A single-story classroom addition to a Seattle area private school, the new Bertschi School science classroom is one of the first projects in the region to pursue the Living Building Challenge. This protocol goes above and beyond LEED certification, and includes six strict performance areas: site (including urban agriculture and habitat exchange), water (Net-zero water & ecological water flow), Net-zero energy, health (including healthy air and biophilia), materials (including no toxic or “red list” material use, local sourcing, and consideration of low embodied carbon footprint), equity, and beauty. Rushing worked closely with the team to identify solutions for meeting this rigorous, approaching restorative, methodology of sustainability for the science classroom and lab.
Rushing was primarily the Energy Engineer/Analyst on this project but also collaborated with the team to identify: a net-zero water use solution, an energy efficient lighting system, occupant behavior strategies for low energy and water use, plumbing solutions, natural daylighting, natural ventilation, building envelope, material selection with both minimal to no harmful content and local sourcing, and many other strategies. The biggest reminder that the Bertschi School project hammered home, for each and every team member, was: A deeply sustainable project cannot be designed without intensive, integrated, collaboration between all the team members and engagement of the occupants and building operators.
Two of the most difficult elements of the Living Building Challenge are achievement of Net-zero use of energy and Net-zero use of water, throughout the year. This required Rushing to bring all its energy and water efficiency expertise and strategy development to the table. Working very closely with the team, the resulting energy solution was developed by finding the perfect balance between the reduction of energy use in the space, the insulation level of the building envelope, the amount of photovoltaic (PV, solar) panels, and the efficiency of the heating and ventilation system. Rushing executed numerous studies to find this balance in a way that met the budget of the project and maximized efficiencies. The ventilation system implemented included natural ventilation with an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). For heating (no cooling in this space), a radiant flooring system, a better than code envelope and an air to water heat pump work together to provide a comfortable temperature to the space.