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Largest Net-Zero Middle School to Open

Texas district will open the largest net-zero middle school in the nation.
Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in the Irving (Texas) Independent School District will be the largest net-zero middle school in the country.

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School opening in the Irving (Texas) Independent School District this August is named after the Texas native and former First Lady, who died in 2007. The 152,000- square-foot school is designed to be a net-zero school, which means it will produce as much energy as it consumes. In fact, it will be the largest net-zero middle school in the nation. Irving ISD is located in a suburb of Dallas and has 34,000 students and 37 educational facilities.

Solar panels and an on-site wind turbine will provide the bulk of the energy, but geothermal heating and cooling elements will play a role as well, says Scott Layne, assistant superintendent for support services in the district. The school, which will house roughly 800 students, also will have a well to help with irrigation, and the interior will have controlled lighting, allowing sunlight to illuminate most of the classrooms. "To get to net-zero you've got to construct a highly efficient building," says Layne. "We're always looking to help the environment and cut costs."

The $29 million project was funded through a bond passed in 2007, which led to many other green endeavors and renovations throughout the district. One example, says Layne, is the rubber flooring throughout the district's 37 schools, which doesn't require a finish and isn't releasing chemicals into the environment.

Many interactive features in the building will tie sustainability into the curriculum as well, says Layne, including a learning laboratory where students can study the amount of energy being used in the classrooms around the school. Layne says elementary students from the district will take field trips to the middle school so it can be experienced by more students than just those it serves. Lady Bird Johnson, an advocate of both the environment and education, would have been proud. Layne hopes her daughters will be present at the school's dedication ceremony on October 16.