Earth month seems like a good point to reflect on the recently completed and now fully occupied KIPP Academy Lynn project in Lynn, MA. Part of the challenge associated with designing this project was making the school comfortable during the warmer months without the luxury of having a budget that could support full air conditioning. While oftentimes this problem is lamented, we saw it as an opportunity to be creative with the building systems and fenestration to provide low-energy, passive, and (most importantly) low-first cost climate control.
The core academic classrooms in the building were all outfitted with operable windows and ceiling mounted paddle fans. In addition to these very basic user controls, the ventilation system provides dehumidified air to the classrooms, versus full air conditioning. While the rooftop units that provide the dehumidified air function in a very similar manner to air conditioning units, they can be much smaller and use much less energy than if full air conditioning were to be provided.
In addition to the low-energy approach taken in the classrooms, the main lobby/cafeteria space in the school was another opportunity to deploy a passive design approach. The cafeteria space links together the entire school from both a cultural and spatial perspective. Being as such, it has a vertical connection through the building that functions as a natural “chimney” for passive stack effect convective air currents. To capitalize on this reality, we added motorized louvers below a skylight well at the top of this space, and provided operable windows down low within the cafeteria. As budgetary concerns were at the forefront of all decisions made, there is no elaborate system to control these venting devices – instead both the motorized louvers and windows can opened by the school staff when the climate dictates.
The passive venting system in the cafeteria is supplemented by the plentiful breezes that strike the school on its hilltop site, low speed ceiling fans, and a radiant floor. The totality of these strategies help to create a school that can be well tuned to the exterior environment using a substantially lower amount of energy than a school that relied exclusively on active HVAC systems for climate control.
A full-sized, labelled PDF diagram of both the cafeteria and classroom strategies is located here.