Oyster River Middle School Sets the Bar for School Building Sustainability

Oyster River Middle School’s Commitment to Sustainability on Full Display During Earth Week!

Aerial view of Oyster River Middle School and Solar Panels (Photo courtesy of ReVision Energy)

School Board Members, Administration, Students, Teachers, Project Team Members and Legislators gathered earlier this week to celebrate the ribbon cutting of 1,450 solar panels at Oyster River Middle School. Hosted by ReVision Energy, a renewable energy contracting company, the celebration featured student led sustainability tours and remarks from Vice Chair of the School Board Denise Day, Senator Maggie Hassan, A representative from the office of Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Congressman Chris Pappas, Superintendent Dr. Jim Morse, Deputy Commissioner of Education Christine Brennan and Lavallee Brensinger’s own Anne Ketterer and Ryan Tirrell.

Ready to be one of the largest net-positive middle schools in the region2, the new middle school serves as a teaching tool to nearly 700 students, and reflects the Oyster-River Cooperative School District’s commitment to sustainable design.

The Lavallee Brensinger team worked with stakeholders to design a building that incorporates both community history and green-building elements. Doug Shilo, who served as the project’s Sustainability Leader, breaks down eight sustainable aspects that make this project great.

Being a good neighbor

  • Project preserves 30% of the site as open space, 25% of which will be vegetated. Site lighting will not trespass to neighboring properties and conservation areas.
  • Assembly areas will be shared with the public, making this project an active part of the community.

Choosing the Right Site

  • The new school was constructed directly beside the existing school to be demolished, conserving money, land, and time.
  • Conducted Preliminary Studies of Energy and Water Systems to determine most effective sustainable strategies for this site.

Reducing the Impact of Fossil-Fuel Vehicles

  • Efficient parking layout reduces pavement area, and parking is completely covered with a solar array.
  • Infrastructure for vehicle charging locations provided.
  • Project is within walking distance to downtown Durham, encouraging pedestrian access.

Conserving Water

  • All site plantings will be native and hardy for this region, removing the need for irrigation entirely.
  • All fixtures and kitchen equipment will be Water-Sense rated, reducing the water use by an estimated 32%.

Conserving Energy

  • The design includes a high-efficiency system for heating and cooling, 100% outdoor air ventilation, and geothermal wells below the parking lot. This combination provides efficient, healthy, and comfortable heating/cooling to the building, reducing the energy use by 84%1.
  • This all-electric design is net-positive-energy-ready, and an on-site solar array (installed on the roof and above the parking) will produce an estimated 130% of the energy consumed2.

Building Responsibly

  • A Building Life-Cycle Impact model was developed, which shows the materials used reduce Global Warming by 41% when compared to a similar project with typical materials.
  • 91% of construction waste has been diverted from landfills.

Designing for Healthy Learning

  • Pollutants are controlled at the door, monitored, and independently tested to confirm air quality is excellent.
  • Building assemblies were chosen to acoustically isolate the rooms, the mechanical system was designed to reduce noise, and finishes were chosen to reduce reverberation time to a minimum.
  • The colors were carefully chosen to provide proper lighting while preventing glare.
  • Spaces were analyzed to prove quality views to the exterior, even in the building’s core.

Making an Ongoing Commitment

  • Sub-meters and ongoing reporting of energy and water use will provide performance transparency, and opportunities for improvement.
  • Strategies planned for storage and collection of all waste, including dedicated areas for compost, recycling, and hazardous waste.
  • The main entrance is dedicated to the history of Oyster River School District’s stewardship, with an interactive display of performance metrics.
  • The project will provide a living case study for the school’s sustainability initiatives and curriculums.

1Compared to AIA 2030 Baseline building, based on energy model created using LEED V4 Guidelines.
2Installed renewable energy capacity is currently allocated away from the project as Renewable Energy Credits


About Doug Shilo

Doug Shilo, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Associate, Sustainability Leader

603.622.5450 Extension 148 | doug.shilo@LBPA.com
Doug is an Associate and Sustainability Leader at Lavallee Brensinger Architects. As our Sustainability Leader, he guides the firm in how to design high-performance, low-impact projects. Doug champions Lavallee Brensinger Architects’ 2030 commitment with the AIA and is currently administering several LEED projects.