Private college-prep high school Sonoma Academy has elevated its reputation for sustainability with its newly achieved LEED Platinum certification for the Janet Durgin Guild & Commons building, an award-winning student and education center that champions a net-zero energy approach. Designed by architectural firm WRNS Studio and built by Silicon Valley-based XL Construction, the low-carbon building is a powerhouse of sustainable systems including solar panels, a living roof and stormwater management. Crafted as an “extension of its surroundings,” the building takes cues from the Californian landscape with its natural material palette of timber either reclaimed or FSC-certified and sourced from responsibly managed forests.

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two-story wood school building

Located in Santa Rosa, California, Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild and Commons houses a hybrid maker space, an indoor/outdoor student dining area with an all-electric commercial kitchen, student support services and a teaching kitchen/meeting room overlooking the school’s productive gardens and the maker classroom patio. Designed to follow the school’s principles of creativity, inclusivity and innovation, the 19,500-square-foot, Y-shaped facility emphasizes health and well-being by providing constant connections to nature, daylighting and natural ventilation throughout. A low-VOC materials palette provided the foundation for the project, which is built primarily of steel, glass and timber. 

Related: This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

students at wood tables in a lab space
cafe with a buffet area in the center

Special attention was also given to water conservation and management systems, which have been designed to double as teaching tools. Stormwater runoff is captured on the green roof and in terraced rain gardens, then funneled into a 5,000-gallon cistern. This system provides water for toilet-flushing to offset approximately 180,000 gallons of municipal water use per year, accounting for 88% of the building’s total non-potable water demand.

chefs preparing food at a long kitchen island
people eating at tables on outdoor patio near a wood and glass building

Using a net-zero energy approach that employs low- and high-tech strategies, the architects have designed the building to be 80% naturally lit and to decrease the high-energy-component demand by at least 75%. Rooftop solar arrays and geo-exchange ground source heat pumps power the building with renewable energy, while passive systems — such as deep overhangs and operable windows with high-performance, low-E glazing — keep the building naturally cool. The Janet Durgin Guild & Commons is also targeting WELL Education Pilot and LBC Material and Energy Petals certifications.

+ WRNS Studio

Images via WRNS Studio

aerial view of wood school building with solar panels