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To: The Honorable Michael Subin

From: Northwood High School Facility Sustainability Subcommittee

Subject: Environmental Design, Construction and Operation at Northwood

Date: June 10, 2003

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the needs of Northwood High School for a facility that is educationally, environmentally and economically sound. The Sustainability Subcommittee of the Northwood Facilities Committee sees tremendous promise for the Downcounty Consortium in general and Northwood High School in particular to contribute to a stronger, more cohesive and more environmentally sound community in the Downcounty area.

As you know, Northwood High School will have an academy focused on environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on community issues. Because of this, we think that the Northwood facility should be a major resource for the program and for the community, demonstrating practical approaches to the environmental challenges of older communities.

We have worked to develop draft Sustainability Guidelines for the reopening project and for the longer-term use of the facility in the educational program (the "Master Plan"). We have received very valuable input and assistance from James Song and Anja Caldwell of MCPS in brainstorming and sorting through ideas and determining which can be carried out within the scope of the reopening project. However, some items that we consider essential to an environmentally sound reopening were not included in the original scope and may not be possible within the existing budget.

In particular, we believe that the most environmentally and economically sound approach to the reopening would involve designing in a holistic way: window replacement in the existing building, daylighting, replacement of the artificial lighting and installation of the new Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units.

Extensive use of natural light has been shown to improve student performance (see summary attached to reopening guidelines). Northwood has great potential for use of daylighting because of its generous window openings. However, in practice, the blind are nearly always drawn because of the low-performing glass of the original windows. Newer windows provide significant energy savings by reducing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in warmer weather. They also reduce glare, providing comfortable natural light. Other technologies such as light shelves can further improve the use of daylighting. Artificial lights and lighting controls should be designed to complement natural light. Designing the air conditioning system assuming new windows will reduce the first cost of the system and improve its ability to maintain comfortable conditions in the building (see attachment: June 8 Draft of Sustainability Sub-Committee Position on Windows/Lighting). However, at this point only the air conditioning installation is "base," i.e. definitely included in the reopening. We believe that these other elements should be added to the base project to ensure the best use of the capital budget and an effective learning environment.

A second issue has to do with site and stormwater management planning. While a stormwater management plan is a requirement, merely meeting requirements has led degraded water quality throughout the Downcounty area. We would like the site to provide a demonstration of natural stormwater management techniques that can help improve water quality. Similarly, while there is general agreement to use native plants, landscaping the site is now an "add-alternate." We believe the Northwood site, with its highly visible location, could be a living demonstration of a range of environmentally sound (and attractive) land management features. This would benefit the educational program and the community and strengthen the bonds between them.

Some of our other priorities for the reopening, which we believe can be accommodated in the current scope include:

  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.
  2. Include pilot tests of environmentally sound materials and equipment in new construction and any renovation of the existing building. We understand that MCPS is beginning a review of their specifications for materials and equipment, which is commendable. We would like to include some pilot tests at Northwood. Again, this is in the spirit of learning and inquiry through use of the facility.

    We appreciate your attention to these issues and hope that the County Council can help address them.


    Northwood High School Sustainable Design Guidelines û Reopening

    Northwood High School Sustainability Guidelines Master Plan

    June 8 Draft of Sustainability Sub-Committee Position on Windows/Lighting

    Letter to Councilman Subin from Leah Haygood with attached memo to Facilities Committee