Bartlett High in Webster is meeting the town’s high educational goals through building renovation, that not only preserves a beloved school building, but saves money while advancing the goal of confronting climate change through sustainable building practices.
Bartlett High exists on a campus integral to the Town of Webster that is shared with the Middle School, features basketball courts, soccer fields, and baseball fields, and hosts an extensive woodland area of oak, maple, and white-pine trees that can remain untouched during construction.
The existing building has many strengths that accommodate renovation, such as a steel-framed structure with concentric-braced frames suitable for modification to resist seismic loads, and shallow reinforced-concrete footings, making the foundation appropriate for replacement or modification.
Renovation of this school building allows the town to meet its ambitious educational goals, including innovation pathways for advanced manufacturing, and for healthcare and human assistance, that distance themselves from less innovative high-school models, and allow for internships, industry credentialing, and dual enrollment in local colleges. Because students have changed and the job market has changed, Webster is choosing to renovate its building to meet its enhanced educational vision.
While accomplishing all of this, the town adopted building strategies that address climate change. The existing brick veneer and exterior-wall assembly can remain in place, but mineral-wool insulation will be added to increase building efficiency. Windows will be replaced by high-performance new windows, and rigid-foam insulation will be added under the roof to save energy.
Webster’s sustainability consultants shared their analysis that annually, global carbon dioxide emissions are composed of 28%
building operations emissions and 11% emissions from building materials and construction. In the MSBA seminar, these consultants explained that “embodied carbon” refers to greenhouse gases emitted in the construction of buildings, and “operational carbon” refers to greenhouse gases emitted in operating the building, including the cost of heating and cooling, but which can also include school busses.
According to the models of Webster’s sustainability consultants, the total carbon emissions of any given building over the course of its building-life stem from approximately 50% embodied carbon and 50% operational carbon, but emphasized that the toll from embodied carbon was all realized by the time the building opened its doors, whereas the effects of operational carbon were realized over the life of the building. Thus, to have the greatest immediate impact on climate change, it is critical to look at embodied carbon, and hence renovation can be an important sustainability practice.
By renovating rather than building new, Webster was able to significantly reduce its need for new building materials, hence eliminating the embodied carbon associated with such materials. For example, for concrete alone, the renovation was estimated to require 40 truck trips totaling 1,100 miles, versus 270 truck trips totaling 7,000 miles for new construction, saving 230 truck trips or 5,900 miles. Similar comparisons modeled savings of 90 truck trips, totaling 9,100 miles for the brick veneer, 40 truck trips and 35,400 miles for steel framing, and 780 truck trips and 62,200 miles for demolition.
Finally, by renovating as opposed to building new, Webster projected savings approaching $20 million. Thus, Webster demonstrated how renovation is an option for Massachusetts school districts, that not only meets educational priorities, preserves mature, existing trees, and saves money, but also is a strong tool for addressing climate change.