The Londonderry School campus was completed in the spring of 2004 after 10 years of fundraising, planning and construction. We selected this site because it afforded us a beautiful nature observatory within minutes of the capitol complex and downtown Harrisburg.

We knew, however, that we would need to be stewards of these 14 acres. And so we began planning a school building and grounds that would preserve natural habitat, protect the watershed, reduce waste, reduce energy usage, and teach others about caring for our environment. As part of our planning, we strove to meet the national building standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in areas such as site development, air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation and innovative design strategies.

Further, we committed our project to show that environmentally conscious or “green” building construction does not need to cost more than traditional construction and should become a new building industry standard. Typical central Pennsylvania school construction cost is $130/sq. ft. Our building was constructed at about $100/sq. ft., demonstrating that green design can be cost effective and within reach for any construction project.

We also made design decisions to create a building that is a teaching tool about the environment for our students and for public visitors. As you walk around our building you can learn about the choices we made and why we made them, keeping both the environment and cost in mind.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Less is Better!

Our building is designed so that spaces can have multiple uses, reducing the need to build more square footage while providing a cost and materials savings! For example, our lobby becomes a stage by removing the railing, and the multipurpose room becomes a seating area. The multipurpose room also doubles as a large gathering room, or a venue in which students can sit on the risers while viewing a show or program. With a small kitchenette, the room may also be used for meetings and other special programs.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Less is Better!

We have consciously chosen not to cover floors and walls with extra materials that are typically used in construction. For example, the block in the hallways is clear sealed, rather than hidden behind drywall or event paint. The concrete floor - important to our heating system - has merely received a clear sealer. The maintenance is minimal, while the function is complete without the addition of linoleum or vinyl flooring.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Energy Efficiency

We have reduced energy usage through the coordination of the systems in the structure. First, the building envelope has extreme insulation – an R-60 roof and R-48 walls. Walls are made of double walls of Styrofoam that make a form that is filled with concrete. The highly insulated envelope of the building keeps heat and cooling inside the building. The floor slab of concrete is heated by radiant tubing - 130-degree water snakes through the floor in tubes spaced 12 inches apart. The concrete remains warm and the individual areas do not need to call for heat as often as with traditional baseboard or forced hot air heating. The upstairs level uses baseboard heat, but relies on heat rising from the floor below for primary heating. Windows allow for passive warming from sun.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Energy Efficiency

Utilizing the sun’s warmth, through windows and clerestories, helps warm the building through the day. Roof overhangs are designed to keep summer sun out and let winter sun in. Awnings over some windows provide the same effect. Awnings were purchased from Conservation Concepts, an environmental business with ties to Londonderry’s founding families. All classrooms have individual heat thermostats so each can be regulated as needed, depending on the amount of sun warmth.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Energy Efficiency

The building is designed to reduce the need for air conditioning by using natural air ventilation in classroom wings with purge fans. These fans pull cool air through the classrooms at night when windows are left open. Clerestories allow heat that rises, to escape. Only the central part of the building is air conditioned, as this is the only part of the building getting year-round use. Offices are air conditioned separately from the multipurpose room/lobby area, so that only the area in use can be air conditioned. This design has a two-fold economical advantage: reduced building costs and reduced ongoing operating costs.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Energy Efficiency & Aesthetics

Day-lighting, or using natural light as lighting, reduces demand for lighting and provides a more pleasant natural light. With large windows in each classroom, white ceilings reflect and spread light throughout. Clerestories add light to hallways. In turn, light in the halls is reflected off white ceilings and into classrooms through openings in the walls.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Reduced Water Usage

Rainwater collected from the roof, flowing into an underground cistern, is used for the operation of all lavatories, with the exception of our waterless urinal! This rainwater recycling system for gray water greatly reduces the use of potable water from the drinking water supply. The gang sinks, which were recycled from a building demolition, turn off automatically and have small faucet holes, so children cannot leave water running.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Air Quality

Materials were selected to provide a reduction in air pollutants. The carpet is made from recycled fibers and backing, is itself recyclable, and is installed so that it has very little "off gassing" during installation or after. The carpet is installed in squares that can be removed if stained, rather than having to remove the entire carpet area. The sealers or finishes used on-site are low VOC; those needing finishes with VOCs were completed off-site and brought to the site after they had sealed.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Air Quality

The entire building can use natural ventilation with operable windows throughout to allow fresh air exchange. Each classroom has a carbon monoxide monitor to help regulate ventilation levels. Nighttime cooling fans can also operate on low speed during the day, to help increase natural ventilation, if warranted.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Renewable & Recyclable Materials

Building materials were made from rapidly renewable/fast growth materials, or recycled/recyclable materials. Wheatstraw board, a rapid growth material, is used in the multipurpose room and over doorways. Another is bamboo, used for the multipurpose room flooring. Interface brand carpet is made from recycled carpet and is recyclable when no longer needed, including both fibers and backing. Because the carpet is installed in squares, rather than an entire roll, each square can be replaced singly as necessary when soiled permanently.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Renewable & Recyclable Materials

Approximately 75% of all waste involved in the construction of the Londonderry school was recycled!

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Durability Reduces Maintenance Costs

Indoor and outdoor materials were selected to require little maintenance and refinishing. Split-faced block is used on the exterior. Inside, regular concrete block is used in hallways requiring no re- painting in later years. Concrete flooring is easy to maintain and requires little upkeep.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Repurposing of Materials

New furnishings would have cost approximately $150,000. Assorted classroom and office furnishings, were retained from our former school location. Lobby and administrative furnishings were donated by two law offices and two corporations that were disposing of furnishings. Savings to school amounted to $136,000. Large sinks were donated from a demolition site and refurbished. River stones from another demolition site were repurposed for exterior walkways.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Green Footprint

When considering the impact on the environment in material selection, the travel distance of the materials coming to the site was a factor. Materials were selected that were made within a 500-mile radius of the site. New classroom furniture was purchased from a Lancaster, PA company.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Minimize Site Disturbance

Only the area needed for construction itself was disturbed. Trees were saved that were healthy, rather than leveling the entire area and re-planting later, as is typical in commercial and school construction.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Watershed Protection

All storm water, or water runoff, is kept on-site. Runoff is reduced by collecting rainwater from the roof and reusing it for flushing toilets. Eliminating curbing, and decreasing paving and concrete use reduces the storm water runoff from roadways and parking areas. The extra parking area uses a gravel surface that is permeable and cost efficient. All wastewater is treated on site, rather than adding to the sewage system. Underground septic tanks are located near the building as part of on-lot sewage system, thus reducing the impact on the watershed with sewage treatment plant discharge.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Watershed Protection

Plantings are native plants, which do not require special or extra watering. Students planted more than 50 native trees and shrubs in the spring of 2004, such as Dogwood, River Birch, Redbud and Mountain Laurel. Watering can be done in summer with the rainwater collection system, since water usage drops when school is not in session. No chemical fertilizers are used that can run off and damage waterways, and organic compost is used to fertilize plantings.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Habitat Protection

The school site was situated to reduce the number of acres needing to be disturbed. New plantings are all native plants that provide habitat for native species. Extensive habitat restoration by replanting healthy plants to replace those destroyed by logging of previous owners is being conducted by the school students and families. 500 white pine seedlings were planted by families and students in the Spring of 2003. Acorns were planted throughout the woods in the Fall of 2004.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Natural Habitat & Watershed Protection

Natural habitats have been retained and enhanced, rather than planting maintenance-intensive grass. The school playground and surrounding area has been designed with a variety of habitats, with only necessary grassy areas. Landscaping includes native shrubs and trees, meadow grasses and wildflowers. Trees have been protected and preserved wherever possible.

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Repurposed & Recycled Materials

Several pieces of playground equipment were moved from our former site. New equipment that was purchased uses timbers and planks made from recycled milk jugs (over 3,400) and recycled plastic bags. Play equipment has also been constructed of logs from trees that were not healthy and had to be removed. Wood chips from trees that were taken down were used for playground surfacing, and wood chips from trees displayed at the local Farm Show Garden Expo were also used on our playground!

Environmental Concept growing greener leaf Reduce Heat Absorption & Global Warming

Dark materials absorb and hold heat from the sun; light materials reflect the sun’s light and heat. Asphalt paving is limited to the minimum needed for school requirements. Trees have been preserved or planted to shade asphalt in the spring, summer, and fall months. The roof materials are silver (front) or white (back) to reflect the sun's light and heat, thereby reducing building heat absorption that contributes to global warming.