Barcelona Elementary School’s new classroom building has received a LEED for Schools Gold rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, the first such distinction in New Mexico.

The LEED for Schools rating system, a specific program targeted for education, includes not just sustainable and cost saving energy features, but also environment quality and a connection to the school’s academics. “It’s not just using green building materials and systems, but rather it’s a fully integrated green philosophy,” said Karen Alarid. “ LEED for Schools is not solely about energy savings; it places heavy focus on acoustics, air quality, natural light and views – all to enhance the learning environment.”

Unique green features in the Barcelona Elementary School building include a recycling collection room; insulation made of recycled blue jeans; and numerous skylights and windows that save energy on
electric lighting and provide a direct line of sight out a window from almost any location in the classroom. The dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, and low flow sensor faucets in the rest rooms save 26,000 gallons of water per year compared to conventional fixtures – enough to fill a bathtub over 1,000 times. Water is also saved in the planters around the building that have no irrigation system. Rather, a special gel in the soil is liquefied over time by the microscopic fauna living in the dirt. The plants need to be watered only in their first year while their root systems are being established, but thereafter are self-sufficient. In addition, all building materials were purchased from within a 500 mile radius from the school to minimize the impacts of transportation on the environment.

With an estimated energy savings of 30% as compared to traditional design and construction, this project exemplifies a commitment to the environment as well as a keen interest in reducing operational costs for years to come. “Both Baker Architecture + Design and the LEED consultant, Mike Halcom, LEED AP, were ingenious in the design and creation of this truly original school building,” said Alarid “I credit their attention to every detail in earning a LEED for Schools Gold rating in their goal of creating a quality learning environment for the students of Barcelona Elementary School.”

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