Bill and Melinda Gates Pilot School Overhaul Shoots for LEED Silver: Sustainable, Highly Energy Efficient, Advanced Insulation, and Healthy Indoor Air Quality
CLEVELAND, OH—A high school built in Cleveland, Ohio the same year cars first used Steinbeck’s “Mother Road,” Route 66, and Greta Garbo made her American silent film debut, is being restored and modernized with the help of an Ohio framing and insulation contractor, and InsulBloc spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. Cleveland Heights High School, or just the “Heights” as it known, was built in 1926 and is the current focus of a $95 million renovation that is modernizing and downsizing the school from 450,000 maze-like square feet to 360,000 highly efficient square feet.
The old leaky windows are being replaced with double pane glass, the HVAC system is upgraded and utilizes a hybrid geothermal system, and the roof is solar-ready. They’ve designed in less storm water runoff and reduced potable water usage, and the insulation is being upgraded to the most modern and efficient insulating technology. The school is designed to be a net-zero ready building, or a building that creates as much energy as it uses.
“The architect and builder designed and built the school to achieve LEED Silver,” says Matthew Giambrone, project manager for OCP Contractors, the project’s insulation contractor. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District’s LEED consultant, Laura Steinbrink of the consulting firm HLMS Sustainability Solutions, says when completed and all sustainable features are working together, Heights High School “will be in the top five percent of the U.S. EPA's ranked schools." The EPA ranks 51,500 K-12 schools in the US.
Giambrone says OCP is “applying closed-cell spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation to the building envelope to help achieve ultra-efficiency and improved indoor air quality. He explains, “SPF insulation is spray-applied as a thick liquid so it gets deep into all the cracks and negative spaces, then expands and cures in place to form a solid air and moisture barrier. It has amazing R-value, which means the school’s interior environment will be more consistent—no big swings so it reduces the load on the HVAC system, and overall indoor environment will be simpler to control. If you want to build and operate a net zero energy building, you have to use high quality closed-cell SPF insulation.”
He says OCP uses a closed-cell SPF called InsulBloc from the US company NCFI. “Their SPF insulation is the highest quality, most consistent, and works best in low temperatures so we can work through the winter here in Ohio. That’s important to the overall budget on a massive project like this.”
Giambrone adds, “We’re certified by the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA), so we only use products that meet ABAA specs to maintain healthy indoor air quality. InsulBloc is three things in one: ultra-high insulation, moisture barrier, and an excellent air barrier.”
According to Giambrone, “All my tradesmen are trained by NCFI so they know building science and the proper way to apply the foam. Plus, NCFI comes to work with us. They’re one of the only SPF companies around that comes to the job site for support. They’re there to answer questions, make sure our tradesmen spraying are doing the best job, and to help us work out any challenges we run into. On a massive foam job like this that saves us lots of time, and in construction time is money.”
The school has undergone at least six major renovations and lots of smaller ones over the years. The original design was a massive u-shaped Tudor-style castle with a giant clock tower, columns like parapets, and a grand entrance. All that was covered up in the 1960s by the addition of a science wing. The new design removed the science addition and exposed the returned to the original u-shaped entrance. Even the clock in the clock tower, which hasn’t worked in recent memory, is being replaced with an exact working replica of the original 1926 clock. As the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District describes it on their website, the school will include “the historic 1926 building with all new interior and additions that will meet the needs of students today and for many years to come.” The new school will house 1,600 students when it opens this fall.