Durham Center breaks ground for Net-Zero building
South-facing solar panels will gleam atop the soon-to-be constructed addition at the Durham Education Center, which celebrated the building's groundbreaking in February.
The Durham Center addition is the latest of a round of upgrades to Tigard-Tualatin schools made possible by the district's construction bond, approved by voters in 2016. It's also the district's first zero-net energy building — that is, a building designed to produce at least as much renewable energy as it requires to operate.
Pitched at the optimal angle for maximum performance, the rooftop photovoltaic — or solar — array will offset the building's power draw by converting sunlight directly into electricity.
"Right now we're expecting the PV array to produce 140,000 kilowatt hours (per year)," said Sarah Oakes, project manager at DAYCPM, the firm hired to plan the school district's bond projects.
That's $13,000 worth of energy produced, Oaks added.
The building is expected to use only 120,000 kilowatt-hours, feeding a surplus 20,000 kilowatt-hours into the main grid — nearly enough to power two houses for a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which reported that the average annual electricity consumption of residential customers was 10,766 kilowatt-hours in 2016.
However, creating a net-zero building is not just a matter of balancing the input-output equation of electricity use — a lot of thought goes into reducing the building's need for energy.
"Before you replace the energy, you want to think about ways to conserve energy," Oaks said.
To start, the building is designed with a discerning mind for materials in order to ensure a super-insulated construction. Heating and cooling draw heavily on power, so a tight building envelope does much to save on energy costs. The building also puts an idea called "energy recovery" into practice — excess heat produced by the operation of the heating/cooling system is recaptured by the system and re-allocated elsewhere, Oaks said.
Passive design measures include placing windows generously throughout the exterior walls to make use of natural lighting — good for students and for reducing dependency on lightbulbs. But even this aspect must carefully weigh the effect of afternoon sun beams on the school's air conditioning reliance — fewer windows on the West-facing side, and good window shades provide a low-impact solution. And when artificial lighting is needed, it comes from LED bulbs which are wired to room occupancy sensors.
BORA Architects first pitched the idea of making the addition a net-zero building. The school district is required to spend 1.5 percent of the project budget on solar installations — but the Durham addition offered a rare opportunity to go above and beyond. The 1.5 percent, combined with funds available from some of the district's other construction projects, as well as incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon, put the school on a path to Net-Zero.
TS Gray, the construction firm that worked on the Hazelbrook expansion and built the Tualatin High School auditorium, will begin construction in the next few weeks at a total cost of about $6.02 million, Oaks said. They aim to finish before the end of 2018 with school programs moving into the new building this December.
Oaks added that the building is, "guaranteed to perform as designed."
A mock-up will be constructed in the field and tested for energy transfer, and a third-party commissioning agent also will be on site during and after construction to check that electrical and lighting systems are using just the right amount of power in connection with each other.
The right fit
The Durham Education Center in Tigard is one of three sites serving approximately 175 alternative education students. While the Durham Center offers a more traditional classroom setting and includes the districts' Pregnant/Parenting Students Program, the Tigard-Tualatin Online Academy, tucked away off of Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road, offers online courses to students who need a flexible schedule in order to succeed in school. The HUB program, located in Metzger, works to re-engage those who dropped out of the school system, offering vocational training and internships through its partnerships with the Oregon Human Development Corporation and the Cascade Education Corps.
"So now, we have the opportunity to bring all of that together... Everybody gets to be under one roof," said Ernie Brown, Tigard-Tualatin School District superintendent.
"The strength is really going to be in having the right programming for the right kid at the right time," said Andrew McFarlane, director of alternative programs for the district.
Students running off-site youth farms as part of OHDC's Supafresh program soon will be able to grow their skills at the Durham campus thanks to a grant from the Oregon Department of Education to construct a garden plot at the site.
The Cascade Education Corps partners with students to restore streams and habitats and plant thousands of trees all over the metro area, McFarlane said. The program has its roots at the Durham campus, and will be able to move back when the addition is finished.
"There will be elements of this building that will be able to be brought into the STEM, to the science programs, to the sustainability focus that has evolved over time for these programs," said Brown at the ground-breaking ceremony in February.
Sustainability is "really a part of our culture here," McFarlane said, and with room to grow in the new addition, McFarlane already is envisioning new leadership programs for his students.
"I would love to see some partnerships with Durham Elementary," he said, picturing a pipeline for his students to return to the Tigard-Tualatin School District as teachers, for example.
"Making school relevant is a lot of what we aim to do," said McFarlane.
He said he's seen great success with former students during his 15 years in the district and credits a lot of that to the school's community partners and to district voters who continue to show support and belief in the programs, he said. "It makes a huge difference in kids lives."