No Sharks, no Jets — just super-cool systems for saving energy in new high school building
Students moving across Ninth Street to a remodeled WestSide High School this fall will be treated to state-of-the-art concepts in lighting and energy efficiency not available at any other buildings in the Wenatchee School District.
It’s a little gift to students and staff at the alternative school. They’ll enjoy the very best after being housed in what has been the worst of student facilities in the district.
A swap with Wenatchee Valley College provided the 18,000-square-foot building, which is the former Eagles Lodge. The school district’s WestSide property – originally built 50 years ago as dormitories for the college – is now in WVC’s hands.
The school district is using reserves of more than $4 million to fund the move: $1 million for the property exchange (the Eagles building had higher value in the swap) and $3 million to remodel it into the new WestSide High School. An $810,000 state grant is paying for energy measures that will make the high school super-efficient.
The building has been gutted in preparation for construction work that will begin in mid-February. But Bryan Visscher, director of Facilities and Risk Management, has no trouble picturing what’s to come.
“Architects developed an open concept for common areas,” he said, pointing to the high ceiling. The building will feature “team rooms,” he said, gesturing toward the center of the vast open building, which will use movable, convertible walls as space for working on team projects. Classrooms, offices and counseling rooms will dot the perimeter. Students will get a real kitchen for the first time, along with a classroom kitchen for instruction in cooking and life skills. The new WestSide also will include art rooms and a resource center with computers and electronic library.
The entire building will be outfitted with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting on daylight sensors. As daylight increases, lights dim. As sunlight wanes, lights grow brighter.
The building will get plenty of natural light, Visscher said, through new windows and skylights.
Other energy benefits include an advanced, low-maintenance, highly efficient VRF (variable refrigerant flow) system for heating and cooling. In addition to offering superior comfort and efficiency, the system can take excess heat not being used in the building and heat domestic water, Visscher said
“We’ve taken an already cool design and just put it over the top,” Visscher said.
He’s planning an energy dashboard near the main entrance to display energy savings to visitors.
On a scale of 1 to 100 used by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager program, the old building scored a 6, Visscher said. He’s hoping to take that to a 75 or higher, which would give the school district one more Energy Star award to add to its collection of six awards received under Visscher’s supervision. The awards recognize outstanding improvements in the energy efficiency of schools, churches, hospitals and other public and commercial buildings.
WestSide Principal Kory Kalahar said a new school has been planned for many years. Forte Architects visited with WestSide staff several times, he said, to get ideas and feedback. “They really wanted the new building to help students maintain the atmosphere and culture they’re used to,” Kalahar said, noting that WestSide does not use bells or lights to let students know when periods end and begin. “It’s a more relaxed atmosphere. We have standards, and they’re high standards, but the atmosphere is different” than a traditional high school.
Staff should be able to move into the remodeled building in mid-August, with students following on Sept. 1.