features include the world's largest green roof, porous pavement and natural drainage systems. Leah Haygood has talked with her contacts at Ford, who have offered consultation with Rouge Project engineers.