Silverthorne school design sets the standard |

Silverthorne school design sets the standard

Julie Sutor

SUMMIT COUNTY- Silverthorne’s new elementary school, now under construction, is quickly moving into the spotlight among school districts around the region for its sustainable design.

On Tuesday, Summit School District’s facilities director Mike Arnold showcased the 62,000-square-foot school to architects, engineers and school officials across Colorado during a presentation at the High Performance Schools Seminar in Westminster.

The conference was a joint project of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation.

According to Arnold, districts around Colorado and other Western states have been calling him recently to inquire about the school’s pioneering design.

Since the project’s inception, Arnold has been a chief advocate for an environmentally sensitive, education-friendly design. Every design feature, from room temperatures to toilets, has been scrutinized for its longevity, durability, efficiency, utility and safety.

“It’s going to be very advanced for the state,” said Kelly Yamasaki of OZ Architecture, the project’s manager. “Summit is at the top of the list (for sustainable design). There aren’t that many districts that have pushed this hard.”

“In today’s world,” Arnold said, “environmental considerations are expected by the public. It’s the responsible way to build a school.”

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is one of the cornerstones of the school’s design. According to Arnold, the school’s $9 million price tag, financed through a voter-approved mill levy, is an investment that will show returns for many years to come, through significant energy cost savings.

One of the school’s most notable design features is the amount of natural light that will stream into and through the building. During daylight hours, not one light switch will have to be turned on. Each classroom will be day-lit from the front and rear, due partly to strategic north/south orientation.

When the sun goes down, artificial lighting will be activated by motion sensors. The lighting system contains all T5 bulbs, which provide excellent intensity with very few watts.

According to Yamasaki, the lighting design alone will save the district huge amounts of money.

Compared to most buildings, the new school has significantly increased mass and insulation, which protects the building from temperature swings in the heat of the day and cold of the night.

Even landscape design contributes to temperature control measures by blocking winter winds and helping to deposit snow away from entries and play areas.

A comprehensive natural ventilation system precludes the need for mechanical cooling. Fresh air enters through classroom windows and circulates out through the top of the building as it warms.

The school’s energy efficient design will save about $27,000, compared to a comparable building that is merely code-compliant, according to analysis by the state’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation.

Attention to

environmental impact

The school’s design team paid special attention to construction materials. According to Arnold, the vast majority of the building’s materials, from the carpet to the steel support to the concrete exterior, are recyclable. When and if the building is torn down more than 100 years from now, it’s parts will be easily recycled rather than sent to a landfill.

Paints, carpets, glues wood finishes and other building products are of low toxicity, releasing relatively little volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Other environmentally sensitive measures include climate-appropriate, native-plant landscaping; indoor water efficiency; and electric vehicle charging stations.

A conducive setting

for learning

According to Arnold, the building’s orientation allows stunning views of the surrounding valley and mountain ranges.

“There’s a ton of research that says people need to use their long-distance vision for relaxation,” Arnold said. “Being in a closed, encapsulated little space is not good for learning or working.”

Arnold said the design is sensitive to the flow of students through the school from the moment they enter the property on the school bus.

“We used an integrated design process to ensure that form follows function for everyone in the building,” Arnold said.

District officials are excitedly looking forward to the building’s opening next fall.

“It’s state-of-the-art,” said Superintendent, Lynn Spampinato. “It’s going to be absolutely beautiful.”

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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