Accessibility Tools

  • Increase text
  • Decrease text
  • High contrast
  • Negative contrast
  • Add grayscale
  • Remove grayscale
  • Add lightbackground
  • Remove lightbackground
  • Reset

Discovery Elementary School

Last certified on:
Certification level: Gold

Project info

Size97,588 sq ft

First LEED Zero School: A 2017 AIA Committee on the Environment “Top Ten” recipient, Discovery Elementary School (New Elementary School 1) is the first school and third project ever to receive LEED Zero Energy certification. Designed by VMDO Architects, Discovery is also the first recipient of the USGBC National Capital Region’s (NCR) Net Zero Award and is the only building in the NCR to date to demonstrate a net-positive energy balance. Internationally, Discovery is one of the largest buildings of any kind anywhere in the world to receive Zero Energy (ZE) certification by the International Living Future Institute and New Buildings Institute. Arlington Public Schools Sets the Bar: Throughout a series of intensive community planning meetings, attention was focused on designing a school that supports how and where students learn. Every nook and cranny of the school is arranged to create a seamless integration between design, sustainability, and learning. The school’s ZE design results in $117,000 of annual utility cost savings in comparison to a typical elementary school of the same size in the same school district—enough to cover the salaries of two teachers. The project was completed under budget, allowing the school district to apply $2,900,000 to other projects. Further, the building is operating more efficiently than designed, at an actual energy use intensity (EUI) of 15.8 KBTU/sf/year. Since 2017, Discovery has produced more energy than it’s used—sending a surplus of 100,000 kWh annually back to the grid, which is enough to power 7.5 average Virginia homes for an entire year. School as a Teaching Tool: Like its name suggests, Discovery provides hands-on learning opportunities that encourage students to take ownership of their sustainable school and contribute to its carbon-neutral culture. Discovery achieved LEED Gold in 2018 for new construction. Notably, it earned full points within the Innovation credit category and includes the School as a Teaching Tool credit, which is intended to help project teams integrate sustainability features of the school into the educational mission. To foster a culture of stewardship and accountability, sustainable features such as the photovoltaic array are made visible and accessible through learning opportunities like a rooftop solar lab. Data from the adjustable solar lab is fed into the school’s building energy dashboard, allowing students to conduct experiments with real-time data. Engaging students in the learning opportunities inherent in zero energy schools offers a way for their vision for a greener future to become a reality.