LAKE PLACID - One local institution is raising the bar when it comes to sustainable building practices.
North Country School and Camp Treetops held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 15 to unveil its newest house, an 8,000-square foot residence for students and faculty that boasts 'net zero' energy consumption.
David Hochschartner, head of the school, said the new building not only provides a great new space, but a model of how to build for energy efficiency.
"There is really no excuse for us not to do this very important work," Hochschartner said, noting how the facility saves energy and money while providing a fun and comfortable environment for students and teacher-families. "You can lower your carbon footprint, and at the same time, you can do something that's child-friendly and you can do something that's practical."
Photovoltaic panels installed on the roof are expected to produce sufficient electricity not only to meet the building's electric needs, but at certain times of the year to feed surplus power back into the grid.
This surplus will offset the additional power needed during the winter's peak lighting and heating season, rendering the building a "net zero" consumer of energy - one that produces as much energy as it consumes.
Occupancy-sensored lights turn themselves off when no one is in a room. All windows are triple pane to keep in warmth, and "solatubes," reflective mini-skylights that bring additional natural light to interior spaces.
A wastewater heat reclaim system conserves the energy from bathwater going down the drain, and a sophisticated energy recover ventilator keeps heat and moisture in the building while supplying fresh indoor air. A high-mass, masonry wood heater in the great room provides efficient heating, circulated by a clean air exchange system.
"We can't afford not to think about the future," said Assemblywoman Teresa R. Sayward, R-Willsboro, praising the new building as one of several recent projects that make the Adirondacks a leader in going green.
Even the materials for the building were selected with eco-friendly intentions. Compressed cellulose insulation fills the thick walls. Meanwhile, to reduce the energy impact of materials production, the school used much of its own resources.
The fireplace and chimney incorporate stones collected by students on school grounds, and all the lumber for the exterior siding, flooring, paneling, and other interior trim comes from maple, birch, and pine trees harvested sustainably from the school's campus.
The building includes the same unique "Eagle's Nest" stairway found in other buildings on the campus, and even features a recreational slide going from the second floor to the first.
According to Hochschartner, the school raised $2.5 million, mostly from trustees and individual donors, in order to build the $1.8 million structure and bolster it with a maintenance endowment.
The building was designed by architect Stephen Tilly and Associates of Dobbs Ferry and constructed by Luck Brothers Inc. of Plattsburgh. Tilly and his staff spent weeks interviewing the school's administration, staff, and students to plan the design.
"Our work is really an expression of the history and the present and the future of Camp Treetops as we have come to know it," Tilly said.
According to Hochschartner, the new green building is the first structure the school has built in more than 40 years, and fills a critical need for space. It will house veteran camp counselors and their families during the summer and North Country School students the remainder of the year.
In the next several years, the school hopes to add a 10-kilowatt solar panel array to power some of the camp's summer cabins and a biomass heating system for another building similar to one recently installed at The Wild Center.
"This is the first and most visible of many green projects our Board of Trustees is planned in the coming years," said Hochschartner.