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State's First High-Performance School To Open This Fall

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Located in southeast Colorado in Prowers County, Lamar is home to nearly 7,900 residents. Sustainability has already found its way into the county, which is home to the world’s fifth largest wind farm, converting renewable wind energy into usable electricity.

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Additionally, Alta Vista Charter School (AVCS) in Lamar will be the first Colorado Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CO-CHPS) project to be certified in the state when JHL Constructors Inc. completes the new addition and the historic renovation in August. AVCS will set the precedent for future green education facilities throughout Colorado.

AVCS currently operates out of a small 1917 schoolhouse and several modular classrooms. New construction will add 18,000 sq ft of 21st Century learning classrooms, a full gymnasium, library, music room and stage and new administration areas. Additionally, the existing schoolhouse building will undergo a historic renovation to revive and preserve its old charm. While AVCS’s schoolhouse is structurally in good condition, the building systems and less-than-optimal building configuration create constant operational challenges and safety concerns for students and staff. The modular classrooms provide poor daylight, lack plumbing and are far from energy efficient.

Through the Colorado Dept. of Education’s “Building Excellent Schools Today” program, AVCS submitted an application for funding, with the help of Denver’s SLATERPAULL Architects, and was awarded $5.9 million to proceed with the addition and renovation. The B.E.S.T. program, which is funded by the Colorado Land Trust, is set to disperse nearly $1 billion to Colorado schools over the upcoming years. AVCS contributed $287,000 of its own funding.

In addition to the B.E.S.T. grant, AVCS was also recently awarded $360,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Because of this, the school will be able to expand its plans for the gymnasium to a full-size gym.

The mission of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools is to facilitate the design, construction and operation of high-performance schools: environments that are not only energy and resource efficient but also healthy, comfortable, well lit, and contain the amenities for a quality education. CO-CHPS was created specifically to provide a benchmark for high-performance schools in Colorado. While similar to LEED, CHPS provides a regional focus for sustainability strategies and an emphasis on an integrated design process. Additional prerequisites over LEED include: more focus on site selection criteria, educational opportunities within the school on performance and strategies, low-VOC materials and finishes, and thermal comfort.

 The goals of CHPS are to:

  • Increase student performance with better-designed and healthier facilities
  • Raise awareness of the impact and advantages of high-performance schools
  • Provide professionals with better tools to facilitate effective design, construction and maintenance of high performance schools
  • Increase school energy and resource efficiency
  • Reduce peak electric loads

AVCS’s High-Performance Design Features

  • High-performance building envelope consisting of brick veneer, 1.5-in. airspace, 2.5-in. spray-applied polyurethane foam insulation and 6-in. metal studs with blown-in cellulose insulation
  • Geo-exchange ground-source loop with water to air heat pump powered by high efficiency ECM motors
  • Roof top energy recovery ventilators for fresh air
  • Tuned glazing and sunshades for optimum daylight in classrooms
  • High efficiency fluorescent lighting and dual technology occupancy sensors
  • Recycled content products include concrete reinforcing, structural steel, steel doors, aluminum storefront, gypsum board, acoustical panel ceilings, rubber wall base and toilet partitions
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