Seneca Valley High School Achieves LEED Silver Certification
At more than 439,000 square feet, Seneca Valley High School is the largest MCPS project to have achieved certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Points are assessed during project design and after construction to achieve a final rating of Certified, Silver or Gold. With Seneca Valley’s Silver certification, the total number of MCPS schools with LEED certification is 37.
“Seneca Valley High School students and families prioritized environmental consciousness throughout the design process for their new building, noting that we must all play our role in ensuring a safe and sustainable future for our children and our community,” said Dr. Marc Cohen, principal at Seneca Valley.
The landscaping reflects an intention to capture as much rainwater on site as possible. Fourteen bioretention facilities are spread around campus. Special soils and deep-rooted plants in these areas allow stormwater to be reabsorbed into the ground, rather than running off to erode local streams. Thirteen underground sand filters help clean and retain the water so that there is no increase in run-off and 90% of the average annual rainfall is treated.
Studies have shown that daylit spaces in schools contribute to accelerated learning, so all of the school’s teaching spaces have natural light and a view to the outside. The number of windows in the classrooms and in other instructional spaces is a deliberate design element used by Moseley Architects to bring natural light into areas where students learn. High-level windows bring light, but not glare thanks to special glazing. Attention to lighting outside the school was also a priority to prevent light pollution and to avoid spilling light onto neighboring properties.
Indoor air quality is also a vital element of a healthy school. Paints, carpets, furniture and other materials have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A dedicated outdoor air system brings in fresh air using high-performance filters.
Finally, another quality that may not be immediately visible in new schools is control of sound. The LEED for Schools rating system has a requirement for acoustic control, not just in spaces like the music room or auditorium, but also in classrooms, where understanding the speaker (especially when wearing a mask) is critical to learning.
As part of its ongoing commitment to increasing sustainability, all future MCPS construction projects will meet two newer environmental standards: a new version of the International Green Construction Code, and registration with the new Green Globes rating system, which requires an on-site visit of the project before final certification.