Sustainable Design for Renovation

by on July 17, 2013

Winchester Star
Sustainable Design Brings Value, Savings, and Performance to High School Project

Sustainable Design Adds Value
Have you ever wished that your house was more energy efficient, more comfortable in the winter and summer, had more fresh air and sun light, and reduced its environmental impact? But perhaps you didn’t know where to start or what actions were most important to you and your family. You are not alone – most of us want to make these improvements for a variety of reasons: from saving money, improving wellness, or doing our part to contribute to a more sustainable community. An excellent time to tackle these problems is when you are undertaking a renovation. This is exactly what the Town of Winchester is doing as it considers designs for renovating the High School. Addressing key sustainability challenges such as improving energy efficiency, in-door air quality, and student and teacher productivity is a priority for the Town design team. These sustainable design objectives are understood as critical for increasing the overall quality, value, and performance of the new high school.

To ensure the project takes advantage of these opportunities in the most cost-effective way, the Town established a sub-committee to advise on sustainable design issues – also known as “green building”. Drawing from successful experiences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and energy efficiency work implemented by the Town, the sub-committee developed design recommendations that if implemented would ensure the building would consume considerably less energy, contain less toxic materials, improve the quality of air, maximize natural light, and enhance the learning environment.

Saves Money
For example, the current high school is the largest energy consumer of all Town buildings, using over 32% of all the energy consumed. While building codes require some energy efficiency in construction projects, the Town is pursuing strategies that could improve the high school building’s energy use nearly 45% better than the minimum requirements; and reduce water use by over 20% – strategies that save money over the lifetime of the building, saving upwards of $200,000 per year. MIT has demonstrated that these types of savings can be achieved at little to no additional costs to the construction project – but provide significant annual cost savings when considered early and integrally in the design process. Roofs will be constructed to accommodate solar power systems, including the re-installation of the solar system currently in place, and additional renewable energy systems if they can reduce overall energy costs.

Enhances Learning and Productivity
While the emphasis for sustainable design has focused squarely on choices that will save money, there are other choices designed to improve student and faculty comfort and productivity including bringing more comfortable and cleaner air and additional sunlight into learning spaces. Reducing allergens has been shown to reduce overall absenteeism. Rich educational opportunities abound for students by incorporating green building features into the curriculum, a strategy currently being explored.
To learn more about the sustainable design opportunities and ways to provide comment, please visit the project website at

About the author:
Steven Lanou is the deputy director of the Office of Sustainability at MIT where he leads efforts to advance sustainable practices across campus including energy efficiency, green buildings, alternative transportation, waste reduction, and community engagement. He is an environmental planner with 20 years of experience in the field. He holds a BA from Brown University and an MCP from MIT. Lanou is a member of the EFPBC’s Sub-Committee on Sustainability and a town resident.

For a pdf version of this article click here.

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