In Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, an independent elementary school boasts a campus that any private university would covet. Already home to a LEED Gold certified building, the Bertschi School has also been certified as the world's fourth Living Building, and the first of its kind on the west coast. Acting as the Science Wing, the 3,380 square foot interactive learning environment was completed in February to serve students ages 5-11. Adhering to the rigorous 2.0 standards for the Living Building Challenge, the facility is outfitted with a number of green features including solar panels, a green roof, composting toilet, FSC-approved redwood building materials, rainwater collecting systems and a green wall.
The Bertschi Living Science Wing was designed in collaboration with Restorative Design Collective, a multi-disciplinary team led by KMD Architects. The Collective donated their expertise free of charge, gifting more than $500,000 in time and building materials. Created with consideration to curriculum focusing on sustainability and social justice, the net-zero Wing sits on an urban site with an ethnobotanical garden. The building’s features are designed to encourage interactive learning, engaging students in the operation of their classrooms.
A 20-kw photovolatic system provides all of the electricity, while a rainwater collection system and cisterns collect all of the water that is needed. Excess water is absorbed by the garden and green roof, and a composting toilet and indoor green wall help to treat waste. Heat is distributed through a hydronic radiant floor and powered by the solar panels. The Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) efficiently circulates energy through the rooms, while recovering warmth from the air. Monitoring and control systems keep tabs on electricity consumption and temperature, and ensure the net zero power and water standards.
The ethnobotanical garden and salmon tank let students participate in hands-on activities that directly tie them to their environments. There, they can learn the importance of edible and medicinal plants for pre-Columbian peoples who inhabited the region, as well as contribute to the conservation of fish species.
“At Bertschi School, we are committed to educating children to become thoughtful stewards of their local and global communities,” said Brigitte Bertschi, Head of Bertschi School. “We are not simply teaching about how to responsibly manage resources. The Science Wing allows students to put our curriculum to authentic use. I am proud that our children are empowered to make a difference at a very young age — even if it is a small one.”
Setting an example for our children as well as the greater world of green building, the Bertschi school is breaking ground on sustainable education through enlightened architecture.