When a town’s population doubles nearly four times in ten years—meaning that today it is roughly 14 times bigger than it was a decade before—upgrades are inevitable. In 1999, the town of Herriman, Utah, 25 miles south of Salt Lake City, was incorporated with a population of 1,523. By the 2010 census, that number had swelled to 21,785. The Jordan School District responded by building the 200,000-square-foot Herriman Middle School #2, which will begin the 2013 school year at full occupancy (1,500 students) and with a host of green features.

“Because of the population growth in the area, we realized we needed a new school building fast,” says Randy Haslam, director of new construction for the school district, which revisited plans from a prior school in the district and enlisted the structural engineering expertise of Reaveley Engineers & Associates to help bring HMS #2 up to 2009 Utah building standards, including requirements set forth in a new statewide energy code. “All these code changes forced us to make some major structural and design changes on the old school plans,” he says. “But the biggest change that came into play was the energy code, which called for much more efficiency.”

Using the semi-arid environment of the Salt Lake Valley, HMS #2 incorporates 300 geothermal wells, each of which is 350 feet deep. That depth allows the wells to use ambient temperatures to heat and cool the water, and the closed-loop thermal system “allows for an energy reduction of half the cost of a standard water-heating system,” Haslam says. Each classroom pulls on a specific geothermal unit, which allows for more proprietary, energy-efficient control of water usage.

Herriman Middle School #2

With all of the suburban expansion encroaching on Herriman and the southern end of the valley, asphalt is and continues to be the surface of choice for parking lots and road-surfacing needs. Although it is a popular material, asphault is a major heat draw and necessitates frequent servicing. “We used concrete drives and parking areas around the building,” Haslam says. “This allows for a reflective system, rather than creating a heat sink. This also saves on what would be substantial maintenance costs.”

The goal for the middle school—and all school district buildings—is longevity. “We were intentional about utilizing durable wall systems that wouldn’t require maintenance in the coming years,” Haslam says. Structural block supports the big-box areas of the building such as the auditorium and gymnasium, and ceramic tile and wainscoting adorn interior walls to reduce damage from volume and traffic. Large clear windows in all of the classrooms maximize daylight, and electric lighting is moderated by in-room sensory equipment to adjust light levels in response to natural light.

Because the school district is working with a public budget, the energy-conscious features of HMS #2 are determined by LEED and Energy Star target goals, though the ultimate concern is efficiency rather than a label of efficiency. “We understand the principles of energy efficiency, and we always design to these standards,” Haslam says. “We often end up with Energy Star buildings, though it’s the result of our other efforts that make this happen.”

Other schools in the Jordan School District have software that is tapped into an energy moderation network, allowing students to track the amount of energy being used and saved by energy-saving systems in the district. “We have wind turbines and rooftop photovoltaic panels tracked by computers in the physics rooms at some of the schools, all of which can be incorporated with student curriculum,” Haslam says. “This is a really great feature, and it’s in process for Herriman and other schools in the district.”