Major Honors for Discovery

VMDO Lead Architect Wyck Knox informed the Discovery Elementary School administration Monday that Discovery Elementary school received two major honors: LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, and Zero Energy Certification by the International Living Future Institute.

Discovery, which was already the largest Zero-Energy elementary school built to date, is one of only four schools in the United States to be cerified Zero-Energy by the ILFI, and is now officially the largest building of any kind, anywhere in the world, to receive this accolade. The Zero-Energy Certification is not merely theoretical, but is based on actual, observed evidence. Much of this evidence comes from the state-of-the-art Discovery Dashboard, providing quantitative data and analytics not only to organizations like ILFI, but to the entirety of the general public, and – most importantly – the students at Discovery, serving as an authentic learning platform, used in teaching mathematics, pattern recognition, data analysis, scientific principles, sustainability habits, and more.

Zero-Energy Certification from the ILFI requires that “one hundred percent of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis must be supplied by on-site renewable energy. No combustion is allowed.”

Having already received the 2017 American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment Top Ten Award, Discovery now adds LEED Gold certification to its accomplishments. Notable in this achievement is Discovery becoming VMDO’s first time receiving the difficult-to-attain credit of “Building as a Teaching Tool.” As technology coach Keith Reeves puts it, “Discovery isn’t just a school building. Every aspect of the environment is built for and used for learning. It’s a school that’s not just for children, but of children, and a lot of that has to do with the way the building was built. We aspire to its example, and strive to implement innovative, research-based, future-proof practices that mirror the potential of this space.”

Knox stated that Discovery “could not have gotten [this credit] without a great school and facilities staff.” Specifically cited for leadership was Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations, John Chadwick, as was as founding Principal Erin Russo, who has built the staff, culture, and practices of Discovery around “what is best for the child,” a phrase often heard in the sun-illuminated corridors of the school.

Noteworthy in the LEED report were five total “Innovation in Design” credits, two related to energy (exemplary performance on both consumption and on-site production), and three that Knox said “particularly reflect Arlington Values,” namely Maximize Open Space, Green Housekeeping, and School as a Teaching Tool.

Discovery, an active partner not only in its local community but in the larger communities of our region and our planet, also achieved a Regional priority point for Stormwater Design, specifically around designing the school and grounds to improve water management around Little Pimmet Run.

The school is a U.S. Department of Education “Green Ribbon” school, is a “Green Flag” recipient of the EcoSchools USA program of the National Wildlife Federation, and served as the first U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Accelerator school.