Nichols Hall: LEED GOLD Certified

Harker’s long-held commitment to environmental issues informs every decision, including Harker's capital expansion projects. Our flagship sustainability project was the opening of our science and technology center, Nichols Hall, in August 2008. Environmentally-focused features were incorporated into all aspects of the design of the building, which was designated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified in July 2009, becoming the first school in Santa Clara County to achieve this designation (see full story). Since then, we have opened two other LEED Gold certified buildings: the Rothschild Performing Arts Center and our athletic center.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council's website, "LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality." LEED certification is based on a point system recognizing performance in the aforementioned five areas. During the planning process with XL Construction and DES Architects, the following LEED-point features and other "green" features were implemented:

Sustainable Sites (10 points)

  1. Site selection: Minimized environmental impact from the location of the building on the site to protect natural habitat.
  2. Community development: Pedestrian access to residential neighborhoods and shopping centers.
  3. Alternative Transportation: Preferred parking for carpools and low-emitting and fuel efficient vehicles.
  4. Alternative Transportation: Parking capacity kept to minimum local zoning requirements
  5. Alternative Transportation: Bike racks, showers and changing rooms available
  6. Alternative Transportation: Proximity to bus stops
  7. Stormwater Management System, Quality Control: includes bioswales, turf cell paving and a green roof. The swales, installed around the building and alongside the parking lot wall, will act as a natural earthen filter for the rainwater before it goes to San Tomas Aquino Creek on its way to the bay. The turf cell paving effectively absorbs rainwater into the ground and minimizes stormwater runoff.
  8. Heat Island Effect, Roof: Highly reflective white coating on the roof minimizes the heat island effect caused by solar absorption.
  9. Light pollution reduction: Targeted exterior lighting and low-contrast yellow lighting used to reduce undesirable light and night sky pollution. The light fixtures are designed to light the target areas only and reduce undesired side and up lighting.

Water Efficiency (2 points)

Water efficient restroom features, such as ultra-low flush urinals (using only 0.125 gallons per flush), dual flush toilets, and sinks, and the improved air handling system uses more than 40 percent less water than a typical building of the same size.

Energy Atmosphere (7 points)

Building operates 27-33 percent more energy efficiently than a typical building of the same size. The air handling system, heating, lighting, photovoltaic cells and building envelope all contribute to these savings.

Low-emissivity glass windows lower the total heat flow through windows. The glass used for the atrium and the rotunda lets in light, but keeps out the heat.

Green roof that traps heat in the building in the winter and releases heat in the summer. The vegetation also reduces storm water runoff.

More than 2.5 percent of the energy, approximately 21,000 watts of electricity, comes from onsite renewable sources such as photovoltaic cells.

Enhanced refrigerants made of 100 percent water. No ozone-depleting chemicals are used within the building.

Materials & Resources (3 points)

  1. 95 percent of construction debris generated by demolition and construction were sent to recycling facilities instead of landfills.
  2. More than 10 percent of materials used - steel, concrete, carpet, casework - are manufactured from post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content.

Indoor Environmental Quality (10 points)

Outdoor Air Delivery: Carbon dioxide levels are monitored and 100 percent of air circulated comes from outside.

Increased Ventilation: All rooms have more air changes than required by code.

Construction IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Management Plan, During Construction: all air handlers are cleaned out and capped after each day of work to prevent dust collection. No combustion vehicles were allowed in the building during construction.

Construction IAQ Management Plan, Before Occupancy: Flush out period before occupancy to ensure good air quality.

Low-Emitting Materials (4 points): Low VOC paint, adhesives, sealants, carpet and other products were used throughout the building. Low urea-formaldehyde was used in wood products, including doors, cabinetry and wood flooring and trim.

Controlability of Systems, Lighting: Occupancy sensors installed in all rooms to minimize power consumption. Also, there is a lighting calendar which shuts occupancy sensors off on certain days, such as holidays.

Thermal Comfort, Design: Individual temperature controls in each space to maximize comfort for building occupants.

Additional Eco-Friendly Facts

More than 80 percent of steel content used was recycled.

With the efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, the building consumes $30,000 less in electricity annually.

Three direct/indirect evaporative cooled air handlers use one-sixth the amount of electricity generated by regular air conditioners that use compressors.

Industrial boiler is 10-15 percent more efficient than a standard Title 24 compliant boiler.

Freon-free air conditioning system is used.

Native plants that require much less water were planted.

Energy-saving light bulbs using approximately 20 percent less electricity than conventional light bulbs producing the same amount of light were installed.

Automatic sliding doors open when there is too much air pressure inside the building.

The domestic hot water heater is 95 percent more efficient than a standard hot water heater.

For more information on this project and other green features and activities at Harker, contact

Nichols Hall