You are here

Photo Essay

An energy-efficient STEM school

Sandy Grove Middle School in North Carolina produces more energy than it consumes
  • Sandy Grove Middle School’s solar panels sit on the roof.
  • An interior hallway. More than 80 percent of the building’s light fixtures are LED, supplied by Cree.
  • Students can work in a new laboratory facility to analyze the school’s energy performance.
  • A media center leads to a hallway with natural light.

Sandy Grove Middle School, part of Hoke County Schools in North Carolina, is the first energy-positive school in the nation to be financed by its own expected energy savings.

The 74,000-square-foot school opened to students in fall 2013, and was designed as a net-zero facility that produces more energy than it consumes. It will also meet LEED Gold standards.

The school includes photovoltaic and geothermal heating and cooling systems, spray foam insulation, a whole-building generator and solar panels. Energy-efficient LED bulbs were chosen instead of traditional fluorescent light fixtures. These measures are projected to save Hoke County Schools nearly $35 million over the next 40 years.

Sandy Grove was financed through a public-private partnership. In this arrangement, the private sector assumes the risk of capital and resources for construction, while the public sector builds the facility to meet local and state standards.

“Being from a high-growth, low-wealth county, it was critical for Hoke County Schools to approach the construction process of our newest school in a way that would be speedy, efficient and cost-effective,” says Superintendent Freddie Williamson.

The building was designed by Firstfloor and its sister company SfL+a Architects. The school has a STEM focus, and includes an environmental laboratory. It also has a working energy dashboard that tracks the performance of the facility’s green elements, allowing teachers to use the building as a teaching tool.