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Energy Efficiency

Case study: High schools achieves sustainability

This Phoenix high school achieved several sustainability goals

By Roger Chang, DLR Group, Washington, D.C. September 20, 2021
Courtesy: Tom Reich, DLR Group

In 2018, the Canyon View High School, located in the desert region just west of Phoenix opened its doors. This 231,000-square-foot high school was developed through a highly collaborative engagement process, including a custom sustainability framework named VALUES: Viewing Architecture through the Lens of User Experience for Sustainability. This system guides stakeholders through an exploration of a wide range of sustainability concepts, from resilience to resource use to indoor comfort.  

The system allows a team to have an open discussion on key goals, without the constraints of granular topics found in most existing green building rating system frameworks. The approach allowed the design team to not only define key goals, but develop measurable metrics for success, including consideration for the owner’s view of innovation. 

Outcome 1: The high school campus includes a series of buildings that form an outdoor marketplace, dubbed the Agora, with the goal of giving students a place to gather and socialize. A goal of the project was to maximize hours in a year that the Agora is used, by targeting an operative temperature that does not exceed 85°F. This was achieved by educating the client on adaptive thermal comfort and by guiding careful integration of energy-producing shading systems, study of wind flow on the site and through use of simple low-energy fans. 

Outcome 2: One identified goal of the project was to activate learning opportunities through features of the building. The building includes the use of thermal storage phase-change material for one building block to contrast to another similar building block without the material. This material allows significantly reduced active HVAC energy use, while maintaining a positive comfort condition.  

Figure 6: The main central gathering space at Canyon View High School was designed for both formal and informal learning, with thermal comfort hours expanded by high-volume low-velocity fans, canopy shading and directed wind flow between buildings. Courtesy: Tom Reich, DLR Group

Figure 6: The main central gathering space at Canyon View High School was designed for both formal and informal learning, with thermal comfort hours expanded by high-volume low-velocity fans, canopy shading and directed wind flow between buildings. Courtesy: Tom Reich, DLR Group

The project was recognized with multiple awards, including the 2019 James D. MacConnell Award, a Structural Engineers Association of Arizona award and the 2020 AIA Committee on Architecture for Education Award of Merit. These outcomes recognize that early and positive collaboration results in multiple benefits that go beyond efficiency alone — that is what drives true sustainability for a building that serves its intended function for generations to come.  


Roger Chang, DLR Group, Washington, D.C.
Author Bio: Roger Chang, PE, FASHRAE, LEED Fellow, is a principal and senior engineering leader at DLR Group.