School architect David Schrader lays foundation for a greener future

The current North Penn High School layout, including outdoor installments. Image courtesy of John Collier

John Collier

The current North Penn High School layout, including outdoor installments. Image courtesy of John Collier

TOWAMENCIN— Rumors circulate year after year of North Penn’s next mega-project, with prospects of renovating pods frozen in time, or moving the entire 9th grade student body to a new high school installation. While ideas of expansion are an exciting point of contention to picture the future of our education, we leave one crucial point on the backburner: sustainability.

However, North Penn’s future is intertwined with eco-friendliness much more than it was twenty years ago.

Members of the EnACt club met in C117 this past Wednesday to hear an overview of previous and upcoming environmental endeavors in the K-12 sector from Mr. David Schrader, a managing partner at Schrader Group Architecture. Schrader outlined changes that seem inconsequential to the overall sustainability or humanistic ability of the building, but affect our school lives drastically.

“For instance, the best and most efficient use of an interior space is when you provide natural lighting. The best thing we can do is give you views and vistas out to daylight and nature, which is very important in giving the brain a rest during the day. In the meantime, the shift from incandescent or fluorescent to LED has come together with this use of natural light to reduce the amount of heat produced from artificial lighting. And, to that effect, it reduces the amount of cooling required school-wide to maintain that old heated lighting,” Schrader explained.

While individual changes like lighting are taken into consideration at every step of the renovation process, Schrader surmised that the overarching goal is to total every environmentally friendly change in a measure of certification dubbed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) Manifestations of a LEED certification could range from further promoting public transportation and biking, all the way to reusing parts of the building’s construction that would otherwise be destined for the landfill.

To picture the outlying benefits of LEED-based renovations that could be introduced to North Penn, Schrader pointed out that building improvements in Council Rock saved the district more than just pocket change.

“…it’s up to us to invent new ideas that don’t cost much more to make ourselves net-zero, for our own good.””

— David Schrader

“Before an energy plan was developed, Council Rock spent roughly two dollars per square foot to maintain the building. Keeping in mind that [North Penn’s] school is roughly 550,000 square feet, the same square footage, you guys could be spending up to $1.1 million dollars just keeping the building up per year, from the math alone. Through the same changes that brought the price down to only 0.89¢ per square foot, your school could save up to $600,000 while still operating equitably.” Schrader stated.

Though financials are a large piece of the puzzle for the district’s long-term sustainability, Schrader surmised that the entire picture of treating our building and environment with respect is worth more than anything.

“I suppose that the summary of all this could be… that new environmental systems put in place about 20 years ago transformed the industry and made buildings and sites so much more sustainable… And, it’s up to us to invent new ideas that don’t cost much more to make ourselves net-zero, for our own good,” Schrader summarized.

The idea of a 9th grade building or a complete overhaul of the high school as we know it is far from foreseeable in the short-term, but paving the way always starts with a schematic. See Mr. Collier in C117 if you would like to support EnACt’s green future.