Members of the senior class unveiled the school's LEED plaque.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Hoosac Valley High School has received a gold "star" for its achievements in energy efficiency and leadership.
The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the newly renovated middle and high school with a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certificate, the highest and rarest award the organization gives. It is believed that Hoosac Valley is only the second public school in the state to receive a gold certification.
"I think the best part of this project is, beyond being a place where students from all over the region come to learn and grow, is in itself an example in how we learn and grow as a community," state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield said at a ceremony held at the school on Friday morning.
He and others, including state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, talked about what the LEED certification says about the community to the small group gathered in the front lobby.
LEED certification can mean credits for buildings depending on how many of the requirements — ranging from sustainability to insulation to alternative energy — the building fills. Hoosac Valley met many of these criteria, including the on-site solar array, reduced energy consumption, high-efficiency windows and stormwater management.
The school received credits for its 34 percent reduction in water use, optimized energy performance that is 38 percent below code, 93 percent building reuse during the renovation, and low emitting materials. Two percentage points were added on to the state's reimbursement for the $40 million project.
eCaerus Sustainable Solutions of Great Barrington was the project's LEED consultant, working with the design and architecture team.
Downing spoke about the importance of the environmental mindset the school has adopted.
"We know that doing the right thing by the environment in the long term by acting on climate change, by accepting that responsibility, and taking steps today that will pay off for tomorrows to come," he said. "We are not only doing the right thing by the environment and future generations, but we are also doing the right thing by the economy here today."
Students in Thomas Corrigan's class build a solar heater. The course in alternative energy aided the school in achieving gold LEED status.
Francis Waterman, co-chairman of the Building Committee said the school renovation cost was close to $180 per square foot, far below most school renovations at $250 to $270.
"We did a major renovation project and it was the cheapest in the state," Waterman said. "Not only that, but we attained gold certification, which if you try to deal with money and a gold certification it is near impossible."
In addition to the building's efficiency, the school gained points for merging academics with environmental mindfulness.
Cariddi applauded the fact the building itself is being used as a learning tool.
"The school is a teaching tool and for me that is the number one thing," Cariddi said. "It's not only going to teach the students that we have here today, but will teach thousands of others as we go along in the next decade."
Thomas Corrigan teaches an alternative energy course at the high school. He said LEED described his syllabus as "perfect."
"I actually taught the class before we made the renovation, and the kids love it," Corrigan said.
Corrigan said his class makes windmills, solar collectors and solar-powered cars. They also measure the amount of energy the school's solar array produces.
"Basically what we do is hands-on projects related to alternative energy," he said. "I would say the students' reactions is surprised when they see alternative energy work; they are in disbelief it's there and it's free."